The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

Campus woods bonfire debate heats up

Campus life and public safety cleared out popular student bonfire pits over break

While we pull on sweater after sweater to survive the dead of winter, things are heating up between some of the student body and the administration here at Guilford.

Everyone got the email. The administration stepped up their crackdown on nighttime activities in the woods over winter break when the bonfire pits and student-made forts were removed from the woods.

“It’s made this year worse for me, honestly,” said senior Izak Shapiro. “I love the bonfires. I love going outside. I think it’s important.”

“I miss bonfires a lot,” said junior Grace Chafin. “You could be whoever you wanted at bonfires.”

“The bonfires have been some of my fondest memories at Guilford,” said senior Peter King. “I remember the first one was unlike anything I’d ever seen before. Thinking back on it, it was the perfect welcome to Guilford.”

“I personally feel like bonfires help to strengthen the community and they add to how different a place Guilford is,” said first-year Chelsea Yarborough. “When I was applying, a lot of what I heard from kids was how

nice the woods were — all the forts and things — and I feel like the administration kind of took away one of the best parts of the woods.”

Clearly, much of the student body is upset about the administration’s actions.

So why did they do it?

“First of all it’s illegal by city ordinance, state law and campus regulations to have fires in the woods,” said Ron Stowe, director of Public Safety. “That’s a black and white.”

“A big issue for me was, at that time, the state of the woods was drought,” said Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students Aaron Fetrow. “So a fire that spreads could take out a big chunk of the woods that we don’t want to lose.

“An even more primary concern was we don’t have the ability to keep people safe if there’s a bunch of alcohol and other drugs around a bonfire pit,” continued Fetrow. “We had a girl fall in two years ago and burn her hand and arm. We can’t get to you if something bad happens.”

Another factor in the administration’s decision was liability.

“We know they’re happening and if (someone gets hurt) and we knew (the bonfires) were happening, the college gets sued,” said Fetrow. “It’s a liability issue for the college.”

In response to these concerns about safety and liability Shapiro said, “Now (parties) are either inside and fragmented, or you’re going off campus and if you can’t find a D.D., you’re probably drunk driving. I know the administration is like, ‘That’s not our responsibility,’ but it is a side effect of not having bonfires. In this situation, in my opinion they’re putting legal safety over actual safety. I think that’s really problematic to have that type of attitude.”

Not all students share this indignation, however.

“I do think that the student body could be a little more understanding of the reasoning behind it,” said junior Bri Goodison. “I feel like they need to start looking at Campus Life and Public Safety’s side instead of just getting upset about it, and realize that their number one priority is to keep us safe.”

In addition to the bonfire pits, a student-built two-story fort was also torn down and removed from the woods.

“It was truly a work of art,” said Shapiro. “And they just tore it down. I think that type of innovation should be encouraged.”

Just like with the bonfires, the administration echoed their concerns about safety, liability and sustainable environmental practices.

“There was just so much potential there for injury and concealment if someone wanted to do something, like sexual assaults,” said Stowe. “But we also think of someone being high or drinking and just falling off. I mean, you’re deep in the woods and if you’re by yourself you could lay there for days before anyone found you. That’s the kind of thing we have to look at. I hope the message gets across that we don’t do these things because we don’t want you to have fun. We have to look at these other things.”

Fetrow pointed out another issue with the use of the woods

“The other big thing is trash,” said Fetrow. “Come on folks. Even if you go out there to drink three beers, okay whatever, but you throw your beer cans on the ground? I don’t get it, from our student body especially.”

Some students are not only upset about the result of the administration’s crackdown, but also the way in which they carried it out.

“I think they need to have an actual discussion and they need to advertise it,” said Chafin. “They need to be transparent with us. I don’t think they’re handling it well.”

“I also strongly disagree with their process,” agreed Shapiro. “They did action first, discussion second.”

In the end, the debate about bonfires and other activities in the woods rages on. With the opinions so polarized, some think it unlikely that these problems will simply disintegrate over time and expect more clashes in the future.

“This semester, I think things are going to kind of hit the fan,” Shapiro said.

Leave a Comment
More to Discover

Comments (0)

The Guilfordian intends for this area to be used to foster healthy, thought-provoking discussion. Comments are expected to adhere to our standards and to be respectful and constructive. As such, we do not permit the use of profanity, foul language, personal attacks, or the use of language that might be interpreted as libelous. Comments are reviewed and must be approved by a moderator to ensure that they meet these standards. The Guilfordian does not allow anonymous comments, and requires a valid email address. The email address will not be displayed but will be used to confirm your comments.
All The Guilfordian Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *