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

Letter to the Editor: Response to the bonfire debate

I would like to address the ongoing debate regarding the campus woods bonfires, specifically, the Letter to the Editor published in mid-February. Though the style of the article was refreshingly
different, I find myself completely disagreeing with the underlying purpose of Dobbins’s “modest proposal.” Needless to say, the dismantling of the tree house and the bonfire pits have increased the tension between the student body and administration. However, as a traditional student who enjoyed the bonfire pits as much as any other, I ask my fellow students to consider the situation from the administration’s perspective as well.

When I first decided to write this response, I debated on whether I should mimic Dobbins’ satirical style. I would have insisted that the administration and staff put the students’ social life above their jobs and the school’s reputation — an outrageous demand, no doubt. However, when we really get down to it, is that not what they would be doing if the bonfires were allowed to continue?

In the news article that first addresses this debate, “Campus woods bonfire debate heats up,” Ron Stowe, the director of Public Safety, and the Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students Aaron Fetrow bring up some legitimate reasons for getting rid of the bonfire pits.

Legal issues — I typically roll my eyes when I think of them because they make Guilford seem more like a business or a corporation rather than a college and my home. But, according to the North Carolina State Fire Code, any bonfire without a permit is illegal. In allowing these bonfires to continue, the school would essentially be condoning an illegal activity. Simply put: Guilford College has no choice.
Liability — another term which I’ve never been fond of. But, how can a mass of inebriated students around a bonfire in the woods be anything but? Particularly because a few students have injured themselves in the past and students continued to build bonfires during dry seasons, despite school emails warning us about the risk of causing a forest fire. The administration does not want that risk, one that is — as past events will tell us — rather legitimate.

From the Letter to the Editor, I realize that student safety as a reason for filling in the bonfire pits have been met with sarcasm, frustration or derision by a portion of the student population. After all, we do not need an overbearing administration insisting what is best for us. We are adults and can take care of ourselves — right?

Last semester, a few students were hospitalized for alcohol poisoning … but surely they would have eventually received medical care had they passed out in the woods. In the past year, several sexual assaults have occurred on campus, but surely no student would walk alone in the woods at night when traveling to a bonfire. And, the insistence that students will find any way to drink — even if they must drive intoxicated to do so — as a defense to keep the bonfire pits certainly demonstrates our maturity. Sarcasm aside, student safety is a valid reason to prohibit bonfires.

These huge bonfires are so loud that even if Public Safety wanted to turn a blind eye to students going into the woods with grocery bags full of alcohol, they would still hear us from the lake. Then, after the drunken times of last night come to a close, the sun rises over a hundred beer cans, cigarette butts, condoms and broken glass, to name a few. From my experience, this happens all of the time. And I will be bold enough to say: this is not the Guilford way.

Students say that bonfires are a huge part of the Guilford community. I can agree with this. I spent many of my weekends at bonfires, chatting it up to strangers, sipping a beer while sitting so close to the flames that I felt like my face was sunburned. Crowds of people laughing, drinking, singing, dancing, having an incredible time. Existing in the moment. Carpe noctum: seizing the night. They are memories that will forever remain with me.

As a senior, Guilford College will soon be my yesterday, as will the bittersweet memories of those moments when I would turn my face from the fire, stare up at the stars and just breathe, thinking, “This is college.”

Believe me when I say that I am deeply saddened that the bonfire pits are a thing of the past. I have realized that, sometimes, when a conflict such as this one arises, people follow their immediate emotional reactions and stick with them. But there are two sides to every issue, and each side has its reasoning. I am not writing this response to argue that Guilford students should never experience a not-so-legal bonfire again, but rather to present the other side of this particular issue.

In my opinion, part of what makes me proud to be a Guilford student is the open-mindedness and acceptance in my fellow students. However, being open-minded requires legitimate speculation at both sides of a situation — not just accepting what goes against social norms. And I have found that, sometimes, my fellow students—and myself—fail at doing this, particularly if it involves consideration of the social majority’s opinion.

So I ask of you, my fellow students, to please consider the administration’s position on this debate, and perhaps we can ease the tension that has been built up between the administration and the student body over the past few years.

Skylar Larsen, senior

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