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Texas A&M University Decides Against Reviving Annual Bonfire Tradition

In a recent development, Texas A&M University President Mark A. Welsh announced in an email that the university will not reinstate the annual bonfire tradition. The decision comes amidst speculation that university leaders were considering reviving the celebration, which ceased in 1999 following a tragic incident that claimed 12 lives.

“I have decided it is not in the best interest of Texas A&M and the Aggie Family to bring Bonfire back to campus,” Welsh stated in the email sent to students and stakeholders on June 4. He emphasized that after consulting various members of the Aggie family, including current and former students, the overwhelming consensus was against reinstating Bonfire.

The tradition, which spanned over 90 years, came to an abrupt halt on November 18, 1999, when the structure collapsed during construction, resulting in 12 fatalities and 27 injuries. Experts later attributed the catastrophe to the university’s disregard for safety protocols and structural integrity, as untrained students were allowed to undertake the construction.

In response to the tragedy, Welsh had convened a committee in the fall of 2023 to review how the university commemorates its rivalry with the Texas Longhorns, known as the Lone Star Showdown. The rivalry, dating back to 1894, saw a hiatus after Texas A&M left the Big 12 conference in 2011. However, with Texas A&M’s recent entry into the Southeastern Conference, the rivalry is set to resume, with a scheduled match on November 30.

One of the proposals put forth by Welsh’s committee was to have an engineer-designed, contractor-built bonfire structure on campus. However, Welsh clarified that the “only legally viable option for the return of the campus Bonfire” would involve an outside agency handling the construction.

While some supported the revival of Bonfire, citing its role in fostering camaraderie and leadership skills among students, Welsh noted that the majority believed the tradition should only return if students were actively involved in organizing and building it.

In light of the decision, the university is exploring alternative ways to celebrate the rivalry, including organizing a fun run to benefit military veteran resource groups at both universities. Additionally, the 25th anniversary of the tragedy will be commemorated at the Bonfire Memorial on November 18.