The Vermont Connection


On November 18, 1999, 12 people were killed and 27 injured when the tower of logs they had erected collapsed, crushing the victims underneath. This tragedy took place on the campus of Texas A&M University, where students had been preparing for “Bonfire,” an annual tradition nearly 90 years old. As a result of tragedies like this, some critics oppose campus traditions. Yet, traditions have long played an instrumental role on college campuses through their ability to build community, connect students with the heritage of their alma mater, and develop institutional pride. The question facing many administrators today is what should be done about traditions that marginalize or put students at risk. This article offers student affairs professionals suggestions for ways campus traditions may be preserved and strengthened, thus improving their school’s community.