aggie bonfire 
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     A petition signed by 87 Texas A&M faculty from 9 departments in 4 colleges and sent to the President of Texas A&M (Dr. William Mobley) and the Speaker of the Texas A&M Faculty Senate (Dr. Bill Stout) as published the the campus paper (Battalion) on 26 October 1990:

     Texas A&M students, following a lead provided by the Texas A&M Administration, invest an estimated 125,000 hours (time not invested in academic work) in clear-cutting a local forest and transporting ca. 8,000 trees to the Texas A&M University Campus each Fall semester. After cutting and stacking, the living trees are doused with jet fuel and destroyed by burning at a local ritual known as "aggie bonfire". The local forest destroyed for the fires of 1994 and 1995 provided habitat for a federally listed endangered species. This placed Texas A&M University in a unique position as - hopefully - the only U.S. University that is working as an active agent of extinction and promoting student participation in this activity (see more on this below). A good portion of this enterprise (the local economic equivalent of a home football game), including a heavy (and needed) police presence during the burning ritual and clean up afterward, is funded by the Texas taxpayer, although bonfire advocates in the Texas A&M administration will argue that this is not the case (see more on this below). 

     Bonfire organizers and supporters maintain that the wood harvested each year by Texas A&M students, guided by the Texas A&M University administration, has no value.  This is - obviously - not the case.  Check out:

     As indicated by the petition statement above, many Texas A&M faculty see the bonfire event as an institutional liability.  The powerless body established - in theory - to involve local faculty in institutional governance, the Texas A&M Faculty Senate, has concerned itself with the matter of 'aggie bonfire'.  Its most recent action has been to formally establish 'aggie bonfire' as an excused absence from academic work.  To gain insight into this dynamic, and thereby better understand why academic inbreeding is bad news, check out:

     Public concern for the environment has forced the creation of governmental entities that - in theory - function to provide environmental protection by enforcement of laws that regulate pollution and natural resource destruction.  Emissions generated by a combustion event the size of 'aggie bonfire' represent a clear violation of any pollution law that might be on the books.  How do the organizers of 'aggie bonfire', the Texas A&M Administration, get away with it?  To pursue this question, check out:

     One of the more bizarre 'spin-offs' from this glaring example of institutional pathology is associated with the simple fact the deforestation resulting from the bonfires of 1994 and 1995 destroyed populations of a federally listed endangered plant species. This was accomplished with full knowledge of the Texas A&M University Administration, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Service, and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (lead federal agency with enforcement responsibility - in theory - for the Endangered Species Act).  This episode defines (see also 'Too dumb to be legal' above) the difference between governmental agencies and the private citizen with regard to enforcement of both federal and state environmental law. To track this sad tale, see:

     The formal connection between the Texas A&M University administration and this event, as well as tax dollars invested, is a matter of some debate and considerable public relations 'spin' in the media.  However, efforts of the Texas A&M University administration required to stage an event of this magnitude - as well of the cost involved - are difficult to hide:

   
        Who pays for the cleanup? - 1995

        Looking for a forest to burn - 1996


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Last updated: 24 April 1998