RE: texas a&m bonfire controversy

Wed, 12 Nov 1997 21:36:50 EST

Is this for real or is this a hoax!!!!!


EDEQUITY Administrator's Response:

Sadly, this is not a hoax. I checked the Texas A&M web site <>.
This bonfire thing is a big deal and has its own official web page which is
linked to the university site. There is a months-long schedule of activities as
the six-tier structure, which requires 7,000 to 8,000 logs, is built and then
torched the night before the big game against the University of Texas. (The
bonfire is on Nov. 27 this year). I looked at the archives of The Battalion,
the student newspaper. A 10/31/97 article confirmed that several students had
been punished for hiring a stripper to dance at the log "cut" site the previous
Sunday. A 10/21/97 editorial discussed "profanity" as an on-going issue in the
Bonfire tradition and referred to the paper's earlier editorial which had
exposed profanity excesses on signage displayed at the cut site this year.
Curiously, that editorial is missing from the web site.

I also spoke with the president of the Texas NOW who has been in contact with
the campus chapter about the Bonfire incidents this year. She says that the
university historically has been a difficult place for women in general and
feminists in particular. She said women's rights activists on campus are
frequently called names, have signs for events torn down, and are otherwise
harassed. She also said that the NOW members on campus are a hardy bunch who are
determined to keep fighting for equality. As she noted, if they have the
courage to stand up for their beliefs in that environment, what a tremendous
asset they will be when they get out into the larger world. I hope you all will
offer these students the benefit of your experience to assist in this battle.

As I was gathering info about these incidents I was really shocked and wondered
how prevalent this kind of oppressive environment actually is on college
campuses. Before coming to WEEA I was at Harvard--first as a graduate student
at the Kennedy School of Government and then as a fellow at Radcliffe. While
the University certainly has its gender equity issues--lack of tenured women and
people of color faculty and administrators among them--I really cannot imagine
the school getting away with washing its hands of such blatant sexism and such
an openly hostile environment. Is this an isolated case? Is it just Texas?
The South? Or is this going on on lots of college campuses? That young women
have been involved in wearing these offensive T-shirts and participated in the
name-calling makes we wonder if we as gender equity activists need to devote
more resources to college campuses? I knew that the F-word (feminist) was not
fashionable, but I thought ideas about equality were accepted among this age
group. Any thoughts about past efforts or how to make new efforts more


Susan J. Smith
EDEQUITY Administrator

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