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The Dartmouth
April 15, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

College punishes some freshman Homecoming stunts

It's all fun and games until somebody gets hurt. At least that's the stance of administrators as they try to curb violations of College policy on Homecoming weekend.

This year, the College stands firm as ever in discouraging students from violating College policies, particularly those against touching the bonfire, underage drinking, public intoxication and rushing the field during the Homecoming game.

"We definitely don't want to prevent students from having fun," Director of Undergraduate Judicial Affairs Marcia Kelly said. "Our only goal is to make sure that students remain safe while they have fun."

A main concern, according to Kelly, is the relatively new tradition of first-year students trying to touch the bonfire after it is burning. According to current policy, any student caught trying to touch or climb on the bonfire will be arrested and subject to at least one term of College disciplinary action -- a permanent mark on a student's transcript.

Touching the bonfire is also a violation of state law, and the Hanover Police will cite violators for "disorderly conduct" which could result in fines of over $100.

In recent years, multiple students have tried to touch the bonfire during the Friday night Homecoming festivities, and the majority have been arrested and disciplined both by the College and town of Hanover.

"It was an exciting night and a lot of upperclass students said that it was a tradition and that everyone from classes in years past had done it," said Lauren Padilla '05, who was arrested after successfully touching the bonfire last year. "The Hanover Police pulled us out of the circle of freshman, and brought us over to this RV where they took down our information."

For Padilla, the act resulted in a fine and court fees from the city amounting to $120 and a term of College disciplinary action. In addition, she was told that she would have a police record on file for one year with the Hanover police.

The supposed "tradition" is really not much of a tradition at all, according to Kelly.

"Touching the bonfire is a recently established trend. It is a myth of a tradition that is not more than a couple years old in reality. It's just plain stupid," Kelly said.

However, according to '03 upperclassmen contacted by The Dartmouth, the pressures to touch the fire were present during their Homecoming weekend, and at least some people tried.

Another popular tradition on Homecoming weekend is running out onto the football field during the game. Commonly referred to as "rushing the field," students who are caught are subject to even stricter punishments than those touching the bonfire.

According to Dean of First Year Students Gail Zimmerman, the standard punishment for students caught rushing the field is a $100 fine and at least three terms of College disciplinary action. The act of rushing onto the football field is also considered trespassing and can result in arrest by Hanover police, a police record and possible fines, depending on the severity of the situation.

The reason for such a severe punishment is the danger of causing injury to oneself or the players and other participants who are rightly on the field, Zimmerman said.

Zimmerman also warned of the dangers caused by another common violation Homecoming weekend -- underage drinking and public intoxication.

The punishment for both crimes remains the same as with any other weekend on campus -- both result in a warning or reprimand, depending on previous record, and a minimum $50 fine.

The punishment for drinking and being intoxicated around the bonfire should not be the only deterrent, according to Zimmerman.

"There may not be an increase in punishment, but there is an increase in consequences," Zimmerman said. "With around 10,000 people on the Green, and a large fire in the middle, the poor decisions that can be made when drinking can be very dangerous."

In retrospect, Padilla wished she had been better informed about the repercussions of her decision to touch the fire before she was put in the situation.

"Right after I did it, I thought it was hilarious. Even the police officers were laughing," Padilla said. "However, College disciplinary action is now permanently on my record, and they sent a letter home to my parents. No, I wouldn't do it again."