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Monday, September 20, 2021

Editorial: Homecoming bonfire

With a university as old as UC Davis, traditions are bound to come and go. Some last only a few years; others are as old as our grandparents.

The homecoming bonfire was one of those traditions that had been around as long as anyone could remember – until this year, when it was canceled in the name of the environment.

Senior Associate Athletics Director Cindy Spiro said the bonfire was canceled because wood burning fires have been the subject of much political debate in the past year in Davis, and it was a matter of “being polite to our neighbors.”

That’s a nice thought, but a weak argument. The bonfire is typically held south of the Schaal Aquatics Center, nearly a mile from the Davis city limits and even farther from any actual houses. It’s a bit of a stretch to suggest any neighbors would be negatively affected by smoke from the fire.

And when has being polite to our neighbors ever stopped the university from doing anything? The Davis Night Sky Ordinance, designed to preserve naturally dark skies at night, hasn’t stopped us from installing high-powered lighting at Schaal, the intramural fields or Aggie Stadium. Strong opposition from West Davis neighbors wasn’t enough to stop the university from planning the massive West Village development on what was once farmland.

Another stated reason for ending the bonfire was its environmental impact. While the fire certainly had some environmental impact, it was likely negligible compared to what comes out of area chimneys every night, or what comes out of vehicle tailpipes 24 hours a day. A smaller bonfire would have been a better way to reduce the impact while still preserving tradition.

The end of the bonfire certainly isn’t the end of the world, but it’s sad to see another popular tradition fall by the wayside.

The stewards of campus traditions should strive to preserve them, and when times change, to modify them to comply with modern demands. Traditions should never be ended without a compelling justification. The reasons given for ending the homecoming bonfire fell short of that standard.

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