Help! I Touched the Fire!

Touch the fire!

Touch the fire!

No, I did not actually touch the fire. The thought certainly crossed my mind a number of times, but ultimately, I couldn’t bring myself to face a fine of several hundred dollars and my Homecoming Friday night behind bars. My confidence simply wasn’t high enough. Thankfully, that didn’t stop the number of people who ultimately did take the risk and sprint through that circle. The Class of 2018 successfully touched the fire, solidifying themselves as at least better than the Class of 2013.

What is interesting, though, is the use of the website GoFundMe to raise money toward paying the fines of the fire-touchers. GoFundMe allows users to donate money to any sort of cause, ranging from honeymoon funds to costly medical procedures. Advertised primarily through the Class of 2018 Facebook group, two different GoFundMe campaigns were set up in order to raise money for two 18s who were caught in the act of touching the fire. Both campaigns were set up with the goal of $700. At this point, one campaign has been successfully completed, with the other well on its way toward the goal.

Touching the fire is a longstanding tradition of the freshman class. It was not always illegal; only in recent years has the city of Hanover, coupled with the strength of Dartmouth College Safety & Security and a private security group, attempted to control the admittedly dangerous action. Attempting to touch the fire and getting caught lands you a night in jail, a fine of several hundred dollars, and a disorderly conduct charge. Many believe that the group effort of the freshman class to pay off these fines (incurred, in the views of many, out of necessity) speaks to the unity of the class–as the Alma Mater says, “Stand as sister stands by brother / Dare a deed for the old mother.” Others have held that contributions are unethical because touching the fire is illegal; by supporting such a campaign, contributors condone breaking the law.

The case becomes even more controversial when the additional charges are taken into account. Both campaigns launched on GoFundMe were advertised as supporting paying a fine for touching the fire. In actuality, each fire-toucher garnered a second charge. One was charged with underage consumption of alcohol and the other a charge for possessing a false ID. Regardless, it cannot be denied that the role of GoFundMe has changed the circumstances of touching the fire. The ability to raise money with relative ease to pay off the fines incurred as a result of touching the fire places much less of a burden on potential fire-touchers. Sure, you might lose your Friday night and gain a date in court, but at least it comes at no financial cost to you.