Protests at Homecoming Bonfire

A defining element of the Dartmouth College experience are the rites of passage and traditions students experience throughout their time on campus. Each year hundreds of freshmen proudly don their green to sing “Dear old Dartmouth, set a watch, lest the old traditions fail.” The Homecoming bonfire in particular remains a staple of Dartmouth tradition as alums and students have come together in cult-like fashion around the Homecoming bonfire since 1888.

Not all Dartmouth students, however, wished to participate in bonfire last week. A group even protested the tradition at the bonfire itself. The day before Homecoming, the Dartmouth published an article calling for Dartmouth 21s to “refuse to run around the bonfire” and “let the old traditions fail.” Although there was no mass boycott of the bonfire, a group did protest on the south side of the green calling for a reevaluation of tradition. The protestors did not necessarily all have a coherent, unified message, but many of them argue that to celebrate the homecoming bonfire is to support what they perceive as Dartmouth’s elitist history and neglect of many of its students. They contend that Dartmouth has a “legacy of colonialism,” does not do enough to protect its students affected by our current administration’s rescinding of President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals order, and generally is not a safe environment for minority students. Some argued, for example, that a Native American student would not feel comfortable celebrating the homecoming bonfire because the bonfire is celebrated on what was once Abenaki land.

In the face of these protests, the Dartmouth community should continue to celebrate the Dartmouth bonfire for what it is: a night when Dartmouth students and alumni of all backgrounds can come together to take part in a timeless tradition. Dartmouth may not have always been a welcoming place for everyone, but we can still celebrate traditions together as the diverse group of individuals that Dartmouth has become. We at The Review believe that Homecoming is a tradition that does not celebrate the negative aspects of Dartmouth’s past, but a unifying force to welcome the newest class of students into the Dartmouth family and celebrate the best of our College.