Touched the Fire

Touching the fire

Touching the fire

Has the fire touched you?

The Fire has touched us all in many ways: its sense of community has bonded us with our respective classes, its tradition has tied us with alumni of years past, and its warmth has long kept the cold hill winds at bay. For some, the draw of the fire is so great that they feel compelled to return the favor, to touch the Fire.

As with recent classes (except the class of 2013, officially the worst class ever), a few members of the class of 2018 touched the homecoming bonfire, amidst much encouragement and celebration by the classes looking on. As in Dr. Seuss’s The Butter Battle Book, it is unclear whether the traditions of heckling freshmen and touching the fire provoked increasing security measures, or increased security challenged students to openly defy it. Regardless, recent years have seen a constant escalation of security measures by the Hanover Police Department (HPo) and Dartmouth’s Safety and Security (S&S) officers, as well as increased student antics surrounding this age-old tradition.

Understanding these simultaneous phenomena necessitates two perspectives: that of those who touched the fire, and that of the coalition of security forces. The Review interviewed a few of those members of the class of 2018 who touched the fire and will conduct and interview with Chief Dennis of the Hanover Police Department. In order to protect those who touched the fire from further molestation, The Review has decided to omit their names and other information that could lead to further legal or disciplinary measures. Some specifics of their actions have also been omitted to prevent security forces from using this information against future fire-touchers.

The Review first interviewed a man from the class of 2018.

The Dartmouth Review (TDR): Tell me about how you came to the decision to touch the fire.

Fire-Toucher 1 (FT1): My floor mate and I decided we were going to touch it. I asked around, and people said, “Don’t touch it, don’t touch it.” Then during the fire we decided we were going to go for it. We were not at all under the influence. I saw two of my floor mates and I convinced them to touch the fire. We flipped a phone and it landed with the back facing up, [meaning we would try to touch the fire].”

TDR: How were you planning on dealing with security?

FT1: Run.

TDR: Describe your experience.

FT1: We took off our shirts and we wrapped our hands with them. Our plan was to touch the fire and scatter. We started at the … end and ran. Once we touched the fire, we ran at an angle through the other ’18s and took off in different directions once we hit the crowd. I evaded a bunch of Safety and Security officers in the crowd, then when I got to the sidewalk, I turned around and saw the Hanover Police guy hauling ass. My two friends ran the other way and got away. A girl from Russell Sage stepped in front of the HPo officer to try to stop him. Then I got through the crowd and I was on the street and I saw the HPo guy and I tried to change directions and I slipped and I fell and I knew I was f***ed. I was just lying there, harmless, and the police officer kneed me in the back. I was not resisting. He cuffed me and said, “I thought Ivy League students were smarter. I hope you enjoyed your time here, [because you’re going home].”

TDR: Describe your arrest.

FT1: They took me to the police trailer. They had a wall of monitors with aerial views. They were playing the Weather Channel, and they refused my request to put on Sports Center. They let me put my shirt back on after a while. The first person I talked to was an S&S officer. She asked me if I ran from the cops. My first answer was that I ran away from the fire. She asked me again, “Yes or no?” I said that I didn’t know the cops were behind me. She said that, “If we bring this up in court, and you are lying, its perjury.” I never said I ran from the cops. She left. The police said, “Did you think you’d get away with it? Did you not see the skycams?”

When I got out of the trailer, they took my picture and brought me to the van. I saw [the second person The Review interviewed] and was told I couldn’t talk to him. They brought me to the station around half an hour later and booked me and found my fake ID in my wallet when they were doing an inventory. I don’t remember when they said I was under arrest. They never read me my rights in any form.

The process seemed un-confidential. We asked the officers if we could get a selfie with them and we did. They gave me either C&A’s or Ramunto’s, but only after they said that EBAs sucks. We made bail: it was $40 and they didn’t take Dash. [The other student] almost didn’t make bail, but I gave him $6. I was back at Russell Sage by eleven.

TDR: What has life been like since that night?

FT1: A lot of people recognize me. I have a November court date for disorderly conduct and possession of a false ID.  I got the idea of starting a GoFundMe to cover the fines from [another student who touched the fire]. I recently got an email from judicial affairs. They have us on camera as three shirtless guys. S&S talked to the other three today who were on video. The footage of the actual run is inconclusive, so HPo is not charging them, but the College is.

The Review interviewed a second man from the class of 2018.

TDR: Tell me about how you came to the decision to touch the fire.

Fire-Toucher 2 (FT2): I had thought about the idea before hand and had previously decided against it, but when I got there a peculiar sensation came over me and I realized it was feasible, so went for it. I did not speak with anyone else about it. I rushed twenty minutes into it, before the three other people rushed. I was studying the security pretty intently.

TDR: Describe your experience.

FT2: I was looking for a straight line that wouldn’t intersect the field of vision of any officers close enough to get me or intercept me. I waited for a moment when they weren’t looking in the direction that I would be running and went for it. I ran a lap to blend in, then ran [in a] tangent to the fire. Most people didn’t see me at first. I feel like people probably heard the crowd before they actually saw me. The amount of time it took for me to get from one side to the other seemed like ten seconds. I burst through the crowd and ran behind [a building.] I had no idea anyone was chasing me. That’s why I stopped behind [the building.] I was standing behind [it] and I thought I was safe until S&S officers appeared on either side of the building and pointed their flashlights at me and told me to get on to the ground.

TDR: Tell me about your arrest.

FT2: I got on the ground, they handcuffed me, and walked me over to this police staging area where HPo was, where they searched me and took everything out of my pockets and put it in a bag. They put me and another guy into the back of a police van. We sat in the back of the van, but we didn’t really converse very much. We were a little bit shocked. It wouldn’t be right of me to say they didn’t read me my rights. I don’t remember. I was driven to the Hanover Police Station. There, the other guy and I were taken into a booking area and asked us some questions, such as, “Are you drunk?” I didn’t want to make it a bigger deal than it was, so I answered honestly. They went through our things, un-handcuffed us, and took out fingerprints. After that, the atmosphere changed completely. All the officers became super friendly, they took pictures with us, and they offered us pizza (one of the officers microwaved it for me and brought me a glass of water). They asked me at every stage of the process if I was hurt. I would really like to emphasize from my experience that the S&S and HPo officers with whom I interacted were very friendly and respectful. Students criticize them because they are the most immediate manifestation of the law, but in reality they were just nice guys doing their jobs. Several times they asked me if my cuffs were too tight. S&S took me to Dick’s house, and since I had said I had been drinking, the nurses were required to breathalyze me. I blew a 0.18. I had to stay the night there. I didn’t fall asleep. Instead I listened to music, watched TV, took a shower, and texted my floor mates. At five in the morning they came and breathalyzed me again. My BAC had gone down significantly, so they cleared me to leave. I went back to my dorm and fell asleep.

TDR: Can you elaborate on the consequences you are facing?

FT2: The charges were all explained to me at the police station. The maximum amount I can be fined is one thousand dollars. I was charged with disorderly conduct and possession of alcohol. I have a court date a month from now. I don’t want to contest it or make a bigger deal out of it. I feel like all the officers were very fair. It just seemed like they were doing their jobs.

TDR: What do you think about the gratuitous security measures taken?

FT2: Honestly, it seems like an understandable measure on [the College’s part]. I don’t have a firm stance on it.

TDR: If you could go back in time, would you make the same decision?

FT2: Absolutely. I would do it again. I don’t regret it. My charges were non-criminal and my fines are covered by the GoFundMe I started. I would like to extend a huge thank you to all those who spread the message and/or donated. Very few college communities are so supportive of their members and traditions. I feel immense pride knowing I attend one of them. Spending the night at Dick’s House was a small price to pay for perpetuating this revered Dartmouth tradition.

The Review also interviewed a man from the class of 2018 who claims some celebrity among Dartmouth students (Fire-Toucher 3), along with two friends of his who also touched the fire (Fire-Touchers 4 and 5).

TDR: The word around campus is that you touched the fire: can you confirm this?

FT3: I’m not going to directly comment, but I’ll refer you to some fellow squad members, [Fire-Toucher 4] and [Fire-Toucher 5]. They may have the details for you, but I’m not going to directly answer that question.

FT4: [Fire-Toucher 3] did indeed touch the fire, he is a legend among the eighteens.

FT5: He did.

FT3: It was all a blur, I can’t tell you anything. I … touched it with the right hand, and then I ran at a slight angle, at about, I’d say about a 25 degrees to the left. And then, when I approached the line, I just did a baseball pop up slide underneath, went up, and I just walked into the crowd.

FT5: He was the first one, at the twenty-something lap. All of [the fire] was still standing.

TDR: What were your plans to deal with the security forces?

FT3: I didn’t even give ’em a thought, all authority obeys to me.

TDR: Were your motivations immortality, upperclassmen chanting, or what?

FT3: I mean, I already have immortality within the class, but I would have to say the peer pressure [was a factor]. I’m a man that is not very strong and/or I am not confident, and so it was very tough and people wanted me to do it so I thought I’d have friends, and I wanted friends.

FT5: He touched the fire because he wanted to touch the fire.

FT4: [Fire-Toucher 5] was a bit reluctant at first but then he encouraged me to.

TDR: How did you feel after touching the fire?

FT3: Pumped up. Adrenaline was rushing. Sometimes if you wanna [sic] do something, you just gotta [sic] go in with no fear and do it, and that’s what I did, and this is definitely an experience I will remember. Never any regrets. Shout out to the class of 2018, shout out to the other fire benders, congratulations, and yeah, let’s make this a homecoming to remember.

At this time The Review estimates that at least eight and as many as ten students touched the fire, with two confirmed arrests, one rumored arrest, and at least five students who have received letters from judicial affairs. The Review is currently pursuing an interview with Chief of Police Charles Dennis, as well as legal advice for the students who have been charged with a crime. It is worth noting that through all of this drama, not one of the students who touched the fire reported any injuries whatsoever.