“Others in the crowd may maliciously yell out, ‘Worst class ever!’ or ’Touch the fire!’ Those are the chants of those misguided souls who may believe that tradition lives on in demeaning the experiences of others.”
It reads like a celestial warning but in reality, this is a quote from the 2013 Homecoming edition of the undergraduate dean’s newsletter, advising the Class of 2017 not to touch the fire. The warning was short-lived — members of the Class of 2017 touched the fire, as did those in the Class of 2018 last week.
While not everyone approves of touching the fire, and even fewer students consider it a tradition, having the upperclassmen yell “touch the fire” at the running freshmen is something that has happened at Dartmouth for many years.
And this is not where the story ends.
Not only do the upperclassmen chant during the bonfire, but various freshmen deviate from their circular leaps to do exactly as they are told.
In the rush of the moment, they run toward the hot, blazing bonfire as if they were jumping in as a sacrifice to a mighty fire god (think about it, this is more similar to pagan rites than we would like to admit).
However, this is Dartmouth, and they don’t jump into the bonfire. Instead, they touch the fire, amusing the spectators and getting chased by Hanover Police.
See, touching the fire is illegal. It is considered a disorderly conduct offense, and lands you a night in jail and a fine of approximately $900.
Allegedly, three male freshmen including campus-known rapper Ill Fayze (Marcus Reid ’18 who doesn’t live in coats) succumbed to the chanting and decided to make their class proud while gaining some extra social points.
While Reid, who in an e-mail to The Dartmouth said he was the first to touch the fire, didn’t get caught, another one of the fire-touchers, Braden Pellowski ’18, didn’t have quite the same luck. Pellowski declined to comment.
After getting fined for the offense, Pellowski had the clever idea to start a GoFundMe campaign titled “Touched the Fire” in order to get the $700 s he was missing to pay his fine. In the description, Pellowski recounts how he thought he had gotten away from the police only to be caught later. Within a day of his online funding campaign, he had already reached his goal.
Various students claim to have seen a third ’18 touch the fire as well. However, we received no direct confirmation from him.
While many are questioning if “touching the fire” is worthy of a Dartmouth tradition, I am faced with another question — do they burn their hands? I personally haven’t seen any burns, which makes me wonder if we should start calling it something else, like “close-enough-to-the-touching-the-fire-but-I’m-not-burning-myself.”
One way or another and whether we like it or not, adrenaline-pumped occasionally tipsy freshmen attempting to touch the fire is just another part of Dartmouth’s Homecoming bonfire.
Dear old Dartmouth, set a watch. Lest the old traditions fail.