And yet: the president of the school famously leaves the door to his house on campus unlocked.
Students and faculty will tell you not to lock your car, that you could leave a computer lying somewhere on campus and it would still be there when you get back. That’s the flip side to all the sanctimoniousness at A&M: there really is a palpable, profoundly likeable sense of honor at the place (and I’m not just saying that because it’s one of their six core values that’s repeated all over campus.) Recently, an artist who taught at both UT Austin and A&M told me that, while the UT students were far more urbane and sophisticated than A&M students, they were also more disinterested and seen-it-all-jaded.
I asked a friend of mine who went to A&M about it, and here’s what he said: I’m the worst Aggie in the world, but Bonfire was the only Aggie tradition I thought was unique and historical.
I never wanted to go work on it, but a lot of kids at that school did, and a lot of them wanted to be “part of the school.” Consider that they worked on it for months; it was more than just one football game thing.
The place is also covered with bronze statues, plaques, and other memorial signifiers. Almost nothing that can have been given a veneer of meaning has been left untouched.
I’ve heard there’s more bronze at A&M than at any other university in the country (unverified, but could be true). While it’s true that all universities have their traditions and memorials, A&M takes this notion to a whole other level.
(The 12th Man was a guy in the 1920s who suited up to play in a game even though he wasn’t on the team, and a potent symbol for Aggies of the importance of school spirit and willingness to serve.
Interestingly, the guy didn’t actually play in the game.)Lawrence Sullivan Ross, a.k.a.It projects intellectual safety, rather than intellectual openness.At A&M, you get the sense that sharing in the experience of the group is more important than striking out on one’s own as an individual.It was months of getting up at 4am and working like a lumberjack. But when you went to one, there was no denying it was awesome.You could feel the heat coming off it 2 miles away. So then, [when] these kids died, every Aggie felt it.They have more bronze statues than you can shake a stick at, there are overbearing messages of social conservatism everywhere, and if you’re interested in good art, you’re out of luck, at least in the public spaces.