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Bonfire has long record of safety risks

COLLEGE STATION, TEXAS - Documents released by Texas A&M University during the ongoing investigation of the 1999 bonfire collapse that killed 12 people show a tradition that over the last 40 years has included numerous safety risks, the Austin American-Statesman reported Sunday. Official action to deal with safety issues often was short-lived and poorly enforced, sometimes because of fear that changes to the revered tradition would upset students and alumni, the newspaper said.

On Saturday, 12 oak saplings were planted at the edge of campus in memory of those who died after a four-tier tower of logs collapsed Nov. 18. University officials declined to discuss the bonfire, citing the ongoing investigation.

The documents reveal that a series of recommendations to reduce the height of the bonfire or construct it differently went unheeded. Bill Kibler, now A&M's associate vice president for student affairs, became the bonfire adviser in 1983. He later said in a memo to a colleague that he was "shocked over how 'out of control' the program was in many respects." Mr. Kibler wrote in a 1984 memo that despite changes, problems lingered, including drunkenness among student bonfire builders.

'Ivy League' online?

WASHINGTON - A Washington-area billionaire who made his fortune in technology has pledged $100 million to start up an online university that he says will provide students worldwide with an "Ivy League education" - free of charge. Michael J. Saylor, president of MicroStrategy Inc. in Tysons Corner, Va., told The Washington Post that he envisions hiring top-notch professors to videotape lectures for Internet broadcast.

Rocky road to grades for schools

DENVER - A governor-supported plan to link school performance to monetary rewards has failed to make the grade with hundreds of Colorado parents and teachers. A school principal resigned to protest the legislative measure, which would issue letter grades to schools depending on how students score on a statewide standardized test. Schools that receive As and those showing the most improvement would receive financial bonuses. Those receiving Fs eventually would be put under new management. Twenty-one states issue specific ratings on schools and two use letter grades. Some analysts say it is too soon to determine if the laws are working.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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