Cairns told the Faculty Executive Committee Monday that steps have been taken in the past to stop the unsupervised bonfires. In 2007, there was a resolution passed that said bonfires are not sanctioned and not supported by the University.
“We’ve done some analyses of the injuries that occur and so forth,” Cairns said. “I will try to work with the students again — we’ve done that in the past — to really highlight what might seem like a fairly innocuous activity. If you don’t get hurt, it is. But if you do, it can be a devastating injury that lasts you a lifetime.”
The tradition began at Duke, but permits were always used there, Cairns said. At UNC, the bonfires are unsupervised.
Cairns said there have been injuries from the bonfires following basketball game wins.
“One of misperception is that they all happen that night,” Cairns said. “But in fact, those patients frequently take a couple of days to present. They may have an injury on their foot or their hand. Because the bonfire is dirty, it gets infected, and they come in with cellulitis several days later.”
Other members of Faculty Executive Committee, including Joe Ferrell, expressed concern about the bonfires.
“Part of the problem here is that it takes place on public property,” Ferrell said.
The committee is looking to take more action regarding the bonfires.
“No one knows the silliness,” committee member Rosa Perelmuter said.
Cairns had nothing but praise for two other events on campus Saturday.
He said he enjoyed the Fourth Global Africana Annual Conference, sponsored by the Department of African, African American and Diaspora Studies.
“The quality of the work was really impressive, and the people who came were really impressive,” Cairns said. “There were about a hundred students at 10 o’clock on Saturday morning, so I was really impressed and proud of the University.”
Cairns said he tried to get the organizers of the conference to speak at the Faculty Executive Committee meeting, but they were busy teaching classes.
Cairns said he was also inspired by the Carolina Indian Circle’s student-organized powwow, which he attended with Chancellor Carol Folt.
“I think that I was so personally touched by this because when you walk in and you hear the drums, it was like a heartbeat. You hear the heartbeat, and it penetrates your soul,” he said.