Marshall Student Newspaper Column on Football Team Plane Crash Causes Controversy

A large contingent of Marshall University students, staff, and alums are annoyed and angry at the moment.  The focus of their frustration and ire: a column in The Parthenon student newspaper claiming the annual ceremony honoring the victims of the 1970 football team plane crash “has become devoid of meaning” and, for current students, is “just a motion we go through every year.”

As student columnist Henry Culvyhouse writes, “[T]he ceremony is a long-standing tradition at Marshall. Mountaineers burn couches, Yale has the Skull and Crossbones, and Marshall has this crash.  It’s the sort of thing that we carry on, like Thanksgiving or Christmas.  Like many traditions, this ceremony, I argue, has become devoid of meaning.  The students who attended weren’t here when this happened; they had nothing to do with it.  It’s a duty, something we always do and that’s that.  However, as the years pass, it loses its power.  I can see how in the decade that followed the crash, the campus community bound themselves together in solidarity but at this point, it’s just a motion we go through every year.”

The piece has set in motion a rapid, heavily critical response from all quadrants of the Marshall community, in the form of letters to the editor, local radio rants, more than 250 online comments, and a response column in the Parthenon penned by two current Marshall students whose relatives died in the crash.

As a Parthenon editorial notes, “The response to this column has been incredible– countless emails, phone calls, tweets, Facebook comments, and even threats have been fielded by members of the Parthenon staff and exchanged by so many who place Marshall University near to their hearts.”

A portion of the response column from the affected Parthenon staffers: “My mother lost both of her parents on the Marshall plane crash, Dr. and Mrs. Ray Hagley. My father lost his father, Eugene Morehouse, the play-by-play announcer for the Thundering Herd. . . . I am not seeking sympathy, nor am I entitled to any special treatment, but it is hard for me to sit back and watch something that my family and I hold so dearly be disrespected in such a foul manner.”

Separately, a commenter beneath the article explains, “Kid, you just do not get it.  The crash does not define Marshall. Marshall’s response to the crash is what defines Marshall.  You have missed the entire point.  When we remember, we not only honor them, but we celebrate a an incredible community that serves as a living testimonial to all that is good about human resiliance and the healing power of love that makes us who we are.”

For his part, the columnist Culvyhouse admits, “I actually used a hammer when I should’ve used a scalpel.  I thought I was using a scalpel.  It was a complete and utter failure in precision on my part.”

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