COLLEGE STATION, TEXAS
Something's rotten at Texas A&M University.
It's a scourge of such magnificent proportions that students say it threatens to shake the very foundations of the school.
For the first time in the university's 125-year history, cheerleaders are building pyramids and doing backflips - with the administration's consent.
It may come as a shock to some outside the state that there is a college in Texas where cheerleaders aren't de rigueur. But here at A&M, where traditions are fiercely guarded by current and former students alike, this pompom-clad clan is far from a welcome sight.
One recent editorial in the student newspaper, The Battalion, calls the squad "a slap in the face" to tradition.
"Bringing cheerleaders into the A&M community begins the slide down a slippery slope that could lead to the loss of the very traditions that help to define the Aggie experience," wrote Kelln Zimmer.
The cheerleading squad became the school's newest student organization this fall. It will represent A&M at collegiate cheerleading competitions across the US.
And even though it will not be allowed to perform at any athletic events, the outrage over its existence has echoed across the grounds upon which some 44,000 students tread.
But to understand why they are so adamantly opposed to cheerleaders, one must understand the history and culture of A&M.
The state's first public institution of higher education opened shortly after the end of the Civil War in 1876, and quickly emerged as an all-male, all-military school. During World Wars I and II, it produced more military officers than any other school, including the service academies.