Sophomore Nick Morrison and junior Joseph Peterson had a dream of a campus-wide “Assassins” game on Halloween, where different teams would try to “tag” each other throughout the day. The best performers would face off later during the day.
Peterson says he received an email from Coordinator for Student Engagement Andrew Salemi on Oct. 17 informing him that the event had been denied for reasons related to the political situation surrounding guns.
“They said that school would not endorse anything gun-related and then I [rebutted] with the fact that we already host weekly meetings at the field house that would be pretty much exactly what a tournament would look like, but with more people hopefully,” Peterson said.
Vice President of Student Development Anne Ehrlich clarified in an email to TKS, members of Student Senate and Nerf Club on Oct. 24 that she is willing to work with the club to hold an on-campus event in a more private space.
“We by no means equate your club with violence; however, we are deeply concerned about the unintentional impact of such an event – in a public space – on students who have been deeply and personally affected by gun violence,” she said in her email.
“That being said, we also want to support your organization and its activities. You are welcome to hold such an event in a closed location, which would eliminate the risk of a student seeing something that may deeply disturb them.”
Members of the club initially felt that the decision was drawing a comparison between gun violence and Nerf guns, which they believe is not there.
“I think it’s a little outrageous, I would understand if it were something like airsoft, but … Nerf guns, they’re brightly colored pieces of plastic, with foam darts that don’t fly very fast. I don’t think anyone could equate a Nerf battle to actual gun violence, because they’re just so different,” Morrison said.
However, Peterson said that the club was not completely expecting to get the event passed when they first proposed it.
“We knew that safety risks were possible. It’s very likely they would say no to that, which they did. We had the backup of hosting the tournament without the day event, but that also got turned down,” they said.
After Ehrlich clarified the situation to Peterson confirming that the on-campus event was allowed to happen, they responded by writing that their bigger problem lies outside the topic of the event itself.
“My issue with the [school’s] decision not to host Nerf events on campus does not stem from the moral implications that come with holding such event. My problems stem from the fact that this decision reflects a larger misunderstanding of Nerf Club and [its] relationship with the school,” Peterson wrote.
Peterson says that the club does not use the words “gun” or “shoot” during their club meetings, instead using the words “blaster” and “tag,” respectively.
The club has been operating out of the fieldhouse for the last few years, but did not hold a single event on campus last year, according to Morrison and Peterson. They hoped to gain more momentum for their club with this initial event.
“We’ve always been on campus, you know. Tucked away. I don’t want to make people uncomfortable. I just want people to have fun. But they are toys; airsoft and paintball, I think have a much stronger association with guns,” he said.
A smaller, contained event still has the possibility of happening on campus with support from Ehrlich. Nerf Club will meet with members of the administration this week to discuss the situation.