U of C weighs Assassins in post–VA Tech world

By Chris Ross

University housing may not sponsor the mock-shooting team game Assassins this year, due to lack of interest as well as concerns that the game could appear insensitive after the shootings at Virginia Tech last month.

An Inter-House Council (IHC) meeting to be held on Tuesday evening will discuss the issue further, said second-year Charles S. Thompson, chairman of the residential life committee.

Only 18 individuals responded to an e-mail sent out to the house system to gauge interest in playing the game this year, Thompson said. A popular game at colleges across the country, Assassins involves shooting targets with water guns.

“That people aren’t signing up could be a product of the recent shootings, but I think it’s more apathy than anything,” he said.

In Assassins, a player serves as both hunter and hunted, with each player assigned a target to strike while also serving as someone else’s target until only one player remains. The game is integrated into everyday student life, allowing for surprise attacks, although “safe zones”—such as a player’s dorm room or dining hall—also exist.

A game of Assassins was planned and initiated at Broadview Hall before the Virginia Tech shootings, but the game was suspended afterward due to voiced concerns. The game was resumed two days later.

“I initially planned this game in order to elicit some rivalry between our three houses…. By assigning people to find targets that aren’t within their own house, they have a chance of meeting someone new,” Robert Ren, a program coordinator for Broadview, said.

Ren emphasized the importance of not dwelling excessively on the Virginia Tech tragedy.

“From what I’ve witnessed, this game has created a very compelling dynamic of excitement that is relatively rare…. This fair-weather game has immediately brought out the best in some of us,” Ren said.

The game was a success at Broadview and will likely be organized again next year, Ren said.

A meeting held last Sunday at Hitchcock house to discuss Assassins strategy went unattended, despite an e-mail that had gone out earlier in the week.

“It’s just people having fun—it happens to be with water guns. It’s a housing-wide thing, and no one got into it this year. It took a lot to organize,” said Bob Knox, a second-year in the College who headed the effort to organize the game at Hitchcock.

Thompson noted that while he hadn’t yet heard any active opposition to staging the game, Assistant Director of Housing Karyn LaTurner had voiced an objection, suggesting the game be moved to autumn quarter due to the Virginia Tech shootings.

LaTurner said in an e-mail interview that she “was not the only person” who voiced concerns over the game’s timing and that she felt organizers have been receptive to discussion. “When I shared my concerns with Charles , I was pleased by his sympathetic response and immediate inclination to postpone the game, and I am aware that he intends to discuss the subject at the Executive Committee meeting this Tuesday,” she said.

“My own personal opinion is that I can see people saying it’s a bit too early, but at the same time, people here at the U of C can separate what’s real from what’s fake,” Thompson added.