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No zombies allowed at Mercer

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The threat of zombies has come to Mercer.  You can load your colorful plastic Nerf guns but do not shoot your rubber-tipped foam darts just yet, as something is standing in the way of this zombie invasion.

A group of more than 50 students is attempting to bring the growing college campus game, Humans vs. Zombies, to Mercer.  However, convincing the college administration to allow the game to be played remains an obstacle.

Humans vs. Zombies (HVZ) is a large game of tag with some modified rules, that has been played on college campuses around the world.  Created by students Brad Sappington and Chris Weed of Goucher College in the fall of 2005, the game draws some inspiration from campy zombie apocalypse movies such as Dawn of the Dead.

In the beginning of the game, one person starts as a zombie while everyone else attempts to remain a human by not getting tagged by the zombies foam Nerf darts.  With every human that gets tagged, the zombie horde grows, making it crucial that the humans work together.

The humans can shoot Nerf guns or throw socks to “stun” the zombies, which makes the zombies have to sit out for a short period.  The game ends after about 5 days, usually when all humans get tagged and become zombies.  An explanatory documentary can be seen at www.humansvszombies.org.

The two main members of the group lobbying for HVZ at Mercer are Brian Harris and Derek Koeppel.  Harris, a second-year Liberal Arts major, recently had a meeting with Dean Diane Campbell in the Department of Student Affairs.  The meeting did not end well for Harris.  “[Dean Campbell] said she will not approve,” said Harris.

With so many other colleges around the world playing HVZ such as Pennsylvania State University, the University of Pittsburgh, and the University of Massachusetts according to humansvszombies.org, why is Mercer so reluctant?

“Whether there are Nerf guns or other weaponry, students may not participate in activities that use a violent model,” said Dean Campbell.  “The rules of the game call for victim kills.  The college campus should not be the backdrop for an activity like this.”

However, one lobbyist feels differently.  “I know that our bright yellow and orange Nerf guns that shoot foam darts are just so scary-looking, but it’s harmless fun,” says Derek Koeppel, a third year Digital Media Arts student.  “It has been played at many other schools, all which had permission from there respective Deans.  But in our case they already have a negative view on those of us trying to run HVZ.”

Koepple is correct that there are many deans that have allowed the game, but among American college administrators, Dean Cambell is not alone in her beliefs.  HVZ, and especially its use of Nerf guns on campus, has become controversial since the Virginia Tech shootings where English Major Seung Hui Cho killed 33 people and himself with two semi-automatic handguns. Many criticize the symbolic killing and violence of the game, leading to bans at some colleges like Washington State University, Morehead State University of Kentucky, and Butler University in Indiana. Many other colleges allow the game but refuse to allow students to carry weapons of any kind, even bright orange ones.  According to the Hornell Evening Tribune, Alfred University in New York was placed on lockdown when a female staff member thought she witnessed a student with a handgun. After eight hours of lockdown it was determined that the student was carrying a Nerf gun and participating in an unsanctioned game of HVZ.

Campbell’s concern with the violence in HVZ is only one of her issues.  Another issue is graffiti.  Writing on a floor tile upstairs of the Communications Building reads “Meet here in case of zombie invasion.”

“Some of the floors and bathroom walls have been defaced with zombie graffiti,” said Campbell.  “If we have a group on campus that has repeatedly marked the campus with its name, why would the College approve of a game involving this group?”

Harris argued that one person should not be allowed to spoil the game for the rest of the group, and that graffiti will no longer be an issue.  “Humans vs. Zombies will not cause anymore graffiti,” Harris said.

A further issue Campbell brought up were the bandanas that are integral to the core HVZ rule set.  When a human gets tagged and becomes a zombie, he or she is required to wear a bandana to distinguish themselves as a zombie.  “We can all agree that bandanas and graffiti tags are used for group identification and to mark territory in the gang world,” said Campbell.  “We do not want to sanction behavior that patterns itself after gangs.”

Several ideas are being considered for how the zombies could avoid bandanas.  All humans could wear a shirt with an “H” on it, all zombies wearing a shirt with a “Z” for example

Despite Dean Campbell’s reluctance thus far to allow HVZ to be played at Mercer, Harris still is not giving up.  “I will come back and strengthen my argument,” Harris said.  “I will get quotes from Deans at other colleges that allowed (HVZ) to be played.”

Harris, Koeppel, and the group of students attempting to gain permission to play HVZ think it will benefit Mercer.  “Humans vs. Zombies will help kids with an activity to do on campus,” Harris said.  “It’s a game of bonding, cooperation, and strategically planning.”  Harris is not alone in his beliefs.  “(HVZ) allows people can to have a good time and make new friends,” said Brian Ward, a third year Biology student.

Nonetheless, the college has the final say, and Dean Campbell does not show signs of changing her position to favor HVZ.  “[Mercer] welcomes games and activities that promote teamwork, harmony, tolerance, and above all education and social values,” said Campbell.  “There are other games of strategy that students can play on campus.  They need to be explored,” she adds.

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