College administrators and college police departments never cease to amaze me in their obtuseness and steadfast adherence to ridiculous interpretations of school policies. The latest example comes from North Dakota State University where the officially recognized and sanctioned NDSU Fencing Club has to practice off-campus at a local Lutheran elementary school.
NDSU campus police have interpreted Sec. 706 (4) to preclude having fencing foils, sabers, and epees on campus. The policy states:
Unauthorized possession or use of weapons on University owned or controlled property is prohibited, unless permission for possession and/or use has been granted by an appropriate University official. Weapons include but are not limited to firearms, ammunition, bombs, explosives, clubs, dirks, martial arts weapons, sling shots, bows and arrows, sabers, swords, knives used primarily for hunting relating purposes, war souvenirs, incendiary devices, fireworks pellet guns, bb guns, paintball guns, stun guns, dangerous chemicals or fuels, or other dangerous objects or substances. Items not traditionally used as weapons may be considered weapons when those items are used to inflict bodily injury or to threaten the infliction of bodily injury on others. Examples include, but are not limited to baseball bats and kitchen utensils.The comments on the controversy from NDSU University Police and Safety Office Director Ray Boyer illustrate, in my opinion, the obtuseness and ridiculous interpretations of school policies that I mentioned in the opening paragraph.
Contact the Director, University Police & Safety Office, for authorization. The Director will coordinate approval with the appropriate Vice President(s). This policy shall not prohibit persons from possessing, storing, or using weapons at approved locations for the purpose of meeting the requirements of a recognized educational program and/or student group sponsored by the University.
From comments Boyer made to Josh Francis of NDSU Spectrum and Inforum:
University Police and Safety Office Director Ray Boyer said the issue isn’t fencing’s safety. The concern is sabers and swords are prohibited, and allowing them on campus could cause others to think they should be able to have prohibited items. He also said it is reasonable to expect that if someone saw individuals displaying swords in a hostile manner in public, “they would call police with an expectation that police respond with equal or greater force.”As the Fencing Club's advisor Enrique Alvarez Vazquez illustrates in the video from Valley News Live about the controversy, the equipment used by the club is no more dangerous than a car antenna. Alvarez Vazquez is a NDSU computer systems engineer and master fencing coach.
Boyer added “sometimes the safest way is simply to have no weapons, real or perceived, on campus.”
He doesn’t plan to change the university’s stance, unless the club had a facility dedicated to fencing.
It should be noted that the University of North Dakota and the nearby Minnesota State University - Moorhead both have fencing teams and both allow them to practice on campus.
Frankly, it is time for NDSU President Dean L. Bresciani to exercise some adult leadership in this situation. He comes from a background in student affairs and says in his biography that "a focus of his work is enhancing the accessibility and quality of campus programs while improving the sense of welcome, support and achievement for all members of the university and surrounding communities." Now is the time for him to live up to that supposed focus by welcoming the NDSU Fencing Club to practice on campus.