Let Them Play


Leave it to the administration to shoot down the prospects of fun. Eighty-eight first-year Assassin players will have to find amusement elsewhere, thanks to an edict from the Dean of Students' office.

What's wrong with Assassin, the group game of mock murder? Houses have hosted mini-tournaments for years, and first-years played last year. But Assistant Dean of Students Sarah Flatley-Wheaton told the game's organizer that Assassin "does not present a good image of Harvard."

This, by the way, from the same University at which a House master two weeks ago asked his students not to defecate in public hallways and to clean up their mess if they did. Clearly, this is not a University that cares how dumb it looks. So what could motivate two College administrators to agree that an "Assassin" game sounded like good, clean fun, but balk a few days later?

Heaven forbid, the tourists might be disturbed.

Assassin players stalk each other with plastic dart guns--or in the case of the thwarted first-years, plastic spoons; the last to "die" wins. So croquet it ain't. But it's a game some Harvard students like to play. And while the Yard is a popular spot for tourists, it's also the home of some 1,400 students.


Usually, these two groups peacefully co-exist, getting in each other's way but practicing mutual toleration. But if administrators continue to use "image" to guide their policy, we may be seeing a lot more restrictions on students' behavior. The same mentality that's made Harvard Square a glittering neon shopping mecca threatens to turn the Yard into a Fun-Free Zone.

Strikingly, Dean of Freshman Elizabeth S. Nathans had no idea that the game was being banned--and said she couldn't understand why it was.

Harvard shouldn't strive to preserve a genteel image that just isn't true. More importantly, the administration shouldn't assume a tour-guide mentality in dictating the actions of students. There's a time for engaging in the serious pursuit of knowledge. There's also a time for hunting down a classmate with a plastic gun or eating utensil. If tourists are seriously disturbed, we invite them to arm themselves with their own spoons.

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