The University of Wisconsin’s student-run Humans vs. Zombies organization drew criticism from several students this past week, as they mistook Nerf guns for assault rifles and filed gun complaints with the UW Police Department.
The Humans vs. Zombies event began four years ago and occurs twice a year, once in the fall and once in the spring. It originated at Goucher College in Baltimore, Md. but two students started a chapter in Madison, Alex Turek, a UW student who organizes the event, said.
Turek said the event serves as a week-long “stress reliever” from the pressures of college, an environment where UW students can be active and social. He said it is also a team-building event, and this year drew 230 participants.
UW Police Department spokesperson Marc Lovicott said the department received a call Wednesday from a passer-by who claimed they saw a bright orange gun. On Thursday, UWPD was notified of a person carrying an assault rifle on the street. UWPD responded immediately and appropriately, but Lovicott said the event is in no way violent.
“It’s a peaceful event, a fun game and we can appreciate that,” Lovicott said. “But we also have to take in mind that this is a serious issue concerning what has gone on across the country on other college campuses.”
Turek said fear and worry are natural reactions in light of recent violent incidents across the country. However, the point of the game was never about violence, but instead the adrenaline of running around and having fun, he said.
In the past, UWPD has met and communicated with the student event organizers. The organizers are very proactive about letting UWPD know when the event is happening and what to expect, Lovicott said.
Lovicott said UWPD is planning to work with the organizers to discuss if there are changes that could be made for next year in terms of perception. The Dean of Students Office and UWPD are debating whether they should only allow students to play with socks, as opposed to Nerf guns, in the future.
Turek said he was disappointed by this proposal, saying Nerf guns do not cause any real harm but rather allow participants to fire more rounds at the end of the game.
“It is understandable to fear, but at the same time, it is sad and disappointing,” Turek said. “Stopping the use of Nerf guns takes away the spirit of the game. We never had any intention of violence. We’re just having fun.”
On Friday night, the participants in the event were only allowed to play with socks and there was a UWPD officer on site to ensure there were no further calls of disturbance, Turek said.
Turek said the organization will be figuring out what the game’s future will look like in the upcoming weeks.
“We would love to continue to promote teamwork, friendship and communication through our games,” Turek said. “We hope that people give us a fair chance in the upcoming weeks and months, as we have a lot of great things to bring to this campus.”