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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

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Bow Confiscated

Approximately a week before the beginning of spring semester, Campus Safety & Security officers confiscated a bow belonging to Will Ewing ’15, which was discovered during a routine room check conducted over winter break.

The bow violated the rules expressly stated under the Weapons, Firearms and Explosives section of the Student Handbook, which bans any and all “weapons, firearms or explosives in College-owned residences (i.e., residence halls or project/language houses), in or on other College buildings or property or in vehicles parked on campus.”

After complete compliance with Security and explaining that he has a bow as part of Grinnell’s archery club, Ewing was required to move the bow off-campus to a friend’s residence.

RLCs conduct sweeps during breaks in order to check on basic maintenance, such as shutting windows and turning off lights and, according to campus guidelines, must report any violation of college policies they see.

Ewing stored his bow in plain sight in his room and it was consequently confiscated, explained Associate Dean of Students and Director of Residence & Orientation Andrea Conner in an email to the S&B.

“If the RLC is in the unfortunate circumstance of happening to see … weapons that violate campus policy, they must contact Campus Safety & Security,” Conner wrote.

Although the College’s zero-tolerance weapons policy in this case is very clear-cut, members of Grinnell’s archery community found the school’s actions both unsettling and misleading.

The enforcement of this policy in relation to archery is relatively new. Only a few years ago, Grinnell had no qualms with the club and even encouraged the sport on campus.

“Everyone saw us carrying our bows around campus; we even passed Security on the way there,” said Kenji Yoshino ’11, a post-baccalaureate fellow and current adviser to the archery club. “We stored our arrows in the Bear and our bows in our room, and there was never a problem.”

Before his bow was confiscated, Ewing kept it in his dorm room primarily to ensure that it didn’t warp, deteriorate or get stolen.

“It needs to be stored in some place that is neither extremely cold, nor extremely warm,” Ewing said. “My bow is very valuable to me and I can’t ensure its safety anywhere else.”

“After they confiscated my bow, I was really worried about the conditions it was being kept in,” he added.

In order for his bow to be returned, Ewing had to explain why he had ignored the policies listed in the Student Handbook, as well as why he had a bow on campus, under the threat of suspension.

“I didn’t consider my bow to be any kind of threat,” Ewing said. “I teach archery to professors’ kids, and my [arrow] tips are all practice tips. Teaching is also my only source of income, so I had to have my bow somewhere safe and accessible.”

Ewing attempted to clarify his violation of campus policy by contacting Campus Safety & Security Officers Stephen Briscoe and Russ Motta, but he found the responses he received to be frustratingly ambiguous.

“Officer Russ said they knew it was going to be a problem with the archery club, but they didn’t create a rule for or against [bows], so they didn’t know what to do,” Ewing said.

After a thorough clarification from Ewing, no charges were brought forward against him.

The contradictions in the College’s treatment of bows and the archery club come at a particularly sensitive time. As archery’s popularity surges, Yoshino said that the way the College handles this issue could either facilitate an incredible learning experience or make it so impractical for anyone interested in archery to learn that the College essentially bans any attempt at it.

“Everyone wants to learn archery nowadays after watching ‘The Hunger Games’ or ‘Brave,’” Yoshino said. “With these actions, we are discouraging people from wanting to learn archery on this campus.”

Yoshino listed the two policies that he believes are most detrimental to aspiring Grinnell archers: inaccessibility and storage issues.

Equipment stored in the Bear was impractical for students to access since a Security officer had to unlock the storage facility every time. This was especially problematic on weekends, when most students had the free time to practice.

“It was a hassle; we couldn’t get the guy with a key, and we couldn’t access our equipment,” Yoshino said.

Forcing students to keep their bows off-campus further complicates the process of storage, retrieval, maintenance and security, argued archery enthusiast John Whittaker, Anthropology, who specializes in projectile weaponry.

“I think if you want to … teach archery on campus, especially under the supervision of a responsible professor, then you have to allow students to have bows and arrows in the dorms,” Whittaker said. “It’s impractical to have students checking it out and it’s important for students to learn to keep and maintain their stuff.”

According to Whittaker, having an officially sanctioned archery club and archery class is not only an excellent learning opportunity, but is also a basic extension of trust between Grinnell and its students.

“The College recognizes that there is a certain amount of risk in everything that we do, like chemistry or football,” Whittaker said. “However, the College equally recognizes that the benefits are worth these risks. Archery, in my mind, falls under that same condition. There is a slight risk, yet the College explicitly recognized the education benefit from teaching it in the past.”

Moreover, Whittaker believes that trusting students to be responsible in storing their bows in dorm rooms is not merely about convenience, it’s about self-governance.

“The College hopes to teach students in an informal way some sort of morality, this idea of self-governance or the expectation that by and large students will do the right thing,” Whittaker said. “The issue with things like … bows … is the expectation that the average archer on campus is going to do the right thing—be careful, have no malice and acknowledge that it is part of their education. People feel unhappy when they are mistrusted, but know they are trustworthy.”

Understandably, the College must ensure that students act in a safe manner and feel safe on campus, which Whittaker suggests is not an issue resolvable by banning bows from campus, but an issue of open communication and responsibility on the individual level.

“If you’re worried about your dorm-mate or your neighbor, talk to them. Self-governance—take it into your hands and reassure yourself,” Whittaker said.

Whittaker, Yoshino and Ewing hope to see these considerations taken seriously by the College in revising what they deem to be a confusing and detrimental zero-tolerance policy.

“We create more problems trying to ban it than allowing it,” Whittaker said.

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