Hello! UNC Chapel Hill administrator Aubron Wood, providing you with the "your eyes only" documents we took with us to our meeting with the Chapel Hill Public Safety department! Following these rules helped make sure that the meeting went smoothly, and we ended up with a positive result.
UNC Public Safety Meeting
Your Eyes Only
October 12th, 2010
This meeting is very political. This is important to remember. What these people are worried about is not actually the safety of the public, as much as theyâ€™re protecting the PR of their department. The chance of someone getting hurt during this game of socks and darts is minimal. Even if someone gets hurt, it would be minor, and the school has enough waivers on us to ensure thereâ€™s no legal threat. You can tell this because they arenâ€™t fighting to stop the game; theyâ€™re fighting to remove the nerf blasters. Why are they important? I find it no more likely that theyâ€™ll hurt anyone. The problem is recognition. Some member of the community thinks someone has a gun, makes a scene or calls the police. Does that person have any more right to sue? No, â€œhe scared meâ€ wonâ€™t stand up in the court of law. What theyâ€™re afraid of is someoneâ€™s going to get scared, and after everything is said and done the media will grab it and blow it out of proportion and make both they and the school look bad. â€œCampus Wide scare at UNC by student carrying firearm facsimileâ€, I can see it already. What weâ€™re here to do is reassure these people, make friends with them, and most importantly make them trust us. From that trust, we can reassure them that this is not a shitstorm waiting to happen, and that if anything were to happen, they arenâ€™t in the line of fire.
That being said, everyone needs to be friendly. Aggression is never going to help here, because this is a discussion in which they have 100% of the power. They can close up to us today and just say â€œnoâ€, and we canâ€™t do a thing about it. This may be a bad comparison, but I compare this meeting to Inception. If we force this idea upon them, theyâ€™ll reject it. What we have to do is logically plant the seeds for them, and hope they reach our preferred conclusion themselves. What follows are my opinions on how to best handle this.
-Donâ€™t interrupt. After a point is stated, weâ€™ll go through a set order of responding to it. Weâ€™ll decide this before the meeting. (Captain asks us a question: one person answers first, motions to the next, motions to the last. Same thing after we bring up a counter argument, or when we talk about the game, one of us talks first, motions to the next, motions to the last, motions back to the other 2 to make sure there are no more talking points. If we get interrupted, we sit back and listen, respond to him first, and then decide whether to go back to the old point. ORDER IS AUBRON, NICK, LUCAS.)
Exaggerate Intelligently - Weâ€™re playing politics today, and that means we can lie like a politician if necessary. If you think lying is helpful, make sure itâ€™s not something that can be checked or caught. Inherently, in cases where something could be detrimental but unnecessary, keep away from mentioning it. (Example: Big Nerf blasters will be hard to store in a bag. We just donâ€™t bring this up, and say that all blasters have to be stored at all times in academic buildings. The chances of it causing a problem are minimal.) Long story short, bullshit is good if you donâ€™t get caught.
Terminology â€“ Keep your words in mind. Although I really donâ€™t think itâ€™ll be a game changer if you slip up, keeping things standard is good. Nerf Blasters is our term; informally refer to them as toys. They fire darts. They are not Air Guns/Pistols; they are spring powered dart launchers. Yes, I know, some of them are actually powered by compressed air. See the part about exaggerating intelligently. Stay away from the word guns. Also, if possible make a point to make talking about real guns sound more menacing, with words like weapons and firearms, to further contrast them with the toys.
Part 1: Talk about the Game
We need to start just by talking about the game. We need to talk about it without giving alternatives, to start. We need to talk about the game, how it works, and we need to describe it as if playing with nerf blasters and socks is the only way to play it. To say â€œor we could play it without nerf blastersâ€ is shooting ourselves in the foot right out of the gate. Notably, Dean Dean already said something to this effect, but we just move past that. Remember, we arenâ€™t fighting for the blasters yet. Things to focus on:
Leadership Experience â€“ These people are with the police. They value leadership. Point out leadership and teambuilding wherever possible.
Good Introductions â€“ We should introduce each other well, and talk about our experience then.
Other Games â€“ We didnâ€™t make this game. Itâ€™s a well-documented game played across the country at legitimate campuses. I should have a list in their packet. Presenting examples should be reassuring to them, especially the examples where nothing went wrong.
Moderation â€“ Wherever possible, plug for the control we as administrators and moderators have over the game. My simple description of the game is â€œA moderated game of tag.â€ Why is this? Itâ€™s because tag as a game is confrontational, and at times very emotional. The more control we sound like we have over it, the better we sound. Talk about the site (I will), and the strong communication and organizational asset it is. That it keeps things sane.
Going through the rules would be a good LAST thing to do. This is because at some point during this discussion, theyâ€™re going to say no to Nerf Blasters, or Gun facsimiles. We need to accept this, and be prepared for this. Then we move toâ€¦.
Part 2: Nerf Blasters
In their position, they'll likely want to keep discussion to a minimal level, and place it as non-negotiable. This is going to be the most important part of the meeting, definitely the tensest, and the easiest for one statement to back us into a corner. Think before you speak, stop and think if you get flustered in the middle of a statement, and if you have the slightest doubt about what youâ€™re saying, withhold it. The first and crucial part of this is getting them to give us reasons why they canâ€™t allow Nerf Blasters. If we donâ€™t do this, we touch on all the potential reasons below, and then go to compromise. Until we reach that point however, we should hold our ground and not except a simple â€œnoâ€ for an answer. The key is that if we can get them to give us logical reasons why Nerf isnâ€™t allowed, we can tackle those individually. We will have a hard time tackling a â€œnoâ€. Keep in mind that they might come up with reasons to keep from admitting that theyâ€™re afraid of their own PR, but that we should remember their main motivation is to preserve the name of the University and their departments. What follows are some potential paths and angles I think theyâ€™ll try to take, and my thoughts on our best shots at countering them.
We should expect them to bring this up. Itâ€™s the hardest thing for us to fight, but it is very possible. Theyâ€™re worried that someone will see one of our players carrying a nerf blaster, think itâ€™s a firearm, and then either freak or call the police. Whatâ€™s important then is to try and draw a line that, given the nature of the Nerf Blasters themselves, combined with the steps we take to counteract the problem, misrecognition is a non-issue.
Dissimilar by Nature
This is our first stab at breaking this defense. Lucas, this will be when we need to, with their permission, present the example you brought with you. There are key points we need to go on here. The first is that we are restricting the toys allowed in the game to the Nerf and Buzz Bee lines of dart launchers. We need to point out that both of these companies have in their founding policies to never create a toy which could â€œreasonably be mistaken for an actual weaponâ€ and always follow the orange tip rule. The next thing we need to go on is that the rules decisively state that the blaster be unmodified, and unpainted. We need to bring up the self-policing nature of the game, the gameâ€™s incentive for reporting others, and the siteâ€™s aid in automating reporting. Just doing our best here to try and make them understand that a Nerf Blaster is a childrenâ€™s plaything, and the argument that theyâ€™ll be mistaken for real firearms is unfounded. Nicely.
Inform the Public
This follows up on the previous argument. On top of that, we have a public information campaign ready (make sure they think it hasnâ€™t started yet, showing we respect their authority and implying they contain information on the blasters) to make sure that members of the wider community are aware of the game, and what it implies to players and non-players alike. We need to bring up flyers and posters, a Daily Tar Heel article informing people (exaggerate intelligently), and a campus-wide email. If they bring up particular cases, act like youâ€™re an expert on that particular event, and say that it was the result of a lack of communication between the local law enforcement, students, and game administrators. Talk more about our avenues of communication. Also, reiterate that all blasters have to be hidden upon entering an academic building.
Banned On Campus
Quite simply, ask them what the particular rule is that bans it on Campus. Weâ€™ll have in our packets several sources that contradict that. However, in the event they pull out a legitimate ban, we need to check it (have a laptop), and then move to Part 3 in hopes theyâ€™ll bend the ban for us.
Lucas, if possible, just shoot Nick point blank in the eye with it. (Iâ€™m joking) (Am I? Iâ€™m not sure). Anyway, go back to the unmodified rule, reiterate the rule talking about blasters canâ€™t be dangerous, and point out that neither of them create toys that are capable of hurting people in a reasonable situation out of fear of being sued.
â€œOut of our handsâ€
Basically, he says â€œIâ€™d like to help you, but itâ€™s not my decisionâ€ (Like Dean Dean did). Similar to the banned on Campus defense, question them about what it is that has their hands tied, and if he can help us get an appointment with whoever can help us. Call his bluff.
Part 3: Backpedalling
All is lost, they arenâ€™t going to back down and we know it. Itâ€™s damage control now. We know theyâ€™ll be fine with just socks, but some Nerf is better than no Nerf. Compromise him to death. Some compromises:
Restrict to Certain Models â€“ We can get their department to confirm a few certain models theyâ€™d agree to. This has a good shot.
Restrict to certain hours â€“ Some is better than none.
Restrict to Missions â€“ Some is still better than none.
Blaster Registration â€“ Have a couple of nights at the Pit, make registration stickers, and check the blasters in to make sure they meet guidelines. Itâ€™d be more to police, but oh well.
Move the game back â€“ If this seems like it would help, our date is not concrete.
Give War a Try â€“ Let us try, with the option of removal on first incident. Reiterate our efficient communication means.
I would love to have some kind of order for these, but it depends on where we are at this point. Talking about giving the blasters a try, with the option of removing them upon first incident should be the first thing we bring up. Restricting to Models should be second, unless we really think Blaster Registration would help. Then try and move the game for more discussion time let the game take place on their time, than go to the more severe restrictions.
Here lies the guilt trip. I donâ€™t want to bring any of these up, because it contradicts trying to be their friends. However, if we have to, we can, as nicely as possible, fall back on these.
Precedent â€“ Iâ€™ll have a list of similar games and activities that went on without problem. Theyâ€™ll be in the other packet. We can point out these as a precedent.
Layinâ€™ On the Guilt â€“ Point out that the reasons other activities get away with these is that they play it risky and donâ€™t contact the official channels. Talk about how there has been very few instances of misrecognition with the game in the country, and that more problems are those in which the administration wasnâ€™t properly contacted, and the game was shut down embarrassingly, and how we want to avoid that. Talk about how we really would like to set up a friendly communication channel between public safety and our players, and we would like to be able to hail them to our large player base as the friendly folks who helped us take this bold step, rather than having to tell them that weâ€™ll have to, in many of our players eyes, â€œruinâ€ the game because Public Safety put their foot down on the toys.