After a long year of hard work, seniors have a chance to relax and have fun near the end of the year, taking part in traditions and games such as Color Wars, the 80s dance, and playing the class-wide annual game of Senior Assassin. This year, although the actual rules of the game of chasing a fellow classmate down and “eliminating” them using a water gun are the same, the name has been changed to Senior Squirt.
The administration and senior class officers came to the decision to change the name because of the recent epidemic of school shooting tragedies, and while I understand and appreciate that the high school is trying to promote itself as a welcoming and safe community, I feel that this change goes too far in trying to be sensitive and misses the point entirely.
The rules of Senior Squirt have remained the same — you still hunt down another senior and ambush them with a water gun. If Wellesley really wanted to separate the game from the idea of gun violence, the name is not the place to start; I would better understand their reasoning if they were considering removing the gun aspect of the game entirely, but they’re not touching the gameplay itself, only changing its name.
The main reason I feel this change is unnecessary is that the word assassination does not connect with the idea of school shootings. In order to support this theory, I did two pieces of research. Firstly, I went to five of the largest news sites reporting on the Santa Fe tragedy, and after searching over them I found that not once did any of them bring up the word assassin. I went farther, too. I googled School Shooting Assassination using the Verbatim tool, meaning all results must have the exact phrase “School Shooting Assassination” in them. Out of the six results I got back, every single one had the words School Shooting and Assassination separated by a comma.
This could be because before being published editors heavily edit these articles. “Assassin” might still subconsciously have a connection to gun violence. So I ran a survey in which I asked 42 students what event comes to mind when they hear the word “assassination”. The results, shown in the pie chart below, were that a total of zero students mentioned school shootings, this result is even more surprising when taken into account that this survey was run on May 21, only four days since the tragedy at Santa Fe High School, and May 22, the day of the school shooting drill, so clearly the idea of school shootings was very prevalent in everyone’s mind, and yet still not one student thought of school shootings being associated with the word assassination.
So if neither general media nor high school students connect school shootings to assassinations, then why was the name changed to Senior Squirt? If Wellesley thinks that this change disconnects itself from violence, then why stop here? Should English stop teaching “Great Gatsby” and film classes “The Searchers” or “Goodfellas” because of the gun violence in them? Changing the name does not stop tragedies from occurring, nor does it help teach acceptance or tolerance. If the game was called senior shoot, I would understand the wish to change it, but I strongly feel that Senior Assassin does not deliver a message of school-related gun violence.