Koob and Basile: Fencing club calls for access to equipment

Representatives of the Fencing Club met with representatives of the MacVittie College Union and the University Police Department on Wednesday March 4 to discuss the current policies and procedures regarding the storage of fencing equipment on campus. The storage area does not currently serve the needs of FC particularly well. Unfortunately, UPD was not very receptive to data and information about the safety of fencing equipment, and the issues remain largely unsolved.

As of January 2013, the current online weapons policy classifies fencing equipment––foils, épées and sabres that lack sharp edges or points––as martial arts weapons. Fencing equipment is thereby prohibited unless it is only used by recognized student organizations, approved by UPD, registered with the College Union and stored at an approved on campus location.

This means that fencing “weapons” cannot be stored in dorm rooms on campus, but instead must be locked up in the armory in the College Union. The problem is that FC executive board members do not have key access to the armory. Club members lose a significant amount of practice time waiting for a keyholder before transporting the equipment all the way from the concierge desk at the Union to Sturges Auditorium.

The sport of fencing is governed by three international organizations that hold its members to the highest standards of safety and expect fencers to use the blades solely for sports use. Fencing blades are only about as thick as a pinky finger, flexible and made with modern forging techniques so that they do not necessarily become sharp if broken. Modern fencing equipment is so far removed from weapons that it is silly to classify them as such.

Other universities within New York State including Vassar College and Marist College allow fencing club members to access locked equipment rooms. Universities such as SUNY Stony Brook and SUNY Oneonta allow members to store fencing gear in their dorm rooms. There is a gross inconsistency between Geneseo’s policies and those of other schools, strongly suggesting Geneseo is the exception––not the rule––to policies endorsed by institutions.

UPD and representatives from the College Union explained that they will attempt to allow the equipment to be stored in Sturges, but none of the data about safe fencing practices swayed opinion with regards to how fencing equipment is classified on campus.

UPD was adamant that fencing equipment is dangerous, and believes it to be analogous to firearms or throwing stars. In reality, however, household items such as kitchen knives could be potentially more harmful. UPD believes that the current policy is sound, insisting that we should not be allowed to have possession and storage rights of our personal equipment.

As there will be no policy change within the near future, FC intends to create a petition to gather public support through the power of the student voice and body.