Exchange of words leads to assault on campus

Photo credit: Benjamin Pecka

A class turned violent after a student assaulted another student on April 26 during a role-playing game.

The assault was predicated by an exchange of words between Jemel Bedaso and Michael Sommer during an American History class taught by Matthew Carhart.

Students in the class participate in a game project where students take on the role of a figure during the American pre-revolution time period. Students are separated into factions and are supposed to debate key proposals brought up during this time period while also acting in character.

Ellias Ahmed, a student in the class who witnessed the altercation, explained what he saw happen,

“[Bedaso] said, “Order in the assembly, if you all don’t find order in this then the door is right in front of you.” And that’s when [Sommer]…spoke out and told [Bedaso] to “Go [fuck] yourself”. And [Bedaso] told [Sommer] to say it one more time. And [Sommer] did. And then without any hesitation [Bedaso] got off of the podium, walked towards [Sommer], punched [Sommer] in his face. Three punches. The first one, nobody saw it coming. The second one knocked off [Sommer’s] glasses and then the third punch automatically threw [student name] off his seat.”

According to Ahmed, a student stepped in and stopped the assault while Carhart “…also got into the middle of it.”

Sommer contends that he was punched twice. After the incident, Sommer says he went to Public Safety to report the incident and was told Bedaso along with himself might be suspended. As of this writing, Sommer has still not received word on if he is suspended.

In an email, Bedaso said he was suspended while the school investigates and that the timing of the suspension means he cannot take his finals and will have to retake this semester’s courses.

The game project has led to some heated exchanges but according to Carhart this is the “First time this has happened in over a decade of playing [the game project].”

Ahmed said he thinks the outburst happened because “we’re so driven by emotions that we forget that it’s only for this specific cause and this specific moment but nothing to carry on with. It’s just a game and don’t take it to limits where people feel threatened.”

Sommer said he wasn’t surprised that this happened within the context of the game project,

“We don’t know how to show civil discourse in this country,” said Sommer.

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