Many educational institutions have traditions and the United States Military Academy in West Point, New York is no different. First year students at the prestigious academy participate in an annual pillow fight intended to be a bit of fun. The tradition dates back over a century and has raised few eyebrows but that all changed on August 20 when 2015’s instalment of the long running event turned violent, resulting in thirty students being injured.
While most of us consider a pillow fight a lighthearted “fight” conducted with pillows, several cadets decided to stretch the definition for some reason and inserted hard objects inside their pillow cases. Unsurprisingly, this resulted in a much more dangerous encounter and left thirty cadets with injuries ranging from concussions to broken bones. This isn’t the first time the seemingly benign tradition has caused problems; in 2012 a cadet placed a lockbox in his pillow case and hurt several fellow students, resulting in the event being cancelled the following year.
United States Military Academy superintendent Lieutenant General Robert L. Caslen, Jr. took full responsibility for the incident, saying “While these spirit events do occur, we never condone any activity that results in intentional harm to a teammate”. An investigation into the incident is underway and Caslen has promised to take “appropriate actions” when presented with its findings.
There are currently no plans to discontinue the tradition and there were already some safety provisions in place. Academy spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Christopher Kasker explained that older students monitoring the fight had instructed the participants to wear their helmets, but many put them in the pillow cases instead.