Monday, April 23, 2018

Penn State Outing Club no longer allowed to go outside

A Pennsylvania State University club for outdoors enthusiasts is no longer allowed to go outside, on the grounds that it's too risky. In the words of columnist Dave Barry, we are not making this up.

"After a two-month review that did not include consultation with student Outing Club leaders, the university’s offices of Student Affairs and Risk Management made the determination that the hiking, canoeing, kayaking, trail building and camping activities the student-led club has long engaged in are too risky," Don Hopey reports for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "The club is one of the oldest entirely student-run organizations at Penn State."

Penn State spokesperson Lisa Powers said the university evaluated risk at all campus sport and recreation student groups, and said "student safety in any activity is our primary focus." The other two outdoors groups, the caving club and the scuba diving club, were also deemed too risky. The Alpine Ski Racing Club, the Archery Club, the Rifle Club, and the Boxing Club passed.

Outing Club leaders said they have fully complied with more stringent safety standards introduced in the past year, but protested that the risk assessment office did not talk with them about perceived dangers. Timothy Hackett, the club's outgoing treasurer, said he knows of no student injuries on any Outing Club trips within the past four years, Hopey reports. Powers said the risk assessment was proactive, and not based on previous injuries.

The university has a similar program called Outdoor Adventures, which Powers said has better trained and more experienced leaders, but Richard Waltz, the Outing Club's 2017-18 president, said Outdoor Adventures trips cost more. "The two programs offer very different experiences," he told Hopey. "The Outing Club is very accepting and welcoming of students who may be out experiencing nature for the first time in a meaningful way. Participants learn organically and develop more of a mentor-mentee relationship over the years."

The Outing Club's board said in a statement that they'll keep working with advisers and university staff to find a way to keep going.

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