Here’s an interesting story that has been making the rounds over the past day or so. Penn State University has banned it’s Outing Club – an on-campus organization dedicated to getting students into the outdoors – from actually going outside. The school has deemed the activities conducted by the club, which include hiking, backpacking, kayaking, and trail maintenance, as being too risky.
The Outing Club posted a special announcement regarding this ban on its website. In that announcement the PSOC indicated that it would no longer be organizing any student-led trips into the outdoors. The club cited University officials who said they had found the organization’s activities to be “above the university’s threshold of acceptable risk for recognized student organizations.”
Penn State spokesperson Lisa Powers says, “The groups are being disbanded in their current high-risk model and are actually being re-organized to provide more oversight of activities by trained and professional staff.” The University is quick to point out that the 98-year old Outing Club is not going away, just being reorganized.
Apparently there have been some concerns about how several students conducted themselves on unsupervised trips into the backcountry and there are allegations of “issue of alcohol” as well. The findings come after the university conducted a risk assessment of is 79 individual clubs, finding that 20 of them had some level of risk involved. Those included the Archery Club, Boxing Club, and Rifle Club. Only three were determined to have high-risk actives – the Outing Club, Grotto Caving Club, and the Nittany Divers SCUBA Club.
Obviously the misuse of alcohol during certain outdoor activities is a cause for concern, but no one is probably surprised to learn that college kids were having some drinks while on a camping or hiking trip. But, to ban an outdoors club from going outdoors seems rather reactionary. I guess in this day and age, a lot of people probably do think going outside is risky, which is why so many stay inside glued to their television sets or smartphones, rather than actually enjoying nature. Hopefully Penn State and the students in the Outing Club can resolve this issue and get back on track. Right now, this all sounds rather farcical.