Penn State's 98-Year-Old Outing Club Is No Longer Allowed to Go Outside
"Student safety in any activity is our primary focus."
What's more dangerous: rugby, or a walk in the woods? At Pennsylvania State University, the administrators apparently think it's the latter.
The student "Outing Club," which has gone backpacking, kayaking, and hiking in state parks over the course of its 98-year-existence, will no longer be allowed to host outdoor events after administrators conducted a risk assessment, according to The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
"The types of activities in which [Penn State Outing Club] engages are above the university's threshold of acceptable risk for recognized student organizations," according to an official announcement.
A key issue for administrators was that the Outing Club frequently visit locations with poor cell phone coverage. This wasn't an issue during the Coolidge administration, but now that cell phones exist, students are apparently expected to remain glued to them at all times.
"Student safety in any activity is our primary focus," Lisa Powers, a Penn State spokeswoman, told The Post-Gazette.
And yet the treasurer of the Outing Club said that he hadn't heard of any injuries sustained on club outings in recent years.
Leslie Demmert, the angry alum who alerted me to this travesty, said in an email:
Students can still play field hockey, rugby, and football at Penn State…but they can no longer enjoy a cave or go scuba diving or even make an outdoor adventure under the guidance of trained student leaders at Penn State. Why? It's too dangerous to be out of cell phone range. I'm an alumna ('71, Liberal Arts) and I'm furious that Penn State administration allows indoor activities but has hobbled healthy, outdoor leadership and controlled risk-taking opportunities.
Where are people supposed to learn to try new things if not in college? How will they learn new adventures and outdoor recreation if they aren't supported?
Penn State wants to be more than a football school. How about they reconsider this shortsighted decision on organizations that have proven themselves to be safe and inexpensive, financially and emotionally, for over half a century?
The Post-Gazette's Don Hopey reports that the administration is hoping to reform the Outing Club into some kind of movie-watching club:
Ms. Powers said meetings between the Outing Club's student leaders and the university are "ongoing" about the club's future role on campus.
Those talks are focused on the possibility of "forming a different kind of club," [current club president Richard] Waltz said, one that still holds film festivals and hosts speakers, but can no longer lead students on walks in the woods.
Maybe they can take virtual reality walks in a padded room—provided there's cell service.