[Rushtalk] Penn State's 98-Year-Old Outing Club Is No Longer Allowed to Go Outside

Carl Spitzer {C Juno} cwsiv at juno.com
Tue May 1 09:38:08 MDT 2018

Penn State's 98-Year-Old Outing Club Is No Longer Allowed to Go Outside

"Student safety in any activity is our primary focus."

Lenore Skenazy|Apr. 22, 2018 4:50 pm

OutdoorsAndor Bujdoso / DreamstimeWhat'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.

Photo Credit: Andor Bujdoso / Dreamstime

Lenore Skenazy is founder of the book and blog Free-Range Kids,
and president of the nonprofit Let Grow.

Buckingham Confirms Unfortunate News
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