Dangerous out there: Penn State tells outdoor clubs to stay inside

by WorldTribune Staff, April 26, 2018

After conducting what it called a “proactive risk assessment,” Penn State University has concluded that it is too risky for an outdoor recreation club to go outdoors.

Penn State Outing Club hike in Dolly Sods Wilderness, West Virginia.

The Penn State Outing Club (PSOC) announced last week that, starting next semester, it will no longer be permitted by the university to organize outdoor, student-led trips.

The decision was handed down by the university’s offices of Student Affairs and Risk Management.

The student-led club has been organizing hiking, camping and other outdoors-focused outings since it was founded in 1920.

According to a statement on the club’s website, the university “determined that the types of activities in which PSOC engages are above the university’s threshold of acceptable risk for recognized student organizations.”

While Penn State said the “proactive risk assessment” was not a public document, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported the university’s Archery Club, Alpine Ski Racing Club, Boxing Club, and Rifle Club all passed the same assessment.

Two other outdoor recreation clubs – the Nittany Grotto Caving Club and the Nittany Divers SCUBA Club – also have been directed by the university to stop offering outdoor trips.

Students said the decision was based on a two-month review that didn’t include consultation with student leaders at any of the clubs.

University spokeswoman Lisa Powers said in a statement that Outing Club activities were rated high risk because they take place in remote environments with poor cell service and long distances from emergency services.

Powers said Penn State still will offer a university-operated outdoors activity program.

Richard Waltz, the Outing Club’s current president, said the university-run program will cost much more for students than the student-run club.

Michael Lacey, president of the Caving Club, told the Centre Daily Times that he questioned Penn State’s reasoning for ending the club outings.

“There’s a difference between going with somebody you paid to take you on a trip and going with a bunch of your friends,” Lacey said.

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