Penn State deems all outdoors an Unsafe Space

Here’s an article from the Philadelphia Inquirer (thanks to several readers for calling this situation to my attention). Click on the screenshot to read the piece about PSU (Pennsylvania State University) and its new decision.

What happened? Here’s the skinny:

A backpacking trip in the Rothrock State Forest and day hikes in the Laurel Highlands and Shenandoah National Park in Virginia were among the Penn State Outing Club’s 2018 spring-term events.

After this weekend, though, the 98-year-old organization has nothing on its calendar, and unless things change, it won’t.

The Outing Club isn’t allowed to go outside anymore.

According to an announcement posted by the club on its website last week, the university will not allow the club to organize and run outdoor, student-led trips starting next semester.

“This is a result,” the announcement said, “of an assessment of risk management by the university that determined that the types of activities in which PSOC engages are above the university’s threshold of acceptable risk for recognized student organizations.”

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. The club is one of the oldest entirely student-run organizations at Penn State.

. . . The other two outdoor recreation organizations, the Nittany Grotto Caving Club and the Nittany Divers SCUBA Club, were also judged too risky and directed to end trip offerings. Club sports that passed the risk review include the Archery Club, Boxing Club, Alpine Ski Racing Club and Rifle Club.

Note that the decision didn’t involve any of the students, and, worse, the University won’t even tell the students why they nixed the outings.  Is it getting more dangerous out there? I suspect not.

“Student safety in any activity is our primary focus,” Lisa Powers, a Penn State University spokeswoman, said in an email response to questions about the school’s assessment.

Ms. Powers said the university conducted reviews of all campus recreation-supported student groups — 76 sport and three outdoor recreation organizations — to evaluate student safety risks and produce assessment reports. She declined to provide a copy of the assessment report for the Outing Club, saying it is not a public document.

This is ludicrous and embarrassing, especially in view of PSU’s refusal to consult with the clubs and come clean about its decision.

Of course none of us know what really happened, but I think this is a result of universities increasingly deciding they really have to act in loco parentis since students are increasingly becoming consumers; the university thinks that the consumers must be safe. In this case, however, the University— probably afraid of being sued—made the decision against the wishes of the students. The University is, in effect, acting as a Big Helicopter Parent, trying to shield its charges from all possible harm.

Most of us older folk have noticed this on a parental scale. Kids aren’t allowed to play on their own anymore—not without a parent watching. When I got home from grade school, or wanted to do stuff on the weekend, I’d just get on my bike and ride off on my own, sometimes not even telling my parents where I was going. That was when I was ten years old or so. Everybody played unsupervised then, but it’s unthinkable now, despite children actually being safer in today’s world.  So if the world is safer, what is Penn State’s beef? Why, in a safer world, do colleges want even more supervision? You tell me.

Regardless, the students don’t like it one bit:

On a Penn State Reddit site, and the Outing Club’s Facebook page, reports of the university’s decision to shut down the club’s outings were derided by many as hypocritical.

Some of more than 80 Reddit posters wondered if the school will shut down its highly ranked men’s and women’s rugby teams, full-contact club street hockey, and even football because they were risky and potentially injurious.

 

147 Comments

  1. W.Benson
    Posted April 24, 2018 at 10:36 am | Permalink

    Will PSU now start giving out free Bubble Wrap?

    • Christopher
      Posted April 24, 2018 at 10:41 am | Permalink

      Yes, but no safety scissors to cut it with, and they’ll take away the crayons and paste because some of these students might eat them. Oh, wait, this isn’t kindergarten? Or is it?

    • AC Harper
      Posted April 25, 2018 at 3:25 am | Permalink

      How many students burn out, become depressed, or, in extremis, commit suicide because of study and exam pressures?

      Will the PSU now carry out risk assessments on studying?

  2. Mark Reaume
    Posted April 24, 2018 at 10:41 am | Permalink

    The one connotation I have with Philly is that of the Broad Street Bullies. The roughest, toughest NHL hockey team back in the 70s.

    This is not that.

    • BJ
      Posted April 24, 2018 at 12:11 pm | Permalink

      Haha, they were a nasty bunch. Everyone reveres Bobby Clarke, but I will always consider the man scum, specifically because of his slash to Kharlamov’s ankle (which he broke, as was his clear intention) during the 1972 Summit Series.

    • XCellKen
      Posted April 24, 2018 at 1:40 pm | Permalink

      The one connotation I have with Philadelphia is Extreme Championship Wrestling

    • Bill Fish
      Posted April 24, 2018 at 5:25 pm | Permalink

      Who can forget Dave ‘The Hammer Schultz’ one of the ‘greatest’ hockey enforcers ever? Won 2 Stanly Cups, scored 20 goals in 73-74 season and was inducted into the Flyer’s Hall of Fame in 2009. Has the ‘Schulz Rule’ named after him banning boxing wraps in the WHL and WHA

      • BJ
        Posted April 24, 2018 at 8:08 pm | Permalink

        472 penalty minutes in a single season. Truly legendary.

  3. Diana MacPherson
    Posted April 24, 2018 at 10:41 am | Permalink

    I guess they need to change the name from “Outing Club” to “Inning Club”.

    • TJR
      Posted April 24, 2018 at 11:32 am | Permalink

      Or just switch to a different use of the word “outing”.

      • Neil Wolfe
        Posted April 24, 2018 at 11:44 am | Permalink

        From now on the first rule of Outing Club is you do not talk about Outing Club.

  4. freiner
    Posted April 24, 2018 at 10:49 am | Permalink

    My first thought upon hearing this was of Tom Thwaites, the late PSU physics professor who advised the hiking division of the Outing Club for nearly 30 years, wrote the standard hiking guides to the state, and was the major force behind the Mid State Trail.
    I think this is not what he had in mind.

    • chris moffatt
      Posted April 24, 2018 at 6:14 pm | Permalink

      I grant that the AT in PA is some rough hiking and the careless might break something but Laurel Highlands and Shenandoah NP? Having hiked all three I can’t imagine what the hypothesised dangers would be. Bears? Deer? ground squirrels? muddy water? rain?

      • freiner
        Posted April 25, 2018 at 5:21 am | Permalink

        Groundhog, of course. This is Pennsylvania we’re talking about.

  5. GBJames
    Posted April 24, 2018 at 10:51 am | Permalink

    sub

  6. Steve Pollard
    Posted April 24, 2018 at 10:53 am | Permalink

    Why don’t those who want to walk and climb just…do it? I have spent all my life walking and climbing: the only club I ever joined was the British Mountaineering Council, and I did that only to get hold of cheap insurance. (I did once attend the Oxford University Mountaineering Club, but that was for the sole purpose of hearing a talk by the great Eric Shipton).

    • Posted April 24, 2018 at 11:12 am | Permalink

      Many people come to the University from an urban upbringing and many others from deepest, darkest suburbia. Few of these students have ever had the opportunity to spend much time in the woods, let alone in the wilderness. A club helps them learn the ropes and ease into something they have little experience doing and which is for some intimidating.

    • Jonathan Wallace
      Posted April 24, 2018 at 11:16 am | Permalink

      That’s fine of course – there’s nothing to stop anyone going off and just doing it if they so wish. But there are plenty of reasons why some students might wish to do their hiking or climbing under the auspices of a club – if they are beginners for example, or if they want to also treat it as a social thing and meet new people with similar interests. The university’s risk aversion is denying such people the opportunity to do so. As long as the club is run in a responsible manner then the benefits of engaging in these types of activity must greatly outweigh the risks.

    • Posted April 24, 2018 at 11:20 am | Permalink

      One reason for joining a club is finding transport. I don’t know about the US but most British undergrads won’t have a car.

      • Posted April 24, 2018 at 12:10 pm | Permalink

        Even (as is likely the case) more US students have cars, carpooling still is easier on the wallet (and the environment; this is an outdoors club after all).

        • loren russell
          Posted April 24, 2018 at 1:42 pm | Permalink

          My alma mater [Oregon State] issues motor pool vehicles — usually 10-passenger vans — for their club sports and outdoor program transportation.

          I can assure you that these are safer. better maintained, more economical per passenger mile, and kinder to the environment than a collection of student owned passenger cars.

      • Steve Pollard
        Posted April 24, 2018 at 12:37 pm | Permalink

        I used to hitch. But I guess that’s deemed too dangerous these days as well.

        • Posted April 24, 2018 at 12:52 pm | Permalink

          Hold my beer and watch this!

    • TJR
      Posted April 24, 2018 at 11:31 am | Permalink

      They might want to do it as part of an organised club because it is much safer than doing it on their own.

      • mudskipper
        Posted April 24, 2018 at 4:58 pm | Permalink

        Especially if one is backpacking while female. I do a lot of day hikes on my own, but I would hesitate to sleep in a tent in the great out-of-doors all on my own.

      • Posted April 25, 2018 at 4:33 am | Permalink

        Which is kind of ironic because one of the effects of this ruling is that students will be more likely to do these activities not under the auspices of the club and will therefore be at greater risk.

        However, at least, when they die on the trail, their relatives won’t be able to blame the University. /cynicism.

    • Posted April 24, 2018 at 12:38 pm | Permalink

      The “Experimental College” at the University of Minnesota is what got me started in climbing.

      Where does one find the needed training? Trustworthy colleagues/partners?

      Many also join such clubs for the social side of it.

      And they provide equipment guidance, swaps, loans, etc., etc., etc.

      They provide a way to “pay back” by helping to teach newcomers (which I did a lot of).

      Most people are not leaders. They wish to and are very happy to be led.

    • chris moffatt
      Posted April 24, 2018 at 6:17 pm | Permalink

      Insurance and, as others have pointed out, the opportunity for urbanites to learn in a supervised environment.

  7. BobTerrace
    Posted April 24, 2018 at 10:54 am | Permalink

    Hiking is too dangerous but boxing isn’t? They will have to disallow football next – all those concussions. That will go over well, I’m sure.

    As a child, we also left the house after breakfast, got on our bike and went out. Dinner was at 6 pm – don’t make dad wait when he got home from work. Our town was on the Hudson River.

    • darrelle
      Posted April 24, 2018 at 11:02 am | Permalink

      I’m guessing that if the Outing Club made the school as much money as their football program that the Risk Assessment of the Outing Club would have been quite different.

      • Craw
        Posted April 24, 2018 at 11:16 am | Permalink

        +1

      • Posted April 24, 2018 at 11:36 am | Permalink

        You nailed it.

        • BobTerrace
          Posted April 24, 2018 at 11:38 am | Permalink

          Are nails allowed even?

      • Heather Hastie
        Posted April 24, 2018 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

        Yep. This will be about the cost of insurance. There must be some prestige and money in all those sports that risk injury.

        Plus there’s the assessment of what they can get away with, without too much blow back. If they cancelled field hockey or gymnastics, for example, perhaps not that many would complain, but they have national organisations behind them.

        I bet an historical comparison would show much higher injury rates in several of the sports that are allowed to carry on.

    • Posted April 24, 2018 at 11:16 am | Permalink

      I saw this article a few days a go and followed the rat’s nest of links to the University’s statement – according to the school the risk apparently is because the outing club activities (as well as those of the caving and SCUBA clubs) sometimes put them beyond cell phone coverage and in places where emergency services are remote or even unavailable.

      • Craw
        Posted April 24, 2018 at 11:18 am | Permalink

        At least footballers getting concussed are in good reception zones.

        • BobTerrace
          Posted April 24, 2018 at 11:33 am | Permalink

          Do cell phones work well while unconscious?

        • amyt
          Posted April 25, 2018 at 3:56 pm | Permalink

          Ha “football”…”reception zones” good one.

      • Neil Wolfe
        Posted April 24, 2018 at 11:41 am | Permalink

        In my opinion that’s the whole point of wilderness travel – the thrill and challenge of self reliance. A lack of basic infrastructure is the primary criteria for a good outing experience.

        • Posted April 24, 2018 at 11:54 am | Permalink

          Absolutely. I take my boys and their friends into the wilderness in Washington state with the express purpose of putting them outside of their comfort zones – there is little technology to assist and no easy or convenient solutions to problems or discomfort. They know they must rely on themselves and each other.

          • GBJames
            Posted April 24, 2018 at 11:56 am | Permalink

            That’s it. I’m calling Child Protective Services!

          • Neil Wolfe
            Posted April 24, 2018 at 12:17 pm | Permalink

            If only there were a WEIT outing club….

            • Mark Sturtevant
              Posted April 24, 2018 at 2:44 pm | Permalink

              Bet the food will be amazing!

      • barn owl
        Posted April 24, 2018 at 12:10 pm | Permalink

        How did we ever survive our backpacking, climbing, and canoeing experiences in the days before cell phones?

        It’s a wonder we didn’t all succumb to drop bear attacks, sasquatch invasions, and Dyatlov Pass incidents. 😉

        • Posted April 24, 2018 at 12:44 pm | Permalink

          It made us assess things more realistically (and made us more careful and thoughtful): We knew no one was on the end of a phone line to rescue us.

          I turned back many times on mountain climbs due to avalanche (or lightning) hazard. “The mountain will still be there next time …”

          I guess it’s a real big hassle for the staff of, for instance, the national parks, where people phone in for rescue in cases where it’s not needed.

          I arrived at the trailhead many times limping or with bleeding feet, or nearly (or actually) hypothermic. What doesn’t kill you …

          • Heather Hastie
            Posted April 24, 2018 at 1:09 pm | Permalink

            You’ve reminded me of something I’d forgotten about. At school (Form 1/year 7) I got a mock award for stickability at our school camp. I’d arrived back at the campsite following a map and compass exercise with my feet swimming in blood in my shoes. I didn’t really see what the big deal was. I had to get back, and the only way back was to keep walking. It was the last day, and I was just relieved I wasn’t going to miss out on anything because of it.

            • Diana MacPherson
              Posted April 24, 2018 at 2:59 pm | Permalink

              My bloody foot story has no awards and only admonishment and it’s actually very much a story that replays in my life. For some reason, people don’t take me seriously when I say I’m in pain. I guess I”m supposed to howl and scream and roll on the ground or something.

              Anyway, when I was about 8 years old, my class went ice skating. I told the teacher that my feet were really hurting. The teacher said, “Stop whining! There is nothing wrong with your skates! Now go out and skate!” So, feeling I was complaining over nothing and feeling ashamed at having said anything, I skated, in pain, for hours. When my I removed my skate afterwards, my sock was soaked in blood. Apparently, the sole had been lost from my skate and a nail was poking into my foot the entire time. The teacher yelled at me again, “why didn’t you tell me there was something wrong with your skate!”. “I did”, I said, “I said my feet hurt. You told me to stop whining”. Silence. No awards. No apology. Apparently, it was all my 8-year-old self’s fault.

              • Posted April 24, 2018 at 4:45 pm | Permalink

                Kudos that you spoke to her.

              • chris moffatt
                Posted April 24, 2018 at 6:23 pm | Permalink

                Welcomer to the real world – at the age of eight. It’s never their fault, always yours.

              • Posted April 24, 2018 at 7:41 pm | Permalink

                That’s bloody awful, Diana! Damn that teacher! I hope she grew up.

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted April 24, 2018 at 10:03 pm | Permalink

                I don’t think she did. That school was just horrible. There are so many stories I can tell.

              • Heather Hastie
                Posted April 25, 2018 at 2:19 pm | Permalink

                There were a lot of teachers like that around when we were young. The one that made sure I got that award when I was 11 was the first one I had that treated me like a human being. A really nice guy, and made to be a teacher. His wife had a baby that year, and it died within a week. The school wouldn’t allow me to go to the funeral because I wasn’t Catholic.

          • infiniteimprobabilit
            Posted April 24, 2018 at 7:12 pm | Permalink

            Exactly!

            Since I usually walk alone (and typically outside cellphone coverage) I have always been quite cautious where I went and what time – the consequences of a slip and a broken ankle would not be trivial. At least we don’t have any significant wild animals or snakes or much in the way of poisonous insects to worry about.

            (Result is, I’ll probably break my neck on some well-travelled track a half mile from the car park…)

            cr

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted April 24, 2018 at 5:50 pm | Permalink

          ‘Bout a year and a half ago, I drove about 10 hours by myself to go visit my bestie. Right before I left, I lost my cell phone. I didn’t want to delay the trip, so I said I just get a new one up there or when I got back. My younger son thought I was being totally reckless going out on the road for that long without a phone — as though I’d be crossing the Donner Pass in a Conestoga wagon without winter supplies. 🙂

          Kids today got no perspective on these things.

      • Posted April 24, 2018 at 3:47 pm | Permalink

        Well, that’s the Great Outdoors, isn’t it? You can’t eliminate every bit of risk from life!

        • chris moffatt
          Posted April 24, 2018 at 6:24 pm | Permalink

          who would want to?

        • Posted April 25, 2018 at 4:40 am | Permalink

          I would think this ruling is more about the University eliminating risk from its bank balance.

      • eric
        Posted April 24, 2018 at 7:40 pm | Permalink

        If that’s the real issue, then issue a university satellite phone with the rental van.

  8. Randall Schenck
    Posted April 24, 2018 at 10:54 am | Permalink

    Very strange and exceptionally hypocritical. How could you condone and promote big time College football and then say going on walks in the woods is too dangerous. If you had a club that robbed banks, maybe that is more dangerous than football but maybe not if done by the tunneling club. Like said in the posting, when 8 or 10 years old, if we wanted to do something we jumped on our bikes and did it. Sometimes we told mom what we were going to do but usually it was not asking.

  9. glen1davidson
    Posted April 24, 2018 at 10:55 am | Permalink

    Every place has to be a “safe space,” and the outdoors isn’t.

    Let’s never try anything new, from thought to outdoor experience.

    Glen Davidson

    • chris moffatt
      Posted April 24, 2018 at 6:31 pm | Permalink

      I think one is much safer in the wilderness than on a city street. For one thing there aren’t as many people around. The safest I ever felt was on a ten day solo canoe trip in the Quebec Labrador – never saw another person but lots of animals. I wasn’t on their list of things to eat I guess, so they never bothered me; not even the couple of bears I met. Then I came back to town to feel the love of the October insurrection (in 1970) when our town (Sept Iles) was cut off for five days by vicious armed gangs of revolutionaries. The executives sent their wives and children way up north by helicopter to inaccessible wilderness camps where they would be safe for the duration. It’s people folks!

  10. Posted April 24, 2018 at 10:59 am | Permalink

    It is a safer world, but also more litigious.

    • Mark Joseph
      Posted April 24, 2018 at 8:44 pm | Permalink

      Didn’t Plato have a solution to that problem? Yet another contribution of philosophy to the betterment of the world! 😉

  11. ritebrother
    Posted April 24, 2018 at 10:59 am | Permalink

    Wow-this is a shock. I was president of the whitewater division of PSOC when I was in graduate school there in the early 90’s. We ran whitewater kayaking classes, 20+ trips a year up to class V, and a couple ACA-sanctioned slalom races each year. It was a very active group that was popular among students. Safety and rescue training was a big part of what we did, too.

  12. Mark Sturtevant
    Posted April 24, 2018 at 11:08 am | Permalink

    In contrast to that, I was for a time a member of another hiking club in Arizona. I would describe it as a drinking club had a hiking problem.

    • BJ
      Posted April 24, 2018 at 12:17 pm | Permalink

      I was definitely in similar clubs during both my high school and college days.

  13. Posted April 24, 2018 at 11:14 am | Permalink

    “I’d just get on my bike and ride off on my own, sometimes not even telling my parents where I was going.”

    Ah, the fifties. Every day was sunny. Every day there was a makeshift softball game going on somewhere. Every day a new place to explore on our bikes. The only constraints were school and being home in time for dinner. Kids today, with their sheltered scripted lives, can’t imagine.

    • Jessy Smith
      Posted April 24, 2018 at 1:59 pm | Permalink

      I had the same life in the sixties and seventies.

      When we were 14 my friend and I regularly weekend backpacked locally. We went a week in Canada’s Kootenay national park at age 15. My parents camped while we took to the trails.

      As I recall, every backpacking trip it rained.
      At Kootenay National Park it snowed in high summer the night we camped on a glacier. Which I thought was a pretty cool experience.

      • phoffman56
        Posted April 24, 2018 at 7:42 pm | Permalink

        “cool” …surely a double-entendre?

    • Christopher
      Posted April 24, 2018 at 2:00 pm | Permalink

      I grew up in the ‘80’s, and in a more rural area but the experiences were similar. Hell, we all had pocket knives, B.B. guns, bikes, one kid had lawn darts, I had a crossbow for a while, we ran off to the creek nearly every day to catch snakes,swim, fish, took hammers with us in the winter to see how thick the ice was, played tackle football, baseball, came home for dinners, then after dark play German Spotlight (hide and seek with flashlights) and had free reign with all sorts of fireworks in July. The only rules were to leave a note, be home for dinner, and you did your chores before playing. Somehow we survived, and I cherish the freedom we had that is now lost to the ages.

      • Posted April 24, 2018 at 6:11 pm | Permalink

        Hiking is more dangerous than football???

    • eric
      Posted April 24, 2018 at 7:43 pm | Permalink

      I was biking down to the bookstore to get sci-fi books on my own when I was 12. I was also taking bus/rail into the city to go to games stores on my own when I was 14-15. My younger sister, who of course thought it brutally unfair that she wasn’t allowed to do everything her 3-years-older bother could do, eventually wheedled my parents into allowing her to do bus/rail trips alone into the city when she was 12.

  14. Ken Kukec
    Posted April 24, 2018 at 11:15 am | Permalink

    Thought for a second you were gonna say the Outing club got attacked by Nittany lions.

    Back in the days of Jerry Sandusky under Joe Pa, the unsafe spaces at Penn State were all inside (especially inside the men’s locker-room).

  15. Ken Kukec
    Posted April 24, 2018 at 11:24 am | Permalink

    Back in my days on campus, it was all about slipping the surly bonds of in loco parentis.

    O tempora o mores!

    • Heather Hastie
      Posted April 24, 2018 at 1:19 pm | Permalink

      Same here. Finally free!

      And I wasn’t watched closely when I was young or anything. In fact, as the eldest kid in the neighbourhood, I was the one who was made responsible for 3 siblings and 5 other kids in loco parentis from the age of about 8-9!

    • mirandaga
      Posted April 24, 2018 at 1:30 pm | Permalink

      O tempora o mores!

      Nice quote from Cicero, Ken, except for the exclamation point. There are none in Latin. The Romans apparently considered them too risky, a viewpoint confirmed by modern usage.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted April 24, 2018 at 2:17 pm | Permalink

        Somebody should tell Tom Wolfe!

        • mirandaga
          Posted April 24, 2018 at 3:15 pm | Permalink

          Agreed! He should have thrown them on the bonfire!

  16. Neil Wolfe
    Posted April 24, 2018 at 11:27 am | Permalink

    This is a shame. You meet the nicest people in a sleeping bag.

    • Heather Hastie
      Posted April 24, 2018 at 1:21 pm | Permalink

      You need to look up Billy Connelly’s story about sharing a sleeping bag. It’s hilarious.

      Heads up: the woman was drunk. And vomited.

  17. Jon Mummaw
    Posted April 24, 2018 at 11:31 am | Permalink

    This from the comments section of a “Pittsburgh Post-Gazette” article about the same issue.

    “The actual motive of Penn State and other colleges and universities is that they believe such groups are “too white”. They won’t come out and say that yet, but that’s the subtext. There have been a number of leftist op eds published recently in other campuses’ newspapers targeting such outdoors clubs. In addition to being “too white” they also believe them to be “too privileged”. Incredible, isn’t it?” Alex Garcia

    I easily found two examples that seem to attest Mr. Garcia’s charge. One in “The Bates Student,” the student newspaper at Bates College in Maine and one in the Claremont Colleges in California’s student newspaper, “The Student Life.”

    Not sure what PSU’s risk management has to say about Penn State Football or about fraternity hazing but their reasons for limiting student outdoor activities may be disingenuous.

    • BJ
      Posted April 24, 2018 at 12:19 pm | Permalink

      I can’t find it now, but I remember reading a piece in NYT (I’m pretty sure that’s where it was) a couple years ago about how hiking/nature appreciation was a privilege of white people.

      • Posted April 24, 2018 at 4:51 pm | Permalink

        Native Americans should be up in arms after reading this.

      • Filippo
        Posted April 24, 2018 at 5:59 pm | Permalink

        Perhaps it was the same article I read that talked about, among other non-white people activities, Latinos going to national park picnic areas/campgrounds to have big extended family picnics/parties (possibly with loud music), as opposed to hiking and enjoying the silence of and communing, as it were, with nature?

        Different cultures enjoy different activities, or so it seems.

        Well, in times past I have considered it a privilege, and have appreciated the opportunity, to hike and see grand vistas in the Appalachians and Rockies.

        ” . . . hiking/nature appreciation was a privilege of white people.”

        Who is presuming to hurl this pronunciamento from the mountaintop?

        If that is so, that leads me to inquire what if any specific activities are the privilege of non-white people, if that is not too impolitic a question to ask. Is hiking/nature appreciation also a privilege of, say, Asian-Americans?

        • BJ
          Posted April 24, 2018 at 8:12 pm | Permalink

          No activity can be a “privilege” unless it’s done by one of the groups branded “privileged”!

    • barn owl
      Posted April 24, 2018 at 12:40 pm | Permalink

      Specialized rock climbing terms as micro-aggressions?

      My eyeballs have rolled right out of my orbits and I’ll need to go down to anatomy lab now to put them back in place.

    • TJR
      Posted April 24, 2018 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

      But not the ski club??

      • a-non
        Posted April 24, 2018 at 2:34 pm | Permalink

        Donors, would be my guess. Ski kids must be better development prospects than the sort of hippies who just like wandering about in the woods.

        Thanks for the links @JonMummaw. Sadly I suspect you are right — some combination of problematic whiteness, and management’s need to have something besides the hazing story to talk under the heading of safety.

    • Posted April 24, 2018 at 4:49 pm | Permalink

      I actually thought that this might be the cause.

    • chris moffatt
      Posted April 24, 2018 at 6:39 pm | Permalink

      Yeah! I could really feel the privilege years nd years ago hiking the Mahoosuc Notch with a thirty pound pack (as light as I could get it) in the rain. You gotta love those privileged White Mountain trails….

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted April 24, 2018 at 7:17 pm | Permalink

        *White* Mountain?

        The very name reeks of privilege!

        cr

        (Do I need to say – 😉

        • chris moffatt
          Posted April 24, 2018 at 7:46 pm | Permalink

          yep – not much diversity in them ‘white’ hills…..

    • eric
      Posted April 24, 2018 at 9:27 pm | Permalink

      Or perhaps one reason the Uni targeted these clubs but not the boxing, etc. clubs was because they calculated that these groups would be able to make less of a stink about it, due to membership and/or popularity. Going after a club that’s majority minority might give them bad optics….better save that move for later, after the first round of cuts has been tolerated.

  18. Posted April 24, 2018 at 11:36 am | Permalink

    “…probably afraid of being sued…”

    Yes. I wouldn’t point my pitchfork only at university administration. I’d reserve at least a couple of prongs for ridiculously litigious students and parents of students.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted April 24, 2018 at 12:13 pm | Permalink

      I think those things are called “tynes” on a pitchfork, but yeah.

      • Craw
        Posted April 24, 2018 at 12:19 pm | Permalink

        No. They are only tynes on a pytchfork. On a pitchfork they are tines.

        • Diana MacPherson
          Posted April 24, 2018 at 12:21 pm | Permalink

          It’s about tyne someone pointed his out.

        • freiner
          Posted April 24, 2018 at 12:29 pm | Permalink

          Such sharp humor!

        • BJ
          Posted April 24, 2018 at 8:13 pm | Permalink

          You’re awfully blunt.

          Wait, I feel like I’m not doing this right.

        • Colin
          Posted April 25, 2018 at 5:52 am | Permalink

          I shan’t tri and dent the piercing wit!

  19. jpetts
    Posted April 24, 2018 at 11:37 am | Permalink

    Time to read The Machine Stops by E.M. Forster again.

    • Mark Joseph
      Posted April 24, 2018 at 8:47 pm | Permalink

      As well as Jack Williamson’s With Folded Hands.

  20. Ken Phelps
    Posted April 24, 2018 at 11:37 am | Permalink

    Well what the Hell else could you expect when universities are run by the products of the “easy A for my GPA” faculties?

    • Craw
      Posted April 24, 2018 at 12:21 pm | Permalink

      And that is one of the reasons these bogus publish Pomo crap for a fee journals are pernicious. The mechanism of peer review and citations has been hijacked to make this possible.

  21. Leigh
    Posted April 24, 2018 at 11:46 am | Permalink

    What I do not understand is the right-wing slant of the clubs approved. Boxing! This sport should be illegal everywhere due to the risk of brain damage (almost to the level of certainty: if you box, you will have brain damage; the more you box, the more damage you will sustain). Alpine ski racing less dangerous, less risky, than a cross-country non-competitive outing club event. Really?

    If I were the Outing Club, I would sue. Tell the University to prove its claims that an Outing Club is too risky. What next — no biology or geology class field trips. By the by, where are the complaints from academic departments most directly affected – both sciences and humanities.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted April 24, 2018 at 12:28 pm | Permalink

      Actually, boxing conducted according to amateur rules with 16-oz. gloves and headgear presents a much lower risk of brain injury than many other sports, such as football, soccer, lacrosse, and rugby. Not that I’m taking issue with your underlying point.

      • loren russell
        Posted April 24, 2018 at 1:49 pm | Permalink

        This is the same argument that was used in football — improved helmets and face guards would increase safety.

        The heavier gloves and headgear in amateur boxing certainly reduce facial injuries, but I’d expect the acceleration of the brain within the skull remains about the same.

    • eric
      Posted April 24, 2018 at 9:30 pm | Permalink

      My guess is the Uni’s risk evaluation has as much to do with ‘risk the club will be able to make us look bad for doing this’ as it is ‘risk a student involved will be hurt.’

  22. Jenny Haniver
    Posted April 24, 2018 at 11:54 am | Permalink

    They’ll issue goggles and gloves and it’ll become a virtual reality outing. Why go out into nature when all you have to do is sit in a comfortable chair, put on some goggles and other gear, kick back and climb El Capitan. All the thrills without all the work.

    • Posted April 24, 2018 at 3:07 pm | Permalink

      This is a possibility and not so silly.
      A radio interviewer (NZ National)did a report on virtual rock climbing. The climber has to action the moves for climbing and at the end of the climb, he was deep breathing and sweating. His heart rate had increased with the tension of falling of a sheer rock face.
      He was relieved to get to the top and surprised at the experience.
      This got me thinking along the embodied cognition ‘trail’ something I’ve been reading and done a short study on.
      Indulgence here, but a launch and a day on the ISS in virtual reality would be fun and a ‘good day out’.

  23. Posted April 24, 2018 at 12:14 pm | Permalink

    There’s a “hidden twist” to this. Because university education is going up in price (even controlling for over all inflation) more parental involvement is at least financially necessary for many students, so the “by indirection” _in loco_ applies, which is in a way far worse because it is harder to control.

    Regardless, this is appalling.

  24. Laurance
    Posted April 24, 2018 at 12:30 pm | Permalink

    Jeez! Yuck! I’m glad that I graduated from Penn State decades ago!

    Now, you’ll see students, alone or in groups, hiking up Nittany Mountain. So a club is not a total necessity.

    (Nor do you need shoes. I’m that weird old lady who hiked up Nittany in my bare feet.)

    • freiner
      Posted April 24, 2018 at 1:19 pm | Permalink

      I’ve seen bear prints in the Pennsylvania woods. Now I’ll look out for the other kind you must have left.

      • Ken Phelps
        Posted April 24, 2018 at 1:47 pm | Permalink

        One has to wonder what else she may have done in the woods…

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted April 24, 2018 at 7:21 pm | Permalink

      Way to go!

      (I’m constantly infuriated by the officious idiots who spread sharp gravel all over nice grassy/muddy natural walking tracks.)

      cr

  25. Posted April 24, 2018 at 12:31 pm | Permalink

    This is unbelievably stupid. At least if you consider producing independent, competent students a goal of the university. And producing students who care about their environment. Stupid, stupid.

    • Craw
      Posted April 24, 2018 at 1:05 pm | Permalink

      You are right but of course your premise is wrong. American education is actually a 20 year Milgram experiment wherein you learn to defer to those above you in the Woke hierarchy.

    • eric
      Posted April 24, 2018 at 9:33 pm | Permalink

      That goal takes a big back seat to the goal of increasing revenue. The school’s probably looking to cut any club that costs them money, these just happened to be the most vulnerable.

  26. Gareth Price
    Posted April 24, 2018 at 1:12 pm | Permalink

    Could the issue be safety standards rather than inherent risks?

    When I first started university I joined the rock climbing club. We were going to the coast but nobody had checked the tide timetable and the tide was in, the cliff inaccessible and we had to climb somewhere else. I had some previous climbing experience and was very concerned that the ropework wasn’t safe enough, so I never went out with them again. I was also concerned that we made a pub stop on the way to the climb.

    • a-non
      Posted April 24, 2018 at 4:04 pm | Permalink

      I thought the point of such clubs was partly to moderate this. Knowing that students are going to do most of this with friends, maybe you should at least incentivise the slightly older wiser ones to stick around and point out things not to do. Occasionally you can inject some adult guidance.

      In come clubs I once knew, this took the form of subsidising vehicles… which only students over 21 could drive. And of sponsoring a couple of new ropes each year, retiring the old ones. And a few friendly professors who signed up to the email list & would occasionally pitch in either to recommend out-of-the-way places, or to point out that you’d get arrested if you did that.

      If you cared about the outcome, this is what you’d do. But if all you know about is football, and bad PR from hazing deaths, then maybe not.

  27. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted April 24, 2018 at 1:28 pm | Permalink

    This is really outrageous, and kinda sorta violates due process (not that they were accused of anything criminal).

    “After a two-month review that did not include consultation with student Outing Club leaders….”She declined to provide a copy of the assessment report for the Outing Club, saying it is not a public document.

    Golly, have you ever heard of something called a liability waiver?? Look it up in a law dictionary!!

    If I were one of the student leaders of the Outing Club, I would immediately drop my classes and transfer to another school!!

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted April 24, 2018 at 2:47 pm | Permalink

      The due process clauses of the Fifth and Fourteenth amendments expressly apply not merely to deprivations of life and liberty (as in criminal cases), but also to deprivations of property. So if the students have a quantifiable “property interest” in their club memberships, due process requirements (which generally included notice and a pre-deprivation opportunity to be heard) may apply.

      • JonLynnHarvey
        Posted April 24, 2018 at 3:00 pm | Permalink

        Thanks.

  28. Posted April 24, 2018 at 2:31 pm | Permalink

    Does the university have an Ornithology club? Don’t they do hiking and camping sometimes and maybe even canoeing? Maybe I shouldn’t even mention this, or the powers that be might throw more shade on people’s fun and gaining of life experiences.

    This has got to be about insurance costs. Blooming pity.

  29. Posted April 24, 2018 at 3:23 pm | Permalink

    In the earlier age of in loco parentis, when students were literally locked in at night. So, of course, they climbed out… and like all good mountaineers, wrote up how they did it, strictly to help others you understand: such as this famous book.

    At around the same time it was also the fashion for mountaineers to form clubs, including student clubs. The PSU club is, I think, a descendant of this movement. If I was in a better mood I’d wonder whether having taboos to break again might inspire the current generation of students.

  30. Max Blancke
    Posted April 24, 2018 at 3:30 pm | Permalink

    At some schools, I have heard such activities criticized as “perpetuating Whiteness”, which is apparently a bad thing. I wonder if this is an attempt to acheive that goal through other means?

    • Filippo
      Posted April 24, 2018 at 6:13 pm | Permalink

      If that is true, I contemplate what alternative activities ought to be encouraged to counteract this alleged “perpetuating Whiteness.”

  31. Posted April 24, 2018 at 3:46 pm | Permalink

    Wrong of the university to do this in the way they did. Perhaps they should have had all students sign a document upon entry to absolve the university of responsibility related to any and all class and club activities. Classes are dangerous. Clubs are dangerous. Dormitories are dangerous. Life is
    dangerous. If you don’t experience some dangers, you don’t learn how to deal with them.

    Maybe clubs such as this should disband as college clubs and reform as private clubs.
    Would the universities be able to meddle then?

    • Posted April 24, 2018 at 3:55 pm | Permalink

      Doesn’t matter what you’ve signed. The university doesn’t want its name in the news alongside your death. I think PR is a much bigger deal than actual liability.

      But yes, I wonder too what would happen if the entire club just happened to meet up at the local starbucks and found a new club. Which absolutely explicitly is not associated with the university. It will just happen to organise all the same off-campus activities, between friends.

      • Filippo
        Posted April 24, 2018 at 6:18 pm | Permalink

        I contemplate this in the context of, for example, in the last couple of years Harvard extending it institutional long arm of pedagogical pressure off campus to influence the off-campus activities of Harvard students.

      • Posted April 24, 2018 at 6:19 pm | Permalink

        So the university is ok with is largely African American and 100% male football team risking permanent injury every time they play, but is very concerned about the safety of (I am guessing) the largely white hiking club. Sounds positively racist and sexist to me.

  32. Liz
    Posted April 24, 2018 at 4:23 pm | Permalink

    “Wear your helmet.” My mom thought my scrum cap was a helmet to protect my head instead of my ears. Rugby was a club sport when I played. (It’s varsity now.) Very scrappy. We’d take care of one another ourselves. It was only in my senior year that we had an ambulance at every game because we needed them every game. We all survived. Until I was in fifth grade, we could only ride our bikes to the end of the block and back. Then we could go anywhere.

  33. Charles Sawicki
    Posted April 24, 2018 at 4:54 pm | Permalink

    No cash return to the university from hiking! Hopefully this “helicopter” version of in loco parentis does not spread, but I bet it does.

  34. freiner
    Posted April 24, 2018 at 5:57 pm | Permalink

    Next thing you know they’ll be getting rid of their Underwater Unexploded Bomb Defusing Club.

  35. Wonderer
    Posted April 24, 2018 at 7:03 pm | Permalink

    “She declined to provide a copy of the assessment report for the Outing Club, saying it is not a public document.”

    I’m not a lawyer, but it looks to me like Pennsylvania’s Sunshine Act may have something to say about that.

  36. Posted April 24, 2018 at 7:05 pm | Permalink

    “She declined to provide a copy of the assessment report for the Outing Club, saying it is not a public document.”

    Penn State is a public institution, so they will have to respond to a FOIA request. Anyone who is interested should request all relevant emails, memos, and notes from all relevant State employees.

    It would be interesting and enlightening to see the reasoning between the Outing Club and other official clubs and university sports.

  37. Posted April 24, 2018 at 7:38 pm | Permalink

    That’s just awful, Diana. Damn that teacher!

    • Posted April 24, 2018 at 7:44 pm | Permalink

      (Scratch that… meant to be at the tail end of the comments for #7.)

  38. infiniteimprobabilit
    Posted April 24, 2018 at 7:41 pm | Permalink

    One wonders what today’s chicken-hearted university authorities would make of this:

    https://babysharkminorityreport.wordpress.com/2012/04/06/oxford-dangerous-sports-club/

    Interestingly, I can see no suggestion that the University authorities of the time felt obliged to interfere.

    (By the way, there’s video –
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0D-6cmc17Wk)

    cr

  39. Posted April 24, 2018 at 7:42 pm | Permalink

    There is a big difference in liability between onsite and offsite activities.

  40. phoffman56
    Posted April 24, 2018 at 7:45 pm | Permalink

    Is it impossible for the group of students/others to simply form their own club, and tell the kindergarten–sorry, school–sorry, university to get stuffed?
    Or do they need subsidization?

  41. Bob
    Posted April 25, 2018 at 6:32 am | Permalink

    Does this mean the end of college football too?

  42. barn owl
    Posted April 26, 2018 at 8:07 am | Permalink

    Somewhat related – an art student at the University of Utah has installed a “Cry Closet” for her comrades who are stressed out by finals week:

    https://www.insidehighered.com/quicktakes/2018/04/26/cry-closet-installed-finals-university-utah

    lulz

  43. Jackson
    Posted April 26, 2018 at 5:54 pm | Permalink

    This story sounds like a hoax to me…it doesn’r make sense…


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