Pennsylvania State University’s 98-year-old Outing Club is no longer permitted to go outside — because administrators believe that it’s too dangerous.
That’s right. In the past, members of the Outing Club would participate in activities such as hiking, canoeing, kayaking, and camping, however, the university’s offices of Student Affairs and Risk Management have since decided that these things are just too treacherous for college students, according to an article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
An official announcement said the decision was due to “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.”
A Penn State University spokesperson, Lisa Powers, told the Post-Gazette that the reason many of the events were deemed too dangerous was because they took place in remote locations away from cellphone service.
No student leaders of the Outing Club were even consulted during the two-month decision-making process — and outgoing treasurer Timothy Hackett told the Post-Gazette that he knows of no injuries ever occurring because of a student attending one of the club’s events during the four years he’s attended the school. Still, Powers said that the decision was made after a “proactive risk assessment,” which didn’t take into account any past injuries (or lack thereof).
Honestly, this is one of the more stupid things I’ve heard about happening recently. If there were students actually getting hurt at these events, if injuries were actually a problem, then I’d understand this decision. But that clearly wasn’t the case, and this decision makes no sense.
As one alum, Leslie Demmert, said in an email to Reason:
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. . . . 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?
Demmert is correct. After all, college students are, by and large, adults — and, believe it or not, most adults are fully capable of going for a walk in the woods without dying. Banning outdoor activities for this club is treating these adult students like children, which may have a lot of harmful effects on their lives in the future. For one thing, as Demmert stated, this means that future students are going to miss out on what could have been an opportunity to gain an interest in outdoor activities, activities that are good for both the body and the mind.
For another thing, it may mean that these young adults will get used to being viewed as children. It may mean that, when they exit the university, they’ll expect very little to be expected of them. They’ll be used to being expected to be so helpless that they couldn’t possibly survive for a few hours in an area without a cellphone; they won’t feel that they’re expected to be autonomous. It’s obviously important to keep students safe at school, but infantilizing them isn’t going to help them in the long run — it’s just going to keep them from growing up.