A broad plateau that sits roughly in the middle of Pennsylvania affectionately known as Happy Valley is scenic and adventurous terrain. The home of Pennsylvania State University, it’s long been known as an “AG” school for good reason. The study of agriculture and all-things outdoor is ideal for a place like Penn State based merely on locale.
But the great outdoors for PSU students has just gotten a whole lot smaller. At least it did for members of the long-standing Outing Club. It seems the iron-fisted risk managers at Penn State have now forbidden the Outing Club to explore the wild and beautiful spaces in and around Happy Valley.
All White Calendar Days Ahead
Backpacking in the Laurel Highlands? Canceled. Day hikes in the Rothrock State Forest. Canceled. Trekking along the Shenandoah National Park? Canceled. Kayaking and canoeing. Canceled and canceled. Who is behind such nonsense, one might rightly ask? According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, America’s trails and rivers are too perilous for their students to explore:
“This is a result of an assessment of risk management by the university that determined that the types of activities in which PSOC [the Outing Club] engages are above the university’s threshold of acceptable risk for recognized student organizations.”
And at the root of the decision to halt the Outing Club’s activities is the “spotty cell coverage” in the wilds of the Keystone state. It seems that Penn State students must duct tape cell phones to their bodies at all times.
A Rich and Uneventful History
Somewhere between the Wilson and Harding administrations, the Penn State Outing Club was established. It is quite frankly, a primogenitor campus organization that has been run by students for students for 98 years. To date, no known untoward events have occurred during its tenure. The club’s stated goal is to experience “the outdoors in every possible capacity.” That is, until now.
One wonders if the students at the PSU Outing Club will roll over and acquiesce to the University’s dictum or if they plan to fight it all the way to the Catskills? Have we taught our children to have the backbone to say no to their nanny handlers? Or will they stand down and revert to streaming the Outdoor Channel in a campus classroom outfitted with Wi-Fi?
On the club’s homepage appears a hint of what is to come:
Old Main at Penn State
The officers of the club have been working diligently with our club advisor and Penn State staff to find the appropriate structure within the University to continue to foster this ever-growing outdoor community. We are pursuing multiple avenues for continuing this great community and are making progress each day.”
That sounds a lot like bureaucratic mumbo-jumbo. Meanwhile, the Outing Club’s president Richard Waltz is on record as saying, “We have to work with what we’ve got and adapt.”
Mr. Waltz might want to re-think his position. History has shown that if you permit nanny-handlers to have their way, they never stop. In fact, PSU risk managers have already shuttered the Nittany Grotto Caving Club and the Nittany Divers SCUBA Club. It’s a never-ending lording of sovereign power over the individual.
One can only hope that this type of heavy-handed dictatorial control becomes a teachable moment for Penn State students to understand how their rights and liberties can and will be undermined by the ever-present do-gooders.
Thus, we urge the Outing Club at Penn State to fight this effort by University authorities tooth and nail. Don’t let them put your kayak and back-pack in mothballs. Or in the words of another president whose administration you’ve lived through: “Give ‘em hell.”