Penn State cracks down on student outdoors clubs

“Penn State recently decreed that three student-led outdoor adventure groups—the hiking club, the cave exploration club, and the scuba club—would have to disband due to safety liability concerns, even though none of the long-running clubs had ever reported a problem.” In the case of hiking, a “key issue for administrators was that the Outing Club frequently visit locations with poor cell phone coverage.” [Lenore Skenazy and Robby Soave, Reason]


  • So if a family visits a location with poor cell phone coverage, the parents can be arrested for child endangerment?

    Actually, now that I think about it, that isn’t so far-fetched: I’m surprised it hasn’t happened yet. And, horrors, what if the family didn’t even have a cell phone along?

  • I read somewhere that the evidence suggests that the outing clubs were cheaper competition for the Univ.s own outings. Pure greed in other words.

  • “…frequently visit locations with poor cell phone coverage.”

    Lewis and Clark should have stayed home then. And Columbus navigating without GPS and a satellite phone… the horror.

    Last weekend I had Boy Scouts climbing real outdoor cliffs, with a parent on belay whom I had trained the week before. Tomorrow afternoon I’m taking the same group on a weekend float. Once we hit the water Friday evening we will not have cell coverage for pretty much the entire weekend. At least there is still an organization that realizes that bubble wrapped kids are not the future we want.

  • Reason #64,721 why I have never given my alma mater a dime since graduating over 30 years ago. I hate to admit I ever went there.

  • Um. This is a liability issue. The result of a risk management assessment. These PSU students can go when they want, just not under the auspices of a PSU sanctioned activity. I place the blame on the insurers, not the insured. I have a ton of requirements on me to protect those who insure me from liability. For example, I cannot use my car for drag racing. I also cannot manufacturer dangerous stuff in my home. Perhaps these are less drastic restrictions than placed on PSU, but are you going to blame me for not doing something so that I can keep my insurance (which I must have, according to the lien holders)?

    • If assumption of risk is not enough (it’s rather obvious that these clubs carry some risk) then they could have the students sign waivers. The liability of a public university is also likely limited by sovereign immunity; they probably can’t get sued for punitive damages, for example.

      The principle of the university deeming an activity “too dangerous” to have a club do it is perfectly reasonable, by the way. It’s just that they’ve set their line in the wrong spot. If the hiking club wanted to hike up Everest the university should be able to say no. If the hiking club wants to hike in the woods, possibly without cell reception? Give me a break. Nobody even had cell phones until about 25 years ago, these are adults, and they’re in a group. If they haven’t been having safety issues there’s no reason to ban them from doing this.

      And if they were being honest about risk assessments… how many players play college football for 4 years and don’t get injured? Nobody’s particularly surprised when multiple players are injured in a single game. Banning hiking instead of football is like banning driving in the rain instead of drag racing. It’s like banning coffee because of the cancer risk while ignoring cigarettes.

  • Oh, but subjecting football players to traumatic brain injury is OK? …. I guess it’s the money.

  • Using Penn State’s own reasoning, shouldn’t they cancel all football?