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Discussion: Outdoor activities can be dangerous to you ...

in: Orienteering; General

Apr 24, 2018 11:38 PM # 
yep. This is a true story
Apr 25, 2018 1:05 AM # 
More dangerous than football? Heck, at that school, the locker rooms have a worse safety record than the outing club!
Apr 25, 2018 1:59 AM # 
How I wish this was just an Onion headline...

I wonder how many orienteering alums slamming their wallets shut it would take to get them to reconsider.
Apr 25, 2018 2:29 AM # 
Lots of other Outdoors club activities beyond orienteering. I bet Penn State's insurance underwriter is partially responsible.
Apr 25, 2018 2:37 AM # 
Lots of activities other than orienteering which they can't do either...
Apr 25, 2018 2:39 AM # 
That's what I meant; just didn't word it the way I was thinking...archery and rifle clubs are okay, though.
Apr 25, 2018 5:19 AM # 
I think the introduction of mobile phones should also shoulder some of the blame. Suddenly you can't go anywhere without one (or where you cannot get reception) because you can't call for help. What did they used to do in these instances before mobile phones? I rarely take mine out with me even when I'm out on my own because I can just crawl my way to help if I need it (which has happened).

Insurance probably is the big one though. When the big insurance crisis happened many years ago, insurance premiums for our local rogaining association went up tenfold, then they realised after some time that actually, rogaining had never once made a claim under its policy so they slowly brought them back down to less than ridiculous levels.
Apr 25, 2018 11:20 AM # 
I think the introduction of mobile phones should also shoulder some of the blame. Suddenly you can't go anywhere without one

Exactly !!

At the 2017 European Rogaining Championship, held in San Giminiano, Tuscany, Italy, one of the requirements was to have a cell phone enclosed inside a ziploc bag, which the organizers doing the check of mandatory equipment, taped the bag with the phone, and said if the tape were to be ripped off and seal broken, would have meant disqualification. I borrowed a cheap phone from a friend. BTW: i heard that the map that was used was mapped by an Aussie that made the project into sort of an Italian vacation.
Apr 25, 2018 8:23 PM # 
Good one Mike!
Apr 25, 2018 8:55 PM # 
So PSU's risk assessment models are based on "future data" rather than "past data". Using past data is so 'old school'.
Apr 25, 2018 10:47 PM # 
If they used past data, might have to address their frat hazing problems which have killed students:
Apr 26, 2018 12:58 AM # 
Solution: Respond to Penn State recruitment emails by stating that you'd rather not go to a college that bans outing clubs.
Apr 26, 2018 2:15 AM # 
+1 Aragorn. There are also many PSU alumni who orienteer. I assume at least some of them donate to the school from time to time (alumni association membership fees if nothing else). They should immediately convey their intent to longer make gifts to the university or include it in their estate plans, with a clear statement of why.
Apr 26, 2018 2:42 AM # 
I have a hard time believing that insurance is the problem. The insurance rate might be, but the governing bodies of all these competitive activities manage to find insurance. Penn State certainly could as well. As they didn't cite the cost of insurance (which would probably be the most tenable argument), I'm guessing that had little if any bearing on the decision.

That said, if these kids really are adults, they shouldn't have any trouble figuring out that they don't need PSU's permission to go for a hike in the woods. They can simply form their own club, independent of the school, and go about their business.

I ran the cycling team at RIT as an unofficial club for a year while we were working on becoming a bona-fide student organization. It wasn't an ideal situation as recognized student organizations do enjoy some benefits on campus. But it didn't stop us from doing what we wanted, including representing RIT in Intercollegiate Bike Races.
Apr 26, 2018 3:26 AM # 
At my university, our orienteering group was not affiliated with the university. (It also didn't amount to much more than a few students attending orienteering events by the local clubs. I, and some others, did get paid by the university to teach orienteering several semesters, though.)
Apr 26, 2018 4:51 AM # 
btw, here is the website of the Penn State Univ outing club
Apr 26, 2018 5:01 AM # 
Is it dangerous to click on the link? It will take me to a page outside of AP.
Apr 26, 2018 2:14 PM # 
You might get outed...
Apr 26, 2018 3:56 PM # 
this just in ...

Penn State Outing Club
3 hrs ·
In the past few days, the club officers have been disappointed with multiple misleading and false statements made by Penn State officials in the press and in responses to individuals. We reached out to Campus Recreation on April 23, 2018 and April 24, 2018 and the Office of Student Activities on April 25, 2018 respectfully requesting that these statements be corrected. We were told that these changes would be reviewed and pushed up to the Office of Strategic Communications. Unfortunately, the statements by Penn State officials seem to continue to include misleading and false information. We provide the following narrative to provide more details of the Outing Club in the past 15 months.

Prior to Spring 2017, the Outing Club was housed in the Campus Recreation Club Sports organization. When planning a trip, we were required to submit paperwork that was designed and intended for typical organized sporting events, such as a wrestling tournament or track meet. This included a trip roster, driving directions, and a basic itinerary, though we routinely supplemented this information by providing trail maps, campsite locations, and more detailed itineraries. On each trip, there was a minimum of one safety officer, who held an active First Aid/CPR/AED certification as per Club Sports policies. The Club Sports liability waiver also had to be signed by each trip member. If any of these requirements were not met, the trip would not be approved by Club Sports and would not go out.

Starting in the Fall 2016, staff within Club Sports and Outdoor Adventures (then called Adventure Recreation) began to raise concerns that the Club Sports staff did not have the necessary experience to properly evaluate our proposed backpacking and paddling trips. From January 2017 through March 2017, the Outing Club was suspended from running trips until Campus Recreation and the Office of Risk Management developed new risk-mitigating policies for the three outdoor recreation clubs: Outing Club, Nittany Divers, and Nittany Grotto Caving Club. These three clubs were moved out of Club Sports and into a new division of Campus Recreation called “Campus Recreation--Affiliated Club Sports”, where the Outdoor Adventures office oversaw the approval process of all new trips. The new policies set in place required new trip organizational paperwork consistent with Outdoor Adventures’ required paperwork including, but not limited to:
- a detailed emergency action plan illustrating that from any point on the trail, we had a plan in place on how to exit the backcountry to get help and evacuate someone to the nearest hospital or urgent care center;
- delegations of responsibilities of trip leaders and safety officers for the roles of incident commander, lead medic, group management, and communications;
- GPS coordinates of the intended campsites;
- written step-by-step itinerary of the trip (with illustrated maps);
- expected trail conditions, weather, and hazards;
- the address and contact information for the nearest landline phone, hospital, urgent care center, outdoor outfitter, law enforcement station, and ranger station; and
- a call-out contact at the University with a specific call-out time, with an automatic procedure that the authorities would be notified if not contacted by the call-out time.

Each trip was required to have one trip member to be actively certified in Wilderness First Aid (WFA) or a greater certification and a second member to be actively certified in at least First Aid/CPR/AED. Furthermore, the participant-to-leader/co-lead ratio could be no more than 4:1 for summer, fall, and spring trips. For winter trips, the ratio could be no more than 3:1. A health history form was required to be filled out by each trip member and submitted to the Assistant Director of Campus Recreation (Director of Outdoor Adventures) for review, and any pertinent information was then relayed to the safety officers. The Club Sports liability waiver also had to be signed by each trip member. These policies are consistent with Outdoor Adventures’ policies. All trip leaders for PSOC trips had to be personally approved by the Assistant Director of Campus Recreation. Although we did not require specific trip leader training, all trip leaders that were not already Outdoor Adventures-trained or Penn State AURORA-trained employees must have had extensive backcountry and outdoor leadership experience.

In practice, a significant portion of our trip leaders also worked at Penn State as outdoor guides. Furthermore, many trips exceeded the minimum medical training policy by having more than two safety officers (sometimes upwards of 5) and having superseding certifications, such as Wilderness First Responder (WFR), Swift Water Rescue (SWR), and/or Emergency Medical Technician (EMT).

In Fall 2017, representatives of the officer board started meeting with the Assistant Director of Campus Recreation about twice a month, where we would provide feedback to each other on the day-to-day operations of the club and running trips. During these meetings, we both agreed on the concerns of not having a formal trip leader training program for PSOC. We (the officers) repeatedly pushed through the fall semester to collaborate with Campus Recreation to create a training process with trained professionals, but we were told to “wait until next semester”, which became “wait until next year”. During one of these meetings in the late fall, we were also informed that Campus Recreation had decided (with no student input) that the Outing Club was not allowed to purchase gear such as sleeping bags, tents, and backpacks in light of risk management concerns and duplication of resources, but we could continue to use the gear that PSOC already owned. Any necessary gear beyond our current gear inventory for a trip would have to be rented through Outdoor Adventures or some other outfitter.

Between Fall 2017 and Spring 2018, the Outing Club successfully ran 10 weekend backpacking trips, 1 day hike, and 1 canoe/camp trip, while complying with all of the policies and procedures listed above and without any injuries. We found the new risk-mitigation policies and procedures helped to formalize and streamline the trip planning process for officers and trip leaders and to to bring the Outing Club closer to national standards.

We (the officers) understood that there was more that could be done to mitigate risk, such as implementing a GPS tracker and satellite communication system like SPOT Gen3 (a technology used by Penn State’s AURORA backpacking orientation program). We expected to continue working with the Campus Recreation to work through all risk management questions that had been raised.

On April 2, 2018, the Penn State Outing Club was called into an “organizational review” where representatives of Campus Recreation and the Office of Student Activities were present. The club was informed that a review from the perspective of University risk management policies had been conducted. This review was conducted by Campus Recreation, the Office of Risk Management, and the Office of Student Activities. We would like to point out that the Recreation, Park, and Tourism Management (RPTM) department within the College of Health and Human Development at Penn State was not consulted in this process despite being a department full of subject-matter experts and recently launching a new Outdoor Experiential Leadership option within the program. The result of this review was that its activities exceed the University’s acceptable risk level for both Campus Recreation Club Sports and Student Activities Student Organizations, and the club would be dissolved at the end of the semester. Additionally, the activities of the Outing Club were found to be a “duplication of resources” as Outdoor Adventures also ran backpacking and canoe/camp trips. Since April 2, the officers have requested multiple times to see the risk assessment but have been denied by Penn State officials. At the end of the meeting, it was clear that Outing Club was to be disbanded.

On April 10, 2018, the officers announced at the general meeting that club would not be able to run trips any longer due to this risk assessment. We were still optimistic that we would find a way to keep the community together. We provided the club with potential solutions, which included applying to become a special interest student organization, disbanding the club and meeting informally in Outdoor Adventures’ newly proposed “student forum night”, and/or start a nonprofit organization based in State College.

On April 12, 2018, the officers sent a proposal to the Office of Student Activities to become a special interest student organization. As a recognized student organization, PSOC would be able to continue to foster our outdoor community here at Penn State. We would continue to have many of the events and activities that we have been doing for 98 years: hosting professional and student speakers at our meetings, organizing members for trail maintenance events, and partnering with local outdoor companies and organizations. But, we would not be able to organize or run student-led trips.

On April 25, 2018, the Director and Assistant Director of Student Activities, PSOC Club Advisor, and PSOC officer representatives met to discuss the special interest organization proposal. The proposal was officially accepted by the University, and the Outing Club’s status was updated to a recognized student organization before the meeting was adjourned. Furthermore, the club advisor and officers asked to start discussions with the University to provide affordable ways to get our members outside and meet their needs. We requested that a well thought-out and reasoned process should be started, and it should include input from all stakeholders: the administration, academic departments and faculty members, community members, the greater outdoor community, and most importantly, the student body. We continue to look forward to these discussions over the coming months.

Finally, on the topic of alleged alcohol usage on PSOC trips, to our knowledge there has never been any record of alcohol-related incidents. Early on in the risk management discussions that began in December of 2016, University officials raised concerns about the possibility of alcohol use on trips, though no accusations were made. The Campus Recreation Director made clear the financial consequences of any incident on a trip involving alcohol---the $1 million university liability insurance would not cover any incidents where alcohol was involved and the trip leaders would become personally liable in all lawsuits. This knowledge was not taken lightly and a strict no-alcohol policy was enforced by officers in the 2017-2018 academic year. The officers fully support a zero-tolerance policy towards alcohol on trips and believe that dry trips are better both for safety and for our club culture. From a practical standpoint, it is also important to keep in mind the fact that alcohol is heavy and bulky. It simply does not make sense to bring alcohol on a backpacking trip when your pack already weighs 40+ pounds and you’re hiking for 8-12 miles per day! Alcohol is far more accessible to students who stay home for the weekend.

We hope that this narrative helps clarify and provide more details into statements that have been made in the media and to individuals. If you have any questions, feel free to contact us. As always, keep reaching out to us and sharing our story! We’re optimistic for the future!

The PSOC Officers
Apr 26, 2018 4:29 PM # 
... lessons learned...

Beer is heavy and bulky, and unlikely transported and found in remote locations...

Beer is heavy and bulky
Apr 27, 2018 4:51 AM # 
this is why hip flasks are useful - improving the weight to alcohol ratio.
Apr 27, 2018 6:40 AM # 
I spent many hours caving while at Reading University UK in the early 1970's which lead to expeditions to Venezuela, Spain and Java and many trips to cave in Britain.

Risks yes but life is about taking them and understanding your limitations and also those of your fellow explorers

God forbid that we ever had a drink or did silly things like this picture.

May 1, 2018 7:16 PM # 
good article
May 3, 2018 7:02 AM # 
that's a very well written article.
May 3, 2018 8:37 AM # 
What's keeping them there?
May 9, 2018 11:25 AM # 
NYT article

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