Following review, students continue to have access to outdoor recreation

April 26, 2018

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Campus Recreation, a unit of Penn State Student Affairs, is taking steps to increase safety in student clubs, while remaining true to its strong support of outdoor recreation and leadership development opportunities for students. Providing access to these experiences has long been part of its mission through the Outdoor Adventures program.

In spring 2018, a review of all 79 Campus Recreation-supported student organizations was conducted. After the evaluation, Campus Recreation, the Office of Student Activities and Penn State Office of Risk Management recommended a variety of changes to 20 current registered student organizations. Three outdoor-based clubs — Penn State Outing Club, Nittany Grotto and Nittany Diving — were determined to have an unacceptable level of risk in their current operation model. To see what was considered in the evaluation, and for answers to other questions, visit our FAQs page.

“We know there is an inherent risk associated with any activity,” said Laura Hall, senior director of Campus Recreation. “Through our evaluation, we worked to determine, from a University standpoint, what the acceptable levels of risk are for the student organizations within our program. The goal was not to eliminate all risk, but to responsibly manage risk so that our students can continue to safely participate in a variety of recreation activities. Penn State supports providing as many opportunities in the outdoors as possible, while also remaining committed to student safety and well-being.”

After learning the outcome of the evaluation, student leaders expressed an interest in changing their club models in order to remain recognized student organizations. The Penn State Outing Club and the Nittany Divers submitted proposals to the University outlining their plans. These outdoor clubs will remain recognized student organizations and are working with staff in Student Affairs to restructure so they can continue to foster a community for students around outdoor recreation. University staff also have reached out to the third club — Nittany Grotto — to see if its members would like to remain connected to Penn State as a registered student organization.

Both the Outing Club and Nittany Divers will continue to foster communities around diving and outdoor recreation through activities such as hosting speakers, educational programs, film screenings and festivals; participating in philanthropic and charitable causes around marine life, dive safety and local environmental conservation efforts; providing information about campus and local resources; and raising awareness of the importance of spending time outdoors for mental and physical health.

Due to safety concerns and the need for more oversight, these clubs can no longer lead organized trips. However, Campus Recreation’s Outdoor Adventure program will continue to offer student-led trips and experiences and is working closely with club members to ensure they are providing a range of activities for all experience levels. Student staff within the Outdoor Adventure program receive yearlong training in safety, risk management and leadership to enable them to lead outdoor activities with safety and student welfare in mind.

The Nittany Divers club leaders have maintained a positive attitude about these changes and have readily collaborated with Campus Recreation staff to develop SCUBA diving experiences for all students, regardless of experience level. Nittany Divers released a statement describing the new relationship with the University and encouraging students to take advantage of the trips and programs offered through Campus Recreation’s Outdoor Adventures. Likewise, with the leadership shown thus far by student leaders of the Outing Club, Hall said the University is confident that the shared goals around outdoor recreation will be achieved for generations of Penn State students to come.

Vice President for Student Affairs Damon Sims indicated he has been asked by a number of students for an opportunity to meet and discuss the significant role that outdoor activities play on a college campus and determine how Penn State can assist them in advocating for this important aspect of student life. Sims said he would be setting up a meeting for this purpose in early summer.

“As we do what's required to improve safety considerations in our students' outdoor activities, we also must do what we must to sustain the commitment these students have to the outdoors and their advocacy for related interests,” Sims said. “I've not been directly involved in our discussions with these students, but I'd like to be soon, and I'm eager to learn more about how I can help them through this transition."

In the coming year, Outdoor Adventures will provide 194 unique opportunities for Penn State students to engage in outdoor recreation activities, including rafting, hiking, backpacking, caving, SCUBA diving, paddling, rock climbing, ice-climbing, mountain biking, and more. These experiences range from low-cost or free activities for beginners, such as Mt. Nittany hikes, beginner kayaking, and try SCUBA clinics, to day trips, weekend trips and skill clinics at higher rates. Trips are primarily student-led by highly trained student leaders. The Outdoor Adventures staff develops trip ideas in collaboration with students and regularly adds new opportunities.

For students who want to explore the outdoors on their own, Outdoor Adventures offers equipment rentals, guidebooks, maps and other resources. Students can visit the Outdoor Adventures office in the IM Building on campus during office hours to borrow free resources or rent equipment.

Last Updated April 26, 2018