I recently discussed my chagrin at a challenge to the wonderful outdoor program for first-year students at Bates College. As a lifelong backpacker and hiker, I have always admired Bates for the program. One of the oldest college clubs is the Penn State Outing Club, which is 98 years old. In one of the most moronic decisions of the year, Penn State has announced that its outdoor recreation club will not be allowed to go outside because it is too dangerous to be out in the wilderness.
The Outing Club was reportedly not consulted and simply told that Penn State was barring outdoor activities, claiming student safety. It is such a maddeningly moronic decision that one is caught between disbelief and an utter contempt. As we have previously discussed, hiking has been found to have tremendous psychological benefits. The Japanese called it “forest bathing” and as a lifelong backpacker and hiker, I can attest the impact of being in nature can face on stress and mood. With schools dealing with rising levels of depression, hiking has been found as effective or more effective than medication. It appears to have a lasting impact on brain operations with a pronounced impact on depression.Yet, while the school will gladly handout anti-depression drugs, it will kill one of the most effective programs in giving students a sense of well-being.
These are adults going to college. They are in an ample position to judge the risks and waive liability where appropriate. Yet, not only this old outdoor club but two other such clubs have been ordered to discontinue their outdoor activities. It is a disgrace and something that the faculty should address. The ultimate responsibility rests with President Eric Barron and his obviously sheltered administrative staff. I supposed when you create a fictitious “Nittany Lion” as your mascot, students can just pretend that they go outdoors to see one in the wild.