Penn State’s hiking club is not allowed to go outside anymore. (University administration says hiking is too dangerous)

From a hike along the Rapidan this past fall.


I am an avid hiker. I love walking through a stone strewn river or along a windy ridge. In fact I used to live 5 minutes from the Appalachian Trail and I used to hike it regularly. My family used to hike it regularly. In fact one time, while hiking in the rain with my 2 and 5 year old girls we walked right up on 2 bears. Like right up on them. The bears just took off into the forest.

And we saw bears all the time dashing through the trees in the distance or hopping across the road.

Hiking, though potentially hazardous is likely far less hazardous than negotiating Downtown Washington DC at lunchtime. Actually DC at almost any time is more dangerous than hiking or camping almost anywhere. A bear might eat the contents of your cooler but he won’t mug you. (Unless you have a pocketful of blackberries or something.)

What we see here is fear creep. Slowly, over time people become more and more fearful of this or that, until one day a bureaucrat somewhere makes a reg that codifies a fear. The European Union is full of such regs for instance. There is an ever present interest in “safety” on the Continent.

But is that the direction in which we want to go? Are we all going to be relegated to virtual reality excursions (I’m not joking. Talk to your kids.) because they are safer than real live excursions? I certainly hope not.


“This is a result,” the announcement said, “of an assessment of risk management by the university that determined that the types of activities in which PSOC engages are above the university’s threshold of acceptable risk for recognized student organizations.”

After a two-month review that did not include consultation with student Outing Club leaders, the university’s offices of Student Affairs and Risk Management made the determination that the hiking, canoeing, kayaking, trail building and camping activities the student-led club has long engaged in are too risky. The club is one of the oldest entirely student-run organizations at Penn State.

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