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Student Organizations Lose University Recognition After Risk Analysis Review

The Penn State Outing Club, Nittany Grotto Caving Club, and the SCUBA Club will no longer be recognized by the university after a Campus Recreation review deemed that the trio of on-campus organizations’ activities posed an unacceptable amount of risk to its student members.

“Campus Recreation made the decision to proactively evaluate its supported organizations, with the main goal being to keep student safety as the top priority for these groups and their activities,” Penn State spokeswoman Lisa Powers provided in a statement.

Following the review, the university recommended changes to 20 registered student organizations, including the three ousted orgs, based on the criteria below:

  • Environment and location of organization activities
  • Access to emergency facilities and distance to medical care
  • Risk associated with various types of impact likely in an activity
  • Impact the equipment used in an activity has on the risk of an activity (For example, life-sustaining apparatuses are higher risk than equipment like helmets, gloves, rackets, etc.)

Members of the organizations stated that they were informed of this decision at a meeting two weeks ago.

Michael Lacey, president of the Caving Club, felt that this was a long time coming for his organization. He said Nittany Grotto was removed from the club sports umbrella, along with other non-competitive sports, and into Adventure Recreation in the fall of 2017, which cost the organization direct funding opportunities. Lacey wasn’t made aware of this switch until he attended a club sports presidents meeting. With the move to Adventure Recreation, members of the organization also needed to go through increased safety certification in the months before the university’s decision to disaffiliate with the club.

“If you think about it, they moved us under their grasp, if you will, in the beginning of the fall semester. And then they waited all the way until a month from the end of the academic year to say, ‘Oh yeah, you’re no longer a thing,’” Lacey said. “There’s no time to fight it because finals is coming up and everyone’s busy, and they didn’t describe [the review] at all. It was super vague.

“The people they sent to tell us weren’t the people that made the decision. It was less of a meeting and more of an assertion, like, ‘Oh yeah, this is what’s going on,’ and we’re like, ‘Oh, great.’ You can’t argue with them because they’re not the ones who made the decision.”

These organizations have a long history attached to Penn State.

Nittany Grotto has been a resource that introduced students to caving with regularly scheduled Wednesday trips for 70 years, while the Outing Club is nearing the century mark in bringing students together hiking, backpacking, kayaking, and enjoying the outdoors in whatever capacity possible.

“Losing affiliation with the university as a recognized student organization or club sport at Penn State means losing all privileges granted to a student organization,” Outing Club president Christina Platt said via email. “These privileges include the ability to reserve rooms to meet on campus, to be protected with $1,000,000 liability insurance, to use ASA to manage club funds, to fundraise through special university funding opportunities (such as stadium cleanup), to recruit at the Involvement Fair, and to use the university name on merchandise.”

While these clubs are no longer affiliated with the university, Penn State says it is meeting with the officers and advisers of these organizations to discuss the transition and figure how the university can “still support its goals.”

The Outing Club said it’s working with Penn State officials and making progress in finding its role in the student activities landscape. The Caving Club is still backed by a community-based caving organization that brings the student organization together with non-students interested in the area.

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About the Author

Steve Connelly

Unfortunately, former editor Steve Connelly has graduated. Where is he now? He might be doing something related to that PR degree he got in 2019. Maybe he finally opened that sports bar named after one of his photos, the Blurry Zamboni. Or he might just be eating chicken tenders and couch surfing. Anything’s possible. If you really want to know, follow him on Twitter @slc2o.


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