Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Penn State says wilderness is too risky for outdoors clubs

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) — A near-century-old outdoor recreation club will now refrain from going outside because it is too dangerous out in the wilderness, according to officials at Penn State University.

The Penn State Outing Club, originally founded in 1920, announced last week that the university will no longer allow the club to organize outdoor, student-led trips starting next semester. The hiking, camping and other outdoors-focused activities the student-led club has long engaged in are too risky, the university’s offices of Student Affairs and Risk Management determined.

Richard Waltz, the Outing Club’s current president, said that the decision was made by an office that never consulted them.

The decision was based on a two-month review that didn’t include consultation with student leaders at any of the clubs deemed too risky, according to students.

Two other outdoor recreation clubs — the spelunking Nittany Grotto Caving Club and the Nittany Divers SCUBA Club — also have been directed to end trip offerings.

“Safety is a legitimate concern, but it wasn’t an open dialogue,” Waltz said.

Christina Platt, the Outing Club’s incoming president, said, “I can hardly blame Penn State for protecting itself against further litigation after a number of high-profile scandals in the past decade.”

Student safety is the school’s primary focus, university spokeswoman Lisa Powers said in a statement.

Penn State conducted a “proactive risk assessment” not based on any previous participant injuries, according to Powers. She said Outing Club activities were rated high risk because they take place in remote environments with poor cell service and distance from emergency services.

Penn State still will offer a university-operated outdoors trip program, Powers said. The university-run program also costs much more for students, Waltz contended.

Michael Lacey, president of the Caving Club, told the Centre Daily Times he’s not surprised by the decision but says the university’s reasons for ending the club trips don’t make sense to him.

There’s a difference between going with somebody you paid to take you on a trip and going with a bunch of your friends, Lacey said.

Powers said Penn State staff members are meeting with student leaders about the transition and how the university might still support each group’s goals.


Progressive Ideology Trumps Student Safety

Two months after the Parkland massacre, all Broward County has to show for it is clear backpacks.

In the end, it was all about gun control, not safety.

“Two months after a massacre in Parkland made security the top focus in Broward County schools, many parents and students say the school district is doing too little to ensure safety,” the Sun-Sentinel reports. “An emotionally charged school security forum at Plantation High drew hundreds who complained about what they saw as an ineffective response by the school district both before and after the Feb. 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas” that claimed 17 lives.

Those who expected genuine school security following the massacre have a lot to learn about the progressive mindset. On the first day back from spring break, clear backpacks and ID lanyards were issued to students, and police officers were stationed at the four doors students were allowed to enter. Band instruments and sports equipment were turned over to teachers and coaches, non-clear back packs were confiscated, and a number of bags were searched.

All well and good, but an essential element was apparently a bridge too far: neither metal-detecting wands or metal detectors are part of the equation. “It feels like being punished,” Principal Ty Thompson complained. “It feels like jail, being checked every time we go to school.”

That a “jail” is preferable to a slaughterhouse apparently eludes Thompson.

Moreover, the clear back pack requirement is apparently devolving into the farce it always was. Some students have added non-clear liners to them, and others have placed sheets of paper in them with the words “clear backpacks are stupid,” or “this backpack is probably worth more than my life.” Several students have criticized the lack of privacy, and female students are embarrassed by being forced to display feminine products they’d rather keep under wraps.

Michael Dorn, executive director of the non-profit campus safety organization Safe Havens International, gets to the heart of the Left’s absurd determination to promote a feel-good solution in lieu of real security. “They take a book and hollow it out and put a gun in the book,” he explained. “This is not an anomaly. It’s a repeatedly used method. They buy all of these different containers and put the gun in there, or they put it in a tennis shoe or wrap the gun in their gym shorts. They get a rifle and put it in a musical instrument case.”

Moreover, as senior student and forum attendee Angelina Lazo implied, despite the massive failures evinced by the Broward Sheriff’s Office (BSO) during the shooting, little has changed. “Why do we have clear backpacks if they aren’t being enforced?” she asked. “Why do we have BSO everywhere if they aren’t doing their job and just seem to be hanging around our campus?”

Not just hanging around. Just over a month after the shooting, Deputy Moises Carotti was suspended for falling asleep in his patrol car while on duty. “Of all the schools in America, you would think this would be the safest one right now,” declared Sen. Marco Rubio at the time. “This is so outrageous it’s almost impossible to believe.”

Is it? We may soon find out. Last Wednesday, Broward Circuit Judge Jeffrey Levenson ordered the release of a redacted version of the footage captured by exterior cameras at Marjory Stoneman the day of the shooting.

The Broward County School Board and the Broward State Attorney’s Office had sought to block the release. The Board insisted it would weaken school security, and the Attorney’s Office contended the tapes were part of an ongoing criminal investigation and might present problems with regard to the prosecution of the murderer. Levenson decided otherwise, noting the video is not part of an active investigation and that the “potential harm” to Stoneman’s security measures are “outweighed by the strong public interest in disclosure.”

The BSO has until May 2 to appeal the ruling.

Whether the tapes will reveal anything as damning as former school resource officer Scot Peterson’s refusal to enter the school while the massacre was taking place remains to be seen. Nonetheless, the failure of the Broward County Sheriff’s Department, headed by political hack Scot Israel, is beyond dispute.

So is Israel’s ongoing arrogance, for which he is facing a historic no-confidence vote from the union representing his own deputies. When asked by reporter Bob Norman whether he lied when he asserted that Peterson was the only deputy at the school — despite radio transmissions by his own department revealing the presence of three other deputies — Israel told Norman he was disappointed by the newsman’s “constant reporting” and “misrepresentations.”

That exchange took place in late March, just prior to Israel’s visit to the Weston Democratic Club — where he “blamed partisan Republican politics for the criticism against his agency,” as ABC News characterized it.

If one wishes to address charges of partisan politics, one need look no further than the Democrat/Media Complex’s lionization of Parkland students advocating gun-control and blaming the NRA for something it had nothing to do with, and compare it to the equally-orchestrated marginalization of their pro-Second Amendment peers. Even Barack Obama got in on the act, asserting that if Parkland students (along with Dreamers and Black Lives Matter activists) “make their elders uncomfortable, that’s how it should be.”

If anyone should feel uncomfortable, it’s Obama. A bombshell exposé by Paul Sperry reveals the former president’s efforts to racialize school discipline standards — eagerly embraced by Broward County school officials and the sheriff’s office in the form of the PROMISE program — has engendered the “highest percentage of ‘the most serious, violent [and] chronic’ juvenile offenders in Florida, according to the county’s chief juvenile probation officer,‘” Sperry writes.

Nonetheless, when the PROMISE program was criticized by Broward student Kenneth Preston at the April 10 meeting of the Broward County School Board, Superintendent Robert Runcie characterized the attempt to connect it to the shooting as “reprehensible.”

Not nearly as reprehensible as the action taken by the Board itself. In response to the shooting, the state established the Coach Aaron Feis Guardian Program, named after the hero football coach who died while protecting students. It allocated $67 million statewide for training and payments enabling certain school employees to be armed.

The Board unanimously voted to decline participation.

Adding insult to injury, the Board and Runcie decided to leave the PROMISE program in place. “We’re not going to dismantle a program in this district that is serving and helping kids appropriately because of news that is not fact-based,” he said.

According to the federal Centers for Disease Control, weapons possession, fighting, bullying and attempted suicide all rose for Broward high schools between 2013 and 2015. Additionally, state data reveal that Broward County has the highest level of weapons-related incidents in South Florida.

Those are the facts. Thus, while the progressive clarion calls for gun control remain front and center, and the race-based PROMISE program that shields minority student miscreants remains in place, all students ultimately remain as vulnerable as they ever were.

At the meeting, Runcie insisted changes to the status quo are “not going to happen overnight.”

Really? Why not?


Australia's University entrance system should be simplified or even abolished, says chief scientist Alan Finkel

If it discourages STEM enrolment it certainly should be altered

Australia's chief scientist Alan Finkel says the national system for university entry should be simplified or even abolished entirely because it is "completely obscure" and lacks transparency.

The controversial call prompted the head of the NSW committee on HSC scaling to concede it was impossible for the system to be simple and transparent as well as being equitable.

Dr Finkel said the Australian Tertiary Admission Rank "might be fantastic" as a university selection tool but was "very, very poor" in helping students choose their year 12 subjects.

The disagreement arises from concern the ATAR motivates students to pick HSC or VCE subjects based on how well their scores will "scale", or convert, into their final ranking.

Speaking upon the release of his report on science, technology, engineering and mathematics education - first reported by Fairfax Media on Saturday - Dr Finkel said the perception that the ATAR rewarded easier subjects was having a detrimental impact on the take-up of STEM courses.

"For whatever reason – rightly or wrongly – the ATAR is leading to students being given poor advice," he told Fairfax Media.

"It’s completely obscure. As a tool for university selection, ATAR might be fantastic. But as a tool that guides students as to what they should choose, through the consultations we saw that it was very, very poor."

Experts have defended the integrity of the ATAR system but Dr Finkel said that did not matter because "the reality is not what it is but what it’s perceived to be".

"We did not come across anybody who was capable of explaining it to us, and there was no value for us to go and find out from an absolute expert because it doesn’t matter," he said.

"When you make something sufficiently complex – and it is – then the perceptions of it will necessarily be either confused or simplified or completely erroneous."

Dr Finkel's STEM report, which is under consideration by the country's education ministers, urged governments to review the ATAR but did not make specific recommendations.

The chief scientist said he was not certain of the solution but one "extreme" option would be to abolish the ATAR in favour of the US system whereby individual universities manage their own entrance schemes.

Alternatively, Dr Finkel said, "let's at least simplify the ATAR so that every single parent and every single teacher and every single career adviser can understand it".

However, the chair of the Technical Committee on Scaling in NSW, Rod Yager, said complexity was necessary if the calculation of student rankings was to be kept fair.

"Everyone wants us to have a system that is equitable, simple and transparent. Unfortunately those three things are mutually exclusive," he told Fairfax Media.

"In order to be equitable, one has to consider and make adjustments for a whole host of factors that take away the simplicity and the transparency."

The complexity was illustrated by research that found the scaling system had led to lower scores in some language subjects and contributed to the declining popularity of languages.

But Mr Yager denied the ATAR could be "gamed" or manipulated by strategically choosing subjects that were disproportionately rewarded by the system.

"That’s not how it works in reality. There is some perception out there that that’s what happens, and unfortunately people react to that perception," he said.

"Don’t play the scaling game. We work really hard to make sure that there is no advantage from taking one course or another."

But the two men agreed universities had erred by largely abandoning mathematics prerequisites for courses such as science and economics.

"There is no doubt that that has been one of the worst decisions that universities have made, in my opinion," Mr Yager said.


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