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Long-Awaited Outdoors Club Gains Approval From SPO

Heights Editor

Published: Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 18:01

outdoors 2/2/12

Photo courtesy of OCBC

After working for over two years to gain official recognition, the constitution of the Outdoors Club of Boston College (OCBC) has been approved and the organization has been registered by the University.

The push for forming an officially recognized Outdoors Club began with co-founder Ben Key, BC '11, during the 2009-2010 academic year. During that time, another group of students with similar ideas joined up with Ben, including current president and co-founder, Keegan Dougherty, A&S '13. "A group of students including myself formed a group and got in contact with Ben serendipitously," he said.

Karl Bell, assistant director of the Student Programs Office (SPO), said that one of the initial issues with the club's launching was under which department it belonged, since it was not, for example, necessarily academic, cultural, or athletic.

"Initially, the question was, where was the best place for it?" he said.

Liability, and who would be responsible if there was an injury on the trip, has also been a standing issue.

"I believe one of the challenges has been and will continue to be around liability," Bell said. "The risk manager will be the person who will guide that conversation."

The liability argument never made sense, Dougherty said, because other clubs, such as the Geology Club and Outdoor Adventures—which is run through Campus Recreation—run similar trips.

"Liability never made sense because of Geo Club and Outdoor Adventures," he said. "There was always a kind of inconsistency on their part there."

Bell said that this concern for liability was likely an issue when the Geo Club began, however.

"I think it's the nature of the activity," he said. "There's an academic component perceived to be a part. I believe that [the University] had the same conversation 20 years ago or even longer when we registered the Geology Club."

Since beginning the process to become officially recognized, OCBC's members have forgone excursions in order to avoid problems with liability, but have worked with Geo Club and Outdoor Adventures. It has been three semesters since they're had any trips. "At the beginning of the process, we organized small, local trips, but SPO told us we would be jeopardizing our approval, so we decided it was best to hold off until we were recognized," Dougherty said.

At a certain point, liability was less of an issue. Bell said that in the spring of 2011, Patrick Rombalski, vice president of Student Affairs, told SPO that a place should be found for OCBC, at which point there was a shift in the issues the club was facing. At that point, Dougherty said, turning in the paperwork was of primary concern. For example, the proposal for the club was not submitted by the Aug. 1 deadline.

"At one point, liability was the issue, then it was less of an issue, and by the fall it was secondary," Dougherty said. "Then the issue was getting the paperwork in."

After an organization's proposal is approved, they must submit a constitution to SPO for review. SPO saw issues with the constitution, feeling that membership was not clearly defined and that members did not necessarily have enough say in the club's activities. "The Outdoors Club wanted to operate in a fashion that this office was neither clear about nor comfortable with," Bell said.

Problems with clubs' constitutions are not rare, Bell said, and issues with OCBC's were eventually resolved. Now, OCBC has a page on MyBC and is an official, registered organization. "On every turn when there are adjustments to the constitution in an organization, this office needs to approve them," he said. "Sometimes this comes with some disagreement, and sometimes it comes with deep disagreement."

Now that the club is registered, OCBC must get its budget and activities approved. On Friday, OCBC is meeting with SOFC and asking for a budget of $18,000 to cover both rental equipment to be kept in the Plex and shared with Outdoor Adventures and Geo Club, as well as funds to cover ten events, such as snowshoeing, rock climbing, camping, skiing, and kayaking. They will be meeting next week with Kyle Davidson, who runs Outdoor Adventures, Anastos Chiavaras, University risk manager, and Darrell Peterson, director of SPO, to discuss their events.

"Realistically they're going to tell us that a few of the trips we'd like to run are too risky for them to be liable for, but a lot of the bigger things are things other clubs do," Dougherty said.

They hope to partner with other organizations such as Nights on the Heights to host trips to a rock climbing gym on weekend nights.

"We really want to be an outlet for students to get out of the BC bubble," Dougherty said.

In addition to trips, OCBC hopes to host leadership and first aid classes through the Appalachian Mountain Club and Eagle EMS. Dougherty said that they hope to attract students who already have outdoor hobbies, as well as those who are interested but have little experience.

"We want this club to be as accessible as possible," he said. "This is really open to anyone who is interested."

Current club leaders interviewed prospective trip leaders and executive board members Tuesday night, and are hoping that interested individuals will be able to apply for trip leader positions throughout the year to make it more inclusive. "We're leaving it open to apply to be a trip leader at any point in the year," Dougherty said.

Once the club's budget is approved, they can begin hosting informational sessions. Currently, there are about 570 people on the group's listserv, and they hope to find more interested members.

"We want a diverse group of people going on these trips," Dougherty said.

This has been a longer road for OCBC than the one that many other clubs experience, Bell said. "It's amazing because for some this is a very straightforward, easy process. This has been a long time coming, but I think everyone is happy to be at a place to say that the Outdoors Club has been registered at Boston College."

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