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Outdoors Club Gains Traction In First Year

For The Heights

Published: Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 18:01

After years of clearing red tape and navigating bureaucracy, the Outdoors Club of Boston College (OCBC) now enjoys both official recognition as a student organization and status as one of the most popular student-run groups on campus. Growing rapidly in popularity after approval by the Student Programming Office (SPO) last year, the club holds meetings that consistently go over capacity in BC’s largest lecture halls.

This newfound success comes in the wake of decades of false starts and denials—failures still freshly imprinted in the minds of many students, alumni, and faculty members. Assistant Dean for Curriculum Ethan Sullivan, for example, attempted to organize an outdoors club during his time as an undergraduate in 1992, but ultimately joined the ranks of those stonewalled by the administration.

“When we brought it forth before BC, we were declined,” Sullivan said. “We were a little upset, but it wasn’t the end of the world. We were told that there were a lot of other groups that had tried to do it before us, and from what I know there have been several other attempts since then in the last 20 years.”
During that time, SPO struggled to find a place for the club when nothing in their protocol matched the organization’s objectives, and many within the office feared providing funding to a group that could cause liability issues.

“Proving to SPO that our Outdoors Club was not simply a disorganized social group with no vision or long-term plan for sustainability was tough,” said Christian Montalvo, publicity director for the OCBC and CSOM ’13. “But luckily, due to their patience and willingness to provide for our organization, we were eventually able to register as an official student organization.”
Questions surrounding liability still remained, however. Many activities and excursions proposed by the OCBC were potentially dangerous, and school officials hesitated to provide funding for something poised to become an insurance disaster.

To mitigate this risk, Montalvo and other OCBC leaders worked closely with Outdoor Adventures at the Plex, creating a new Wilderness, First Aid, and Leadership training program for BC students.

 “The goal of this training program is to develop student Outdoor Adventure Leaders (OALs) in-house, to a level where their expertise is greater than what we can find and pay for outside of the Boston College community, hopefully minimizing the amount of risk associated with our trips,” Montalvo said.

This program seems to have eased the liability concerns of school officials, and the club now plans regular rock climbing and skiing trips without administrative pushback. The program also allows the OCBC to acquaint less experienced students with the outdoors, a vision the founders took great pains to maintain throughout the group’s establishment.

“We could have always made OCBC an exclusive club and only run trips for students with lots of prior experience,” Montalvo said. “But we know that sharing the outdoors, especially with those who don’t know it as well, is far more rewarding than any technical climb or winter backpacking trip.”
In creating what is now one of the largest student organizations at BC, the leaders have certainly fulfilled this core vision, providing an avenue for all interested students to explore the outdoors.

For Sullivan, this achievement provides a measure of closure and satisfaction.

“I was just happy,” Sullivan said. “I was happy to see that there was an outlet for people to do this kind of thing. And I was happy for the students who got it approved. Because I know how psyched my friend Pete and I would have been if we had gotten that approval letter.”

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