by Billy Clouse
The Outdoor Nation Challenge has brought quite a few great events to SUU campus, but I find it a bit frustrating. Excluding Sundays, organizations on campus have hosted between four and seven events every day, but once the challenge is over on October 15, many of these events disappear.
I understand that awards are important to the university; without them, SUU would look like a below-average school even though it’s not. But the push to win awards doesn’t always help those already enrolled.
For example, many students, myself included, have been annoyed with the regimentation of the EDGE Program — what seemed like a great idea became a nightmare after enrolling in EDGE 1010. I believe that this regulation partially has to do with SUU winning an award from the National Society of Experiential Education and wanting to continue to win it going forward.
Although the Outdoor Nation Challenge has had positive consequences, it’s disappointing that the only time this much effort to get students engaged with the outdoors is put in is for an award.
At this point, SUU is so far ahead that we would have to make a conscious effort to not come in first place. But even if we don’t win, that doesn’t change who we are.
SUU recently trademarked the name “University of the Parks,” but that has just made who we are, and who we have been, official. By winning the Outdoor Nation Challenge last year, we became the “Most Outdoorsy University,” but again, we’ve always had that focus.
This single contest doesn’t define who we are, especially because the point system is arbitrary. Less than five minutes on the bouldering wall at SUU Outdoors, walking to class and indoor hammocking have all been used by SUU students in an attempt to get more points, even though they hardly count as engaging with the outdoors.
As I stated earlier, I understand the importance of awards, and I love the activities that have been planned, but they shouldn’t end just because they no longer get us points for a contest after October 15.
For example, the Community Engagement Center organized outdoor service projects. Yes, these will get us a TON of points, but they also help the community and the environment. This program should continue even after the contest ends. They don’t need to be every week, but we should still have them.
I feel the same way about SUU Outdoors setting up hammocks across campus on Thursdays. SUU could take it a step further and set up a permanent area for hammocking, preferably nestled in the trees of the Upper Quad.
After SUU inevitably wins the title of “Most Outdoorsy University” for the second consecutive year, I hope the organizations that hosted outdoor events will continue to do so, because we don’t deserve the title if we only encourage students to get outside for one month.