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“Break Out this February” Encourages Outing Club Diversity

The short duration of February break means that, unlike many other school breaks, many Batesies stay on campus for the entire week. The limited activities and lonely nature of the week are helped by a saving grace: The Outing Club’s “Break Out this February” initiative. All week, Outing Club members Ronan Goulden (’22) and Jin Wei (’20) led students on trips across Maine, such as relaxing on the beach in Shortridge or learning to ski at Lost Valley.
According to Goulden and one of the trip attendees, Maddie Feldmeier (’22), one of the best aspects of these trips is that they help to combat the exclusionary nature of the Outing Club. In the past, the club has been criticized because it can unintentionally exclude marginalized groups such as racial minorities or low-income students. Goulden recognizes that, “the outdoors is naturally an exclusive place for many groups”, and notices that the exclusion is often based on class and social capital in the outdoors. Feldmeier has also observed a similar problem, expressing that “there are certain types of people who tend to be attracted to outing club activities and events”.
Goulden explained that many of these problems stem from lack of gear and experience. Typically, the Outing Club does not rent out gear such as gloves and snow pants, which means that many students are reluctant to head outdoors. Trips can also be intimidating to students for two major reasons. First, many trips take place overnight or for entire days, which can be a time crunch for students already struggling to balance work-study positions and schoolwork. Second, according to Goulden, “the outdoors has historically been a privileged space”, which means that many people do not have the outdoor social capital necessary to make them feel comfortable in Outing Club meetings and trips.
“Break Out this February” attempted to combat this exclusion by providing a comfortable space for students of various backgrounds. They prioritized inclusion by ensuring that all trips were at a beginner level and not more than 5 hours, covered all costs so that the trips were financially accessible, and included meals – which means that attending the trips was sometimes cheaper than eating at the dining hall, which requires students to pay for meals over break. Additionally, the nature of the trips occurring over break meant that the trips included a more diverse group of students.
Feldmeier attended a trip to the Bates Shortridge house, where she hiked with other students through Morse Mountain and the local beach. She has attended other Outing Club trips in the past and explained that she enjoys trips over break more than the ones during the school year “because of the smaller groups of people and more diverse levels of experience”. She went on to explain that on these trips, there is less pressure to be experienced, and the community is more relaxed and welcoming.
Goulden agreed that the vibe of the trips is relaxing and friendly, and especially appreciates that many of the people on the trips were first timers in the activity that they were partaking in. He shared his favorite memory of the week, which took place on the Salt Pump climbing trip. “Everyone was supportive of each other and cheered for everyone’s climb”, a celebratory atmosphere helped by the opportunity for students to share their experiences during a shared meal later that day.
As described by Goulden, the Outing Club is “all about the memories made by collaborative experiences outside of Bates, something which we want as many people possible to both experience and be the creators of”. “Break Out this February” both actively encourages this while also admitting the exclusion and privilege embedded in the Club, showing that much more has to be done before the Club can live up to its collaborative goal.