Inward Bound and the Need for Change

We should no longer be putting the safety of hundreds of students in the hands of a small number of inexperienced, un-trained students with minimal supervision.

2015 saw yet another Inward Bound alive with controversy, and it’s beginning to feel like you can’t have IB without something going wrong. I write this article as someone with a real love and appreciation of the uniqueness of the IB experience and with the hope that IB will continue long into the future. I have had the privilege of running IB but also the privilege of being on the Inward Bound Committee itself, and feel that after Inward Bound 2015, something needs to be said.

Inward Bound is a large event involving a considerable budget, neither of which precludes it from being organised by students. However, it is the risky nature of the event itself that demands a higher level of competency and oversight. I am a huge believer in the abilities of students and young people in general but there comes a point where youth and enthusiasm can no longer replace experience, knowledge and professionalism. That point is when 200 odd students are dropped in the middle of nowhere and given coordinates and told start running.

This year’s iteration of the great event was just further evidence that a group of students do not have the experience or skills to safely and competently run something of this scale. Two divisions were dropped outside of the area that most teams had detailed maps for and more than half the teams had potential routes than ran through properties that were supposedly ‘permitted’ but whose owners had never been contacted.

This first of these issues is particularly problematic as it was not a mistake but done on purpose. This action saw two of IB 2015’s strongest teams spend close to five hours running in circles and eventually pulling out of the race altogether. While I acknowledge that in an event such as this it is unrealistic to expect all teams to finish, however when two college’s best navigators have no idea where they are after five hours of searching then we have gone off the deep end of difficulty and have begun to encroach on safety.

The second issue led to potentially 31 teams running through a property whose owner had never been contacted, not only leaving runners liable for trespass but putting them at the mercy… of landowners often in possession of firearms.

In isolation neither of these issues appears disastrous. There was a communication snafu with a property owner, so what? Div 1 had a really tough nav… big deal! But when considered as part of the bigger picture the concerns are more real. I am not about to delve into the organisational mishaps of 2014, 2013 or dare I mention the greatest of them all 2012, but there is a clear pattern developing. We have reached the stage where the university or SRA needs to step in and demand a higher level of professionalism and expertise be involved in the coordinating of such an inherently risky event.

What little experience existed on the 2015 committee was there because the same small group of friends have run the event for the last three years. We are now at the point where we could potentially have completely untried and untested individuals taking the reins for 2016. Perhaps a solution should be to have experienced mentors for the organisers, or perhaps we turn the whole event over to the SRA.

I am unclear on the exact course of action to be taken but Inward Bound in its current form is a disaster waiting to happen. We need to act now and not after we roll the dice again in 2016