Sports | Sports Columns

ANDREWS: Dodge is in desperate need of renovation

For my physical education class this semester, I took floor hockey, operating under the theory that it would be more entertaining than whatever “cardio fitness” is.

The class is held in Dodge’s Blue Gym—you know, the one where the floor is blue—mostly because of the walls. Floor hockey is a game where the walls are part of the game, so the Blue Gym is a good choice, as the walls are covered in blue padding.

As the semester wore on, though, I became increasingly aware of the rickety nature of our arena. One piece of plastic at the base of the walls came unglued, turning simple wraparounds into crazy caroms. Exercise equipment used by the track team became a hazard—I once got caught in a net by the tubing of my insulin pump, stuck like a fly in a spider’s web.

During one particularly competitive game, I watched my classmates go for the ball near the wall, slamming into it. And, as they pried the ball free and chased after it, a huge piece of blue padding fell of the wall with a huge thud. (If it fell on a person, it would have hurt.)

[More in sports: Men's basketball drops another close one]

The physical education requirement for Columbia College and School of Engineering and Science is one of my go-to laugh lines when I try to explain Columbia and the Core to people back home (“ha, I might not graduate if I can’t swim 75 yards”). However comical the swim test may seem, I honestly believe that the requirement is a really good idea.

Almost exactly one year ago, I wrote about the importance of physical activity as a part of mental health. (The most relevant quote: “I’m not a scientist, but I believe that the available science suggests that regular exercise releases lots of fun endorphins and makes you feel better.”) The P.E. requirement is the only part of the Core that is interested in improving your health, as opposed to burying it under 400 pages of reading per week.

The requirement is not particularly stringent, either. The P.E. department offers a remarkably wide variety of courses for whatever you may be interested in—or however hard you want to work out—and a policy of six permitted absences gives you an enormous amount of wiggle room.

All this being said, though, the P.E. requirement can’t function without institutional support. The last two years have not been good for physical education on campus—the Barnard pool closed last year to make space for what I imagine are very chlorine-smelling offices, and the Dodge Fitness Center continues to crumble. My floor hockey experience isn’t a comprehensive listing of everything that’s wrong with Dodge, but it is an example of the ways which the building—in its prime, not much more attractive than a dark basement—is becoming increasingly nonfunctional.

A few weeks ago, Spec’s editorial board (of which I am a member) called for the firing of athletic director M. Dianne Murphy, in part because we believe that under her leadership the athletic department has neglected the facility used by the largest percentage of its campus.

Murphy dedicated herself to constructing the Campbell Sports Center. It is, I am sure, a lovely facility, and it seems to be a really nice place for our varsity athletes to spend their time. But now that this project is done, Murphy or her successor must make a top-to-bottom renovation of Dodge the highest priority of the athletic department.

If we expect every person in SEAS or CC to spend two semesters taking physical education, it is imperative that they do so in a safe, modern athletic facility. It’s time to make Dodge that facility.

Peter Andrews is a Columbia College senior majoring in history. He is a member of Spectator’s editorial board and head manager emeritus of the Columbia University Marching Band. For Pete’s Sake runs biweekly.

sports@columbiaspectator.com | @pfandrews

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Alum posted on

Dodge is slated to be renovated. The plan was always to renovate Dodge after Campbell was completed. You should interview the facilities department on this issue.

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Anonymous posted on

You mean the "Dianne Murphy Public Relations Committee"? She talks about what she gets built, but she says nary a word about what she doesn't get won. Or how she has been here here 9 years with Dodge still a mess.

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Rich Forzani '66C posted on

The supposed and hoped-for renovation of Dodge notwithstanding, It has been far too long for the CU family to have dealt with a 1930's wreck of a facility. This was part of the point of the Spectator article regarding Murphy's tenure.
The Campbell facility is wonderful; it is just in the wrong location. Competitive athletes must travel miles to reach it (and they do NOT enjoy that) and the coaching staff is now completely isolated from day-to-day interaction on campus. Far better for it to have been built on or near campus, so that the entire CU community and the athletes could have had access.

This goes directly to the reason for the formation of CAEC, Committee for Athletic Excellence at Columbia. We ask for intelligence and logic and performance in the expenditure of CU athletic funds, to the benefit of the entire CU community. We invite all to join, undergrads and non-athletes as well as competitive participants. rforzani1@optonline.net

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Anonymous posted on

As you are well aware, there have been various locations in Morningside Heights area under consideration for the construction of new athletic facilities. Everyone was nixed by the local neighborhood. Perhaps you should start with the local neighbors to convince them that Columbia needs new local facilities.

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CU_Alum posted on

The "1930's wreck of a facility" opened in 1974. And finding space for anything "on or near campus" is very difficult.

Columbia is going to renovate Dodge in the next few years. In the long term it's going to add a new athletic center in Manhattanville. The situation is far from ideal, but it's not bleak either.

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Rich Forzani '66 posted on

Regardless of when Dodge opened, the 1930's description remains valid. It is a travesty of a facility compared to any peer institution.
To the comment on scheduled refurbishment, tomorrow and tomorrow does not provide for today. Tremendous funds have been expended in past years on athletics which might have been better directed towards Dodge. This has been a sore point for years now.
The location availability argument holds no water, but sounds more like the authors are admin apologists. If we could co-opt multiple blocks of Manhattanville, are you seriously telling the world that a building already owned by CU couldn't have been re-structured? That some convenient CU office building couldn't be re-purposed for activities Dodge cannot adequately handle, and the administrative people who get paid by CU be relocated?

There are always rational excuses to avoid doing the right but sometimes inconvenient thing. The question is, who is the administration in the business of serving?

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Hiram posted on

Rich, if you and your alumni group put up the money to buy property near campus and construct the facility you advocate, the university will build it and be grateful. Real leadership would provide a solution, not just a complaint.

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Rich posted on

Hiram, you present far too fat and easy a target. But what the hell, you walked into it.

My "group", as you call it, has already contributed literally millions of dollars to CU. I suggest that the amount is millions of dollars more than you or any of your pals have come up with. We have considerable skin in the game.
So I'm fine with the occasional uneducated snarks, but understand that while this is an open forum, we've paid considerable dues already.
It isn't about not providing solutions, Hiram, it's about watching a great deal of ours and others donated funds being spent in non-productive ways. Real leadership listens to its constituency.

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Anonymous posted on

You don't think the school cross-checks the list of complainants against the money they've given?

If you have as much "skin in the game" as you claim to have, you would have an audience with Prezbo. The people who really have "skin in the game" sit on the Board of Trustees, and/or have buildings named after them. 1000 donors giving 1000 bucks each don't have the same influence as one person giving 1 million.

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Hiram posted on

Rich, I'm sorry you think I was being snarky. I was making an obvious point. You don't like the athletics dept's results, especially in football. No one does, including Murphy and Bollinger. The question is what to do about it, what is the problem. You are focused on firing Mangurian, and Murphy for hiring him. You do not recognize that he is the highest credentialed CU coach since Buff Donelli. In other words, his hiring reflected an effort to upgrade the program, briung in a guy with D-1 head coaching and NFL experience instead of D-3 head coaches or D-1 assistants as in the past (leaving Garrett out of the discussion for obvious reasons). The jury is still out on whether that was a good decision or not -- and I agree the evidence suggests the latter more than the former. But you have to recognize you don't have an inside view of what is really going on, and that people like Murphy and Bollinger can disagree with your analysis and solution -- from positions of greater knowledge -- both reasonably and in good faith. I recognize that you are not quite the nihilist that Novak has become, but there is a constructive dialogue to be had here and constructive action to be taken. Trying to bully administrators whose power is superior to yours is hardly a path to that dialogue or action, and not likely to bear fruit. So, if you don't like my suggestion, or it's too expensive for you and your followers, come up with something else. Light a candle and quit cursing the darkness. And if the team doesn't show that it's back on track next year I'm certain there will be changes, regardless of anything you do or say.

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Rich Forzani '66C posted on

Ahh...Hiram, I compliment you on presenting a logical and considered comment here. Seriously. And also clearly unlike the admin employees/apologists who tend to denigrate criticism here and elsewhere.
So, let me address this. We aren't cursing darkness. What we ask for all of us is to be treated a bit better than mushrooms, who are kept in the dark and fed...well, you know. I refer specifically to PM's response to the Spec editorial, and also his response to concerned alums over the past 30 days. Two inane, boiler-plate messages which are perceived by all as insulting rather than informative.
We, referring to Committee for Athletic Excellence at Columbia, are not trying to bully the Admin. We have a clear, fair, logical and extremely firm request; that an impartial and neutral agency be appointed to conduct a forensic investigation into the failure of CU athletics over the past 50 years, and recommend solutions to alleviate this.
While we are also convinced, as is Spectator, of the total failure of D Murphy, and wish to see P Mangurian dismissed immediately, those feelings are based solely upon overwhelming statistical documentation, not personal opinion. But these two individuals are secondary to our quest. Until we determine the underlying issues, we are condemned to repeat futility.
So while we clearly expect that the afore-mentioned employees will vanish fairly quickly, due to horrific failure, they are not specific or personal targets. The failed system is. Until basic defects are identified and repaired, we will continue to have a parade of DMs and PMs.
Further, our group is not an amalgamation of small donors. It has those, certainly, but it also includes individuals who have given well into 7 digits, and many in between. We don't expect to be kow-towed to, because that was never the intent of the giving. Love and respect for CU guided that. But we do expect, and demand, that this money be spent wisely. We and history do not think it has been.
CAEC has only been in existence for a few weeks. We will be publishing our website shortly. We are open to anyone connected with CU; students, non-athletes, etc. Our primary purpose is to get the maximum production and effectiveness from the monies all of us pump into this institution, and specifically in the area where we have consistently failed; athletics. We expect and demand performance, competence and competitiveness. We don't require or expect athletic dominance. Sadly, for 50 years we have had neither.
We will shortly, and privately, request direct conversations with CU regarding the above. We stand ready to work pro-actively with CU. We are also prepared if necessary to engage in a long term set of actions to continually bring this issue to the forefront until it is addressed. This includes publicity on a national basis, withholding of donations, and any other actions required to get CU attention.

Hiram, while I'm addressing your comments, I'm also pointing this response at CU. I hope you take these remarks in the spirit with which they are meant. I also hope that CU does as well.

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Hiram posted on

Rich, I much appreciate your response in tone and substance, and I sympathize with the cause. Your plan to request meetings and dialogue seems to me to be the way to go. The approach in the blogosphere has become self-parody, unfortunately. Bins, losses and stats alone don't tell the story, especially in football. They suggest underperformance, certainly, but nothing about the cause. Maybe constructive conversation among people who can trust each other's good will can help get to its roots? I certainly hope so, and that you can help expand the process - it has been ongoing for years. My suggestion on how to start: assume that Murphy and Bollinger care every bit as much as you do, and that they have been working to identify and address the problems, as have ADs before Murphy. Ask them to explain their current thinking and plans, and listen with an open mind. The path from there, whether you agree with them or need to convince them of a different direction, should become clearer and will have a far greater chance of success than others' saber-rattling so far (recognizing, of course, that saber-rattling has been one of CU's historic athletic strong points).

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Anonymous posted on

NEWS FLASH ******************

Columbia University announces, effective immediately, an institutional name change.
Henceforward, CU will be known as Reed College East.
The alliance of intellectual prowess and physical plant of the former CU will play nicely with the aggressive sports profile and PC history of Reed.

More info to follow.

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