Opinion | Staff Editorials

Fire M. Dianne Murphy

The Columbia football team lost its ninth straight game this season on Saturday, falling to Cornell 24-9. This as yet winless season has raised questions about the performance of head coach Pete Mangurian, who is only two years into his tenure.

To us, though, it seems that Columbia is troubled by problems in both its athletic record and in the role of athletics. It’s time for University President Lee Bollinger to fire Athletic Director M. Dianne Murphy and bring in new leadership for the department.

While Murphy’s time at Columbia began in 2004 with a number of successes, the last few years have seen a dearth of victories. Columbia team sports have won only four Ivy titles in the last three years. Murphy’s first hire in football, former head coach Norries Wilson, was unsuccessful, and he was fired after a 1-9 season two years ago. Under Mangurian—a former co-worker of Murphy’s—the team is the worst it has been since a 44-game losing streak in the 1980s. Bad luck and injuries do not excuse being outscored 354-66 by your opponents.

But it’s not just the marquee sports that have been generally unsuccessful during Murphy’s tenure. Despite individual triumphs, Columbia sports teams have been spectacularly unsuccessful at winning Ivy titles. Furthermore, the successes in Murphy’s early years were likely due to hires that predated her. Murphy’s tenure still represents an improvement over those of her predecessors, but the change has been insufficient. At a school that fields 31 varsity athletic teams in a conference with only eight schools, these results are entirely unacceptable. Were the results randomly distributed, you would expect Columbia to have hauled in approximately 12 titles during the same time interval. We expect better.

This is about far more than a losing record, though. We’re also extremely concerned with the perception and role of athletics on campus. Our community values athletics as a part of the Core Curriculum: Students in Columbia College and the School of Engineering and Applied Science are required to complete two semesters of physical education. Murphy holds the title of “director of physical education,” but we find her commitment to undergraduates—particularly to those who do not play varsity sports—lacking. Murphy’s signature initiative was the construction of the Campbell Sports Center at Baker Athletics Complex, a facility for varsity sports teams. While this building may have been necessary, Dodge Fitness Center hasn’t been renovated in nearly 20 years. Murphy has hidden behind the logistics and difficulty of a complete overhaul, but this does not legitimize the extent to which Dodge has been neglected. Dodge is a facility that is used by undergraduate and graduate students, as well as by professors and non-affiliates. It is desperately in need of complete refurbishment. 

The attitude of the athletic department is set at the top, and that tone has been toxic during Murphy’s tenure. Since her arrival, she and her staff have clashed with the rest of the University: They tried to prohibit tailgating and alcohol at Baker Field during Murphy’s first year, hindered club sports teams trying to find practice space, attempted to ban the marching band from the final football game of the 2011 season, and have persistently strained relationships with campus media that attempt to cover teams and spread community interest.

Under Murphy’s direction, sports teams have been involved in controversial incidents with no public repercussions. During the last year alone, the field hockey team was involved in a hazing scandal, while the football team came under fire in the spring for persistent use of racist and homophobic language against fellow students on Twitter. No public consequences were announced for the teams involved, and Murphy’s department has worked to sweep the issues under the rug. Athletics is largely about perception and image, and under Murphy, the reputation of the athletic department has plummeted.

The next athletic director would not only be responsible for assessing Mangurian’s employment, but also—and more importantly—would shape the role of athletics at Columbia. We’d like to see someone who understands the needs and desires of the larger Columbia community. We’d like to see someone who treats all undergraduates with respect. We’d like to see someone who makes working for the whole community his or her top priority. And we’d like to see someone who’s committed not only to fielding competitive and winning teams in all sports, but also to making sure these achievements are valued in the campus community.

Only by finding new leadership can we solve the problems surrounding the athletic department.

Meet the editorial board »

To respond to this staff editorial, or to submit an op-ed, contact opinion@columbiaspectator.com

Correction: An earlier version of this editorial reported that Dodge Fitness Center has not been renovated in over 30 years; it was last renovated in 1995. Spectator regrets the error.

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Anonymous posted on

Well written. Just one thing: "controversial incidents" should be "criminal incidents" instead. As a result, Bollinger is directly involved and culpable, and should be fired too.

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tv posted on

nice, very reasonable comment, well-thought-out, good job, A+

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Jim Pagels posted on

Bravo, e-board. Very well said.

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phlegmington posted on

Fair enough. But you've got to admit that there is a certain schadenfreude coming from some segments of the Columbia community...and that's a g-damn shame.

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Alum posted on

One hundred percent agree. She is sorely underperforming in her job at one of the best universities in the nation, and this should not be tolerated.

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Rich Forzani '66C posted on

Extremely well said. I am an ardent proponent of her termination, for all the reasons stated above.
Perhaps the most important is that, for all her compensation and for all the AD monies expended in total, there has been no performance. Logically, statistically and objectively, the job has not been done. We have not gotten our money's worth.

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Anonymous posted on

Addendum: "Our community values athletics as a part of the Core Curriculum" ...when it concerns us.

Support should flow both ways in the Athletics Dept. Maybe show up to a game now and then and the teams might feel the support and therefore have an extra advantage in a nail biter overtime loss that could have been a win.

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Anonymous posted on

Very curious to know which one of Columbia's football games this year counts as this "nail biter overtime loss" of which you speak!

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Anonymous posted on

Try soccer, basketball, field hockey, volleyball... All of these teams are consistently contenders in their respective sports, and all of them have won or lost matches by a matter of seconds or points. Rally behind these athletes, get them fired up, and help them get that W. It means so much to them to have their family/friends/classmates/suitemates/random acquaintances show up and cheer them on. The world doesn't revolve around football.

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Anonymous posted on

Well said, and even handed. A good description of a bad situation.
The problem many like me have with the Columbia athletic department is their implicit acceptance, not of mediocrity, but of absolute failure. Our expectation and hope, dashed every year, is simply for competency. We would like titles, of course, but just give us decent teams. This is directly attributable to the athletic department and its director.

AD Dianne Murphy has delivered exactly 8 titles to Columbia in her past 5 years, out of over 160 possible. This is an average of 1.6 per year. This is not parity or competitiveness or competence; this is failure. And it reflects and repeats down thru the entire department.

This has nothing to do with personality or politics; it is simply numbers. And they speak for themselves.

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Eleazar Melendez posted on

It sounds like this woman deserves to be fired, but, come on, Spec, "strained relationships with campus media that attempt to cover teams and spread community interest" sounds like belly-aching.

Really, you guys should know better than to complain about someone not returning your emails in a friggin' editorial.

Eleazar David Meléndez
Depurty News Editor
129th Spectator Managing Board

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CC '14 posted on

It's a lot more than not returning emails. Try: hostile relationships with reporters, refusal to give interviews after less-than-positive coverage, general untimeliness and unhelpfulness. WKCR can't see left field at Robertson because they're not allowed in the new press booth; they broadcast the games from the press box above the football stadium.

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Anonymous posted on

Well said, and even handed. A good description of a bad situation.
The problem many like me have with the Columbia athletic department is their implicit acceptance, not of mediocrity, but of absolute failure. Our expectation and hope, dashed every year, is simply for competency. We would like titles, of course, but just give us decent teams. This is directly attributable to the athletic department and its director.

AD Dianne Murphy has delivered exactly 8 titles to Columbia in her past 5 years, out of over 160 possible. This is an average of 1.6 per year. This is not parity or competitiveness or competence; this is failure. And it reflects and repeats down thru the entire department.

This has nothing to do with personality or politics; it is simply numbers. And they speak for themselves.

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Michael posted on

It's not her fault that we suck

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Anonymous posted on

It is actually. She is in charge of hiring all the coaches and all the recriutment.

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Anonymous posted on

The editorial is right on. But the firing should include Coach Mangurian to give the new AD an opportunity to find new leadership for the woeful football team. His teams have been less competitive than any in the history of the university, including during the infamous 44 game losing streak

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UnionLeague posted on

I disagree with the article. Columbia has had recent success and Championships in many of the sports it engages in. I would only mention the most obvious such as Baseball, Track, Tennis, Golf and Fencing. The Basketball Organization is on the "rebound", pun intended, and quite frankly with some more focus and effort it could field an excellent Team. THE PROBLEM IS SPECIFIC TO FOOTBALL! An organization with historical issues going back to the 1960s. The fact remains that Football at Columbia is the victim of Institutional disinterest at best, and more than a generous helping of Institutional disdain. As they say, the fish stinks from the head down and I'm not talking about Dr. Murphy, but rather the entire Presidential Palace and the Board. What the powers that be don't realize, is that athletic performance does affect the reputation of the University in so far as repeated failures are indicative of Institutional shortcomings and the inability to manage resources and personnel choices effectively. If the man at the top does not start to take an active interest in the Columbia Football Team and it's role in the College then I cannot be optimistic about future results. In addition to active Presidential interest, the Football Organization needs a brain trust to address and fix the Football problem permanently. If Dr. Murphy can't fix the problem by herself, she must have a larger Council of Interested Parties that will guide the program to new found success.

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Anonymous posted on

Dodge is the sweaty armpit of the Columbia lion.

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Alum posted on

Murphy should do the honorable thing and resign. Mangurian should also resign. This should happen after the last football game. Enough is enough.

It really hurts that Columbia is really starting to pick up momentum as a great school to go to...but, then there is this ugly stain.

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CU_Alum posted on

I agree with most of this editorial. But the editors are being simplistic about the Campbell Sports Center and the Dodge gym.

The coaches, etc. in Campbell used to be crammed into Dodge. Their former space has been freed up for other uses. Varsity athletes who now work out at Campbell are no longer tying up equipment in Dodge that other students could use. So building Campbell should help make Dodge more useful to everyone else. It should also make renovating Dodge easier, since there are now fewer occupants to work around.

Also, it would have been very difficult to renovate Dodge while the NWC building was under construction above it. Just keeping Dodge open during that construction was a feat, which added millions to the cost of NWC. The construction of NWC consumed roughly half the time Dr. Murphy has been on the job, and even more once you account for the planning stage. So it's not fair to say she's had nine years to renovate Dodge. She's really had about three.

Remember that it costs money to build or renovate facilities. Money was available for Campbell before it became available for renovating Dodge, so Campbell was built first. That's not a failure by Dr. Murphy.

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Anonymous posted on

While I agree, I also feel that Campbell wasn't needed just yet. The majority of the athletes used Dodge as their primary athletic facility. Money should have been spent on Dodge first, and then Campbell. Dodge is awful, and no one can deny that. I understand space is also a key issue, but I feel that someone at this university would be smart enough to come up with a way to make this happen.

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Anonymous posted on

Dodge is already slated to be renovated in 2014. It was not scheduled to start until Campbell was fully open and operational.

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Anonymous posted on

For a school that was able to develop the Manhattan Project, surely, we can find a way to field a competitive football team. I don't buy the usual excuses, the team has to travel 20 minutes, the students don't care, etc., blah, blah, blah.
I have a friend who attended Fordham and she had trouble getting a ticket recently to a football game since the team sells out in the Bronx! This is the same Fordham that had a record of 1-10 a couple of seasons ago.
Call me a fair weather fan, but before the season started, I was looking forward to spending some afternoons at Baker Field. Seeing the lackluster performance and outrageous losses this season, I figured spending an afternoon watching my school get embarrassed wasn't appealing and decided to spend my time doing something else. Unfortunately, this does play a role in alumni and student involvement, which makes attending a game hardly enjoyable and, of course, causes the school not to sell tickets and generate $$$.
I get it that the team suffered serious injuries, but c'mon, that should be expected in a season and other teams have been able to manage having a respectable season.

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Blanco Niño posted on

You know what else hasn't been renovated in over 30 years? M. Dianne's haircut.

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Sloppy posted on

Ed Board:
If you're going to demand someone's head, at least bother to do some research. You undermined your own credibility. Let's review:

1) "Furthermore, the successes in Murphy’s early years were likely due to hires that predated her."

Were likely due?! Mealy-mouthed speculation. All you had to do was look up which sports won those championships (surely you could've just searched your online archives), checked who the head coach of the team was that season, and checked if their tenure predated Murphy's appointment. Given the dearth of championships at issue, that shouldn't have taken too long, and if substantiated would have been a fairly damning piece of evidence. Instead you took a blind shot.

2) "Dodge Fitness Center hasn’t been renovated in more than 30 years."

Dodge Fitness Center as you know it is the result of a massive renovation *18* years ago. But what's a few decades (and credibility) between friends?

Sure it's hard to fact check something like that, especially if it isn't already recorded somewhere easy to find, like the WikiCU article for Dodge. Oh wait. It's right there: "the Tri-Level fitness center was opened after renovation in 1998[.]" But how can you rely on wikiCU? Good thing that quoted text came with a citation to a Spectator article:

The Spectator (September 2007): "Dodge Fitness Center averaged 2,000 visitors a day when the gym area opened in 1998." http://www.columbiaspectator.com/2007/09/20/dodge-boasts-new-equipment-student-popularity

Of course, that spec article was wrong – the newly renovated fitness areas in Dodge opened in 1995:

* Dodge Renovations (Feb 1995) http://spectatorarchive.library.columbia.edu/cgi-bin/columbia?a=d&d=cs19950216-01.2.5
* New Look for Dodge (Sept 1995) http://spectatorarchive.library.columbia.edu/cgi-bin/columbia?a=d&d=cs19950905-01.2.49
* Fine Tuning The New Fitness Center (October 1995) http://spectatorarchive.library.columbia.edu/cgi-bin/columbia?a=d&d=cs19951010-01.2.8

The Record (1996): "So far, three phases [of AD John Reeve's facilities improvement plan] have been completed: the $10 million strength room; equal locker room facilities for men and women, and the multi-level fitness center, including a renovated indoor track, classrooms and crew training area." http://www.columbia.edu/cu/record/archives/vol22/vol22_iss11/record2211.21.html

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Columbia Spectator's picture
Columbia Spectator posted on

Thanks for pointing that out about Dodge's renovation. We've corrected it above.

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Coach Haynes - RICE HS posted on

Lets be truthful sports is sports whether its pee-wee football or the pros its not just about winning but being truly competitive, showing sportsmanship and in Columbia's case developing student-athletes. Coach K, Pitino and Calhoun all whom I've had conversations with had difficult and losing seasons before winning heck Pitino got fired by the Boston Celtics and Coach K almost by DUKE!

I must ask where were you when Columbia returned from battle against #1 ranked Michigan St. had we won all of us would have been on Broadway with another toilet parade remember football ! KEEP IT REAL the Columbia Expansion into HARLEM should serve two purposes EDUCATION and ATHLETICS. NCAA Div. 1 coaches come from all over the country to recruit NYC athletes but yet we won't take the time to foster minority student-athletes to ASPIRE for an IVY league education. What do I know I only coached five McDonalds All-Americans at RICE and am the only assistant coach in NYS history to have won both the CHSAA and PSAL City Championship.

AS FOR MURPHY BUILDING RENOVATIONS HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH WINNING OR COACHING THATS A BUDGET ISSUE WE HAD NO GYM AT RICE HS !!!!! SHE HIRED THE CURENT BBALL COACH AND IF YOU WERE AT THE MANHATTAN GAME YOU COULD SEE COLUMBIA MAY FINALLY BE HEADING IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION.

IN CLOSING IN ORDER TO WIN YOU MUST FIRST LEARN HOW TO LOSE.......

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Coach Haynes - RICE HS posted on

Lets be truthful sports is sports whether its pee-wee football or the pros its not just about winning but being truly competitive, showing sportsmanship and in Columbia's case developing student-athletes. Coach K, Pitino and Calhoun all whom I've had conversations with had difficult and losing seasons before winning heck Pitino got fired by the Boston Celtics and Coach K almost by DUKE!

I must ask where were you when Columbia returned from battle against #1 ranked Michigan St. had we won all of us would have been on Broadway with another toilet parade remember football ! KEEP IT REAL the Columbia Expansion into HARLEM should serve two purposes EDUCATION and ATHLETICS. NCAA Div. 1 coaches come from all over the country to recruit NYC athletes but yet we won't take the time to foster minority student-athletes to ASPIRE for an IVY league education. What do I know I only coached five McDonalds All-Americans at RICE and am the only assistant coach in NYS history to have won both the CHSAA and PSAL City Championship.

AS FOR MURPHY BUILDING RENOVATIONS HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH WINNING OR COACHING THATS A BUDGET ISSUE WE HAD NO GYM AT RICE HS !!!!! SHE HIRED THE CURENT BBALL COACH AND IF YOU WERE AT THE MANHATTAN GAME YOU COULD SEE COLUMBIA MAY FINALLY BE HEADING IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION.

IN CLOSING IN ORDER TO WIN YOU MUST FIRST LEARN HOW TO LOSE.......

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Anonymous posted on

What is NOT said in this editorial, is the homophobic prejudice by SPECTATOR staff.

Dianne Murphy is a classy individual who has done an excellent job on balance.

Attack someone else for a change.

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Anonymous posted on

Lol

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Anonymous posted on

Are you reading the same article? Where is the homophobia and where does it say anything about her not being classy? I think it is only fair for someone to ask questions about her job security when football performs the way it does after she throws all that money at the program and is in charge of hiring coaches? Clearly, football is her and Campbell's top priority and when you put all your eggs in that basket, you should be held accountable.

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Anonymous posted on

The entire football team ahouldbbe dimissed. We do have a good fencing team though.

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Anonymous posted on

and a Top 10 Men's Cross Country team in the nation.

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Anonymous posted on

Yes, we do. And Dr. Murphy can't name a single member of the team. How's that for leadership?

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Anonymous posted on

A welcome relief. Imagine the disasters that would befall XC if Murphy took an interest in the team?

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Anonymous posted on

Thank god she doesn't. Staying away from her is clearly doing them right.

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Anonymous posted on

Plenty of skeletons in this women's closet. Hiring/firing practices, bullying of employees and athletes rank top. Overall management of programs and particular failure of m/w basketball and football to win in league is primary reason for regime change. There is a bigger story here if someone digs and connects the dots. Ms. Murphy is a sound $ raiser though. This will likely save her . Yet her method and style as an administrator lacks respect and dignity. Ultimately this tone seeps into her department and impacts the results and performances of coaches and players...sad, very sad.

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