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.)
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.