It’s time for The Blue and White’s October issue!  This month, the staff of the magazine takes its first foray into the world of Columbia Athletics with our Fall Sports section.  Throughout the next few days, we’ll be rolling out selected stories from the section so you can get a head start.  First up: PE Dispatches, direct from the front lines.

dispatchP.E. Dispatches 

By Paul Barndt

And you thought you were done. To the many Columbians who missed the fine print about the two-semester PE requirement: we sympathize, and we’re here to help. We bring you dispatches from the front, the class students have survived, and, yes, enjoyed. For those of you who have completed the required stint, keep in mind that you receive credit for up to four PE class—don your mesh shorts and wristbands, and get back out there.



Gordon Spencer brings an aged, mellow wisdom to his diving class, which he’s taught almost fifty times. Show up five minutes late, leave ten minutes early, it’s all good, man. He’s also got a bone-dry sense of humor; if you belly flop, you’ll hear your gym-mates laughing as you surface and wonder what Gordon said that cracked everyone up.

Continue reading after the jump…

Spencer’s initial announcement that the focus of the first few classes would be feet-first diving made this young man’s unathletic knees shake with glee, but if you want to be good, you have to be willing to do flips off the high dive at the end of the semester. The less ambitious can always hide out in the hot tub by the side of the pool. Diving is an explosive sport, and a big part of staying safe and healthy is keeping those muscles warm.

If you stay in too long, Gordon may admonish—“Hey, are you relaxing in there instead of doing your back dives?”—but look closer, and you’ll see the corners of his mouth breaking into a smile.


“Ever since man has first picked up the stick, he has wanted to fight other man.” This is Aladar Kolger speaking—Dr. Aladar, that is, though no one seems to be sure of what.  It is the first day of fencing class, and he has to teach the history of fighting.

Coming from this man, nothing is a surprise.  Until 1975, he taught fighting proper—real men, bare chests, Austria. The epée is a demotion. But Dr. Kolger still beams as he forces you to stand in unnatural positions and thrust your coiled limbs. He is renowned for his exacting demand—that you handle the weapon as though you were caressing a woman’s nipple.  He is also not ashamed of his large package, prominently displayed through his tight athletic pants.

The bottom line: you will not learn to fence. The fun starts when you stop trying.


More than any other gym class at Columbia, SCUBA—the word is short for Self Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus—is a sport of contradictions.  On the one hand, it is the only one that requires its students to master the contents of a 260-page textbook. On the other, it requires virtually no physical exertion on the part of its participants. When it comes right down to it, you’re being  taught how to breathe swimming around at the bottom of the pool while lap swimmers work out above.

The teacher of the class, an employee of the Midtown diving-supply store that rents out equipment for class, is certainly well-versed in his “sport”—although some complain that his answers to student inquiries always seem to involve an additional purchase from his store.  “It is a very-equipment-intensive class,” he told us on the first day in reference to the $200 class fee and additional $200 we would be forced to spend on personal gear.  “If anyone can’t afford it, feel free to drop out now.”



A gaggle of students wait outside the gates for a bus. It is 8:30 a.m. on a Saturday morning. The bus picks them up and takes them to a state park. The afternoon is spent ostensibly hiking—many students cancel out the exercise by smoking, while the more intrepid branch off and screw in the woods. Word to the fat: to qualify for the course, you need to be able to walk four miles in under an hour.