Outdoor Sports Clubs at Columbia Are In Trouble

Why sports are at a standstill on campus.

For many Columbia-Barnard community members, the athletic aspect of student life has not yet proved fulfilling. Due to prolonged Columbia Club Sports policy discussions, outdoor sports clubs have experienced difficulty organizing trips and events. According to a statement released by Columbia Ski and Snowboard Club, the Columbia administration is initiating a total operational stop on the Club Sports Department until new guidelines are finalized.

“Neither the season nor any trips have been officially canceled,” Columbia Ski and Snowboard Co-Captain Parker Jordan Mergelkamp said. “However, we are having trouble proceeding with planning currently due to the Columbia Administration.” 

In September, a Columbia student tragically passed away in an accident during an overnight trip with the Columbia Kayaking Club. Subsequently, policies were implemented to prioritize the safety of all club sports members. 

Meanwhile, Columbia Hiking Club says they have been unable to lead trips, whether day hikes or overnight backpacking trips, due to broad travel restrictions and the lack of a timeline for finalized policies.

“We would like to reiterate that this decision doesn’t come from us, but from Columbia’s legal team,” the Board of CU Hiking said in an email to members in October. “If there was anything we could do to get back out on the trails together, we absolutely would.”

Furthermore, the Club Sports Governing Board received almost $200,000 less from Columbia this year due to increased spending across the university, resulting in underfunded budgets for club sports compared to previous years. Additionally, the new policies require faculty members to attend overnight trips and drive vehicles, which complicates fee coverage and routine processes even more. 

“We fear that the 29 percent decrease in our allocation from last year would render the club almost fiscally impossible to operate,” Ski and Snowboard said. “We have used the club’s access to vans to provide medical coverage in the event of an injury on the mountain. We do not see how students who are over 21, with valid driver’s licenses, and who pass the Columbia-mandated van driver training, are less prepared to operate a van than an approved Columbia advisor who would have the same training and approval process.”

As alternatives to regular club activities, many students have been organizing trips on their own through group chats and information sessions, even if that means small hiking groups going upstate or skiing at indoor facilities. Nevertheless, a significant damper on student life will persist until policy decisions are finalized.

“This was a devastating accident and our deepest sympathies are with her family and friends,” the Ski and Snowboard said. “We are willing to work with the administration to find ways to alleviate any concerns they have going forward regarding safety.”

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