Students and faculty at Columbia College Chicago held a protest rally and meeting Monday to denounce a planned reorganization of the school’s departments.
The meeting was held to discuss new recommendations made by Interim Provost Louise Love in her “Blueprint Prioritization” outline, which she delivered the previous week. Love recommended combining the school’s Fiction Department and other creative writing programs to make a collective Creative Writing Department.
Randy Albers, chair of the Fiction Writing Department and Ken Daley, chair of the English Department, were informed last month that their contracts were not being renewed.
Students and faculty say the decisions are “cannibalizing” the school’s reputation.
At the rally before the meeting, students and faculty carried signs outside that said “Eliminate Prioritization” and “Administration Gone Wild.”
Viki Gonia, 42, an adjunct faculty member in the Fiction Writing Department and friend of Albers, said during the rally that the decision not to rehire the chairs is “completely premature.”
“We’re concerned that decisions that really have everything to do with prioritization are being made prior to prioritization being complete,” she said.
Under prioritization, the Center for Black Music Research, the Chicago Jazz Ensemble, the Cultural Studies Department, and the Ellen Stone Belic Institute for the Study of Women and Gender in the Arts and Media will all be eliminated.
Daley said during the meeting that increasing the profile of the liberal arts school is the “single most important step the college can take to improve its standing among prospective students.”
“Eliminating a department called ‘English’ will undercut the profile of liberal arts,” he said, drawing applause.
Love appealed for calm, denying rumors that Columbia will become a for-profit college, in the middle of what she called “a giant ball of anxiety.”
The beginning of the meeting was disrupted by shouting student protesters. “The student body is the fabric of this community. Without us, you would be nothing,” they shouted.
Alexis Pride, director of graduate programs, said, “The members of the Fiction Writing Department…were promised that no decision would be made until the process was complete. Yet actions have been taken that indicate decisions have already been made. We do not believe that the Blueprint Prioritization is following its rules that it has set for itself in the name of transparency.”
“Prioritization” is another word for reducing the costs of operating the college. It encompasses many efforts by the college to cut costs. Administrators have said that the process is necessary because student enrollment is dropping.
Susan Imus, chair of Columbia’s graduate department of Dance Movement Therapy and Counseling, said the merging of the Dance Department and her department “minimizes the learning opportunities for students.”
The final decision will be made by the college board of trustees in June.