Change creates commotion

By Heather Scroering

The teams that will manage the college’s prioritization process and its timetable were announced at a town hall meeting on Sept. 15 led by President Warrick Carter and Anne Foley, vice president of Planning and Compliance and project manager of the prioritization process.

According to the timetable presented at the meeting, final decisions about programs that might be cut will take place during March and April of 2012. This will follow a period of data collection about college programs, scheduled for October through December, and a data analysis phase, slated for January and February.

Carter explained at the meeting, which was held at Film Row Cinema in the 1104 S. Wabash Ave. Building, that the process was, in part, being driven by declining enrollment figures and said the college was shocked by the reduction in student enrollment in 2009.

“It kind of woke us up,” Carter said. “We began to believe that growth was our birthright.”

The current situation is in stark contrast to the college’s  position in 2005, when it announced its five-year plan, “Vision 2010,” he said.  It was a time when “money was falling out of the sky.”

Foley said the college will not increase tuition to make up for decreased enrollment,  that “it is contrary to our mission.” Also stated in the mission is Columbia’s obligation to make the college affordable for students who would not otherwise be able to enroll, according to Foley. She said the new plan, “Focus 2016,” envisions more scholarship funding.

According to Carter, finances are not the only thing that pushed Columbia to prioritize. He believes it’s what the college should be doing already.

“This project is big, it’s bold, it’s brassy, but why not?” Carter said. “We’re Columbia College Chicago. We wouldn’t expect to do things small. We would expect ourselves to make big decisions and the right decisions for our future.”

He stressed the importance of keeping the process transparent and said change is not always painless.

Later, during a question and answer period, an audience member inquired, “in the light of transparency,” about the need for the Academic Strategy Partners, the consulting firm that is helping the college manage the process, and questioned the cost of the ASP group. This question prompted applause from the audience.

Foley responded that the college could not disclose information regarding the cost because the college is “under policy” with the Academic Strategy Partners, but it should be viewed as an “investment for the college.”

Another audience member asked whether the tenured faculty will be affected and if faculty access to the budget was possible, eliciting more applause from the audience.

“What we want to do are those decisions that are the best for the institution,” Carter responded.

Carter also said he hopes not to have any further reductions, but he is unsure of decisions that will be made.

The college will not begin any decision-making until January, he said. He gave the same answer regarding tenure.

Foley announced the two teams, each composed of 12 members from the faculty and staff, which will be assessing the academics and non-academics of the college.

The Academic Prioritization Team members are as follows: Shanita Akintonde, Suzanne Blum Malley, Jan Chindlund,  John Green, Darrell Jones, Terri Lonier, Brian Marth, Murphy Monroe,  Larissa Mulholland, Michael Niederman, Betsy Odom, Dominic Pacyga and Don Smith.

The Administration and Services Prioritization Team members and their departments are as follows: Donyiel Crocker, Facilities; Dick Dunscomb, Music; Mindy Faber, Interactive Arts and Media; Aldo Guzman, Student Engagement; Marsha Heizer, Information Technology; Abbie Kelley, School of FPA; Eric May, Fiction Writing; Amy Stewart, Admissions; Derrick Streater, Human Resources; Jennifer Waters, Student Financial Aid; and Andrew Whatley, School of LAS.

Foley described the prioritization process as “visionary.”

“This is why we’re doing the prioritization, so we have the resources, including just our time and energy, and also because, as we do it, we want to make certain that we’re capturing those ideas about those opportunities that we can advance,” she said.