G-8, NATO derail spring semester

By Darryl Holliday

Thanks to governments around the world, March spring break may be canceled or shortened.

It’s either that or a shorter J-term.

Because of the weeklong 38th G-8 Summit being held at McCormick Place, 2301 S. Lakeshore Dr. next spring, activists around the country have begun planning mass protests to which Columbia’s campus will occupy a front row seat.

The meeting, the second time in history where two international summits will be held simultaneously in the same city, will bring global dignitaries and their entourages to downtown Chicago in late May 2012—coinciding with Columbia’s annual Manifest celebration and Commencement.

“They’ll be right in our backyard, right here,” said President Warrick L. Carter at the faculty convocation on Sept. 2. “We’ve got to leave our community—the secret service will probably not allow us to be down here.”

Crowds of approximately 30,000 people are expected to descend on the South Loop to protest visiting political officials—many of whom will be staying at hotels surrounding Columbia’s campus—leading to safety concerns and a change in routine for faculty and students.

According to local union activist Joe Iosbaker, an initial meeting to plan for the summit garnered around 200 people, despite the event being nine months away.

The intervening time will be spent organizing and obtaining marching permits for what Iosbaker expects will be “tens of thousands” of protestors at “the largest event in seven or eight years.”

Columbia will likely have to move the last week of the semester back two weeks in order to get classes finished and students out of the Loop.

But the college isn’t to blame if spring break or J-term are shortened or done away with altogether. The city’s Department of Transportation, which oversees event permits—such as the one Columbia would need to host Manifest—only accepts permit proposals within the year the event will take place. A submission for Manifest would not be accepted until January 2012.

However, with so many people expected to gather in the Loop for the summit, space for Manifest seems unlikely.

Columbia’s three deans, Vice President of Academic Affairs and Interim Provost Louise Love and other department chairs—including Film and Video Department Chair Bruce Sheridan—received an email last week from Columbia’s administration informing them of the upcoming decision.

According to Sheridan, the administration also asked him and other faculty members for their opinions on the options at hand.

“It’s really a matter of what’s the greatest good for the greatest number of students,” Sheridan said.

Though he said the college would have liked to have known sooner about the city’s G-8 and NATO summit plans, he noted the school should make a decision soon, so students can proceed with the school year knowing what is ahead.

“For the Film and Video Department, shortening J-term by one week is ideal because we have ways of adjusting term courses to fit that period,” Sheridan said.

“If we had to lose spring break, I could see that as the next choice—but not my first choice. It just depends on how much they have to move it by.”

A decision from Columbia’s administration can be expected soon so students and faculty can plan accordingly.

According to a written statement from Love, “At this time, the college has not determined if the dates for commencement will be changed due to Chicago hosting the G-8 conference in May. We expect to make an announcement in the coming weeks.”