Editor’s Note: Kim’s contract extension a defensive act by college officials

By Ariana Portalatin, Editor-In-Chief

Eight days after the C-Fac union and OurColumbia coalition called for President and CEO Kwang-Wu Kim’s resignation, the Board of Trustees extended his contract through the 2023–2024 academic year. What may come off to some as a routine decision made by trustees actually seems to be a message to those who favored the president’s removal and question the college’s actions.

Kim was appointed president and CEO in 2013, and his three-year contract was extended in 2016 through June 2020, as reported Oct. 27, 2016, by The Chronicle.

Kim was not due for another contract renewal until 2020. Why was it renewed now? Not only was it renewed early, but it was extended for one year longer than the previous contract.

According to an Oct. 25 collegewide announcement, Kim’s contract was renewed unanimously by the Board.

“The college is fortunate to have Dr. Kim as its president and CEO,” Board of Trustees Chairman Bill Wolf said in the announcement. “His leadership and vision for the college’s future, and his respect and appreciation for Columbia’s proud history is essential to guiding the college through these challenging times.”

While the board’s vote was unanimous, Kim does not have everyone’s vote at the college. Community members have demanded his removal and faculty dissatisfaction has reached new heights, as reported on the Front Page.

Kim’s leadership has reported many accomplishments we must keep in mind: Progress made on Strategic Plan goals, the centralized Career Center, implementation of diversity initiatives, improvements of the college’s online education platforms and increases in donations and student financial aid.

However, many problems still exist, and while the college is working to solve its most pressing challenges, such as enrollment and retention, it’s crucial for the college to communicate with transparency and address critiques of the president and other college officials. How can students and faculty trust a process or officials they know little about and rarely see?

For an administration so highly criticized, they do little to actually address specific critiques. While Kim makes appearances at regular campus events and hosts open office hours, the campus community still rarely sees him, and there are many students who only know him by name.

This is even worse for other college officials, such as Senior Vice President and Provost Stan Wearden and the Board of Trustees. The administration makes a minimal effort to make themselves visible to the people they serve. Additionally, little is known about the process of presidential contract renewal. Failure to connect with students and faculty makes it extremely difficult to support them when tough or controversial decisions are made.

As of press time, Kim has not addressed the Oct. 17 press conference by C-Fac and OurColumbia. There have been no appearances, no press releases, no speeches and no emails. The only response is a contract renewal that boasts Kim’s accomplishments.

To renew Kim’s contract without addressing positions taken during the press conference is careless and a clear sign of defense by the college. While not saying much of anything, this course of action speaks volumes. It says the college does not care what students and faculty think. They will blindly support the president no matter the number of people questioning his ability and performance. Who cares that this isn’t the first time people have rallied outside of his office? Who cares that people question the administration’s motives? As long as things look good at face value, that is all the administration needs.

Update:

Vice President of Strategic Communication and External Relations Mark Rosati sent an email to The Chronicle Oct. 26 stating the Board’s reason for renewing Kim’s contract this year. 

“The Board felt the time was right to secure Dr. Kim’s long-term commitment to Columbia based upon all the progress we’ve made since 2013 and to maintain our momentum,” Rosati said. “The college is searching for a new provost, and having stability in the president’s office also will help us to recruit top candidates for that vital position.”

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