Editor’s Note: Kim is here until 2020—what has he done so far?


Editor's Note: New CFO needs to bring financial confidence back

By Editor-in-Chief

Following an eventful three years as head of the college, President and CEO Kwang-Wu Kim’s contract was extended until June 2020, as reported on Page 3.

According to an Oct. 27 press release from the News Office and an email sent from Chairman Bill Wolf the same day, the board of trustees unanimously voted to extend the contract. 

The press release cited five notable elements of Kim’s collegewide Strategic Plan created during his time as Columbia’s tenth president as contributing as his main accomplishments as president. While the initiatives laid out in the press release are things Kim spearheaded during the plan’s first year of implementation, there is nothing to applaud just yet. The results of Kim’s plans have yet to be seen, and some haven’t even begun.

The outcomes of several of the accomplishments listed are still unknown, and some have also been heavily criticized by the college community. This includes the “launch of a comprehensive reinvention of the college’s curriculum,” the consolidation of collegewide career and internship services into the Career Center and Columbia’s recent rebranding strategy.

As for Kim’s curriculum plans, it’s true the college’s Universal Learning Outcome and Columbia Core committees were in full force last year determining the best educational values for students, but the college’s departments will not see the fruits of this labor for several years, if at all.  In some cases, curricular proposals have caused major outcry, including potential changes to Fashion Studies and most recently Theatre, as reported on Page 3. 

The same goes for the Career Center’s creation and the rebranding initiative. How can the college give kudos to changes so new that Columbia is unable to track their effects? Success might be reflected in better graduation and employment rates as well as rising enrollment or improved national reputation. However, these figures won’t be available for at least a year.

Lastly, the most questionable initiatives listed as the Strategic Plan’s—and therefore, Kim’s—accomplishments in the press release are the development of the proposed, five-floor student center as well as renovating other areas to “improve the student learning experience,” including the Getz Theater. While these are lofty and commendable plans, that is all they are currently: glorified goals. Both are still in early stages and have not even broken ground, let alone seen completion.

There has been no mention of who will design the building, slated to be completed for the Fall 2018 Semester, or most importantly, how the $40 million-$50 million center will be funded. 

Though it’s a step—one no other president has made—announcing and creating initial designs for a student center is not yet a major accomplishment, especially because questions about the promises have not been met with many answers. What would be, however, is showing logical steps forward that help the plan come to fruition in a timely manner. 

This is not to say Kim has not enjoyed any successes during his time at Columbia or that the contract extension should not have been expected. Since 2013, he has held several open forums and office hours to answer student questions, making access to the president easier than in previous administrations. The college has also seen a slightly improved retention rate with projections that the number will continue upward.

It’s not realistic to assume Kim could turn around the college in three years, nor was anyone expecting that. However, the misleading accomplishments taken from Kim’s presidency and his Strategic Plan in the Oct. 27 announcement prove that the college needs to evaluate initiatives or check on their progress before citing them as successes.


Correction: Columbia’s student center is slated to be completed for the Fall 2018 Semester, rather than the Fall 2017 Semester. The Chronicle regrets this error.