Give your input on Strategic Plan

By Editor-in-Chief

For those of us at Columbia whose academic existence was touched even minutely by Prioritization, being wary of the new Strategic Plan is a natural response. Years later, faculty, staff and students still feel the bitter pinch of former President Warrick Carter’s failed attempt at something similar.

 But the new initiative, spearheaded by President Kwang-Wu Kim and Senior Vice President and Provost Stan Wearden, is far from the fiasco that was Blueprint Prioritization, the initiative that spawned ill-considered suggestions such as the dissolution of the Cultural Studies program and the ASL-English Interpretation Department. 

It is apparent that the administration is weaving its promises of transparency and inclusion into its latest endeavor. Utilizing the online forum website Civic Commons and various roundtable discussions, the college is serious about including the input of its constituents and synthesizing multiple perspectives to achieve cohesive goals.

 The first issue the college plans to discuss is enrollment. Kicking off the series of roundtable events, it will engage various faculty and community members will meet on Nov. 5. In keeping with a trend of continuously declining enrollment, the college is operating with fewer students this fall semester than the previous year.

 Considering enrollment has such a far-reaching effect, it is admirable that the college has chosen it as the inaugural topic for the drafting process. Increased attendance provides more revenue, money that may help fund the college’s mission of providing more scholarship support.

 One key to fixing the issue of enrollment lies in offering classes and curriculum that interest the student body, though, which is why the Oct. 29 email from the Office of the Provost regarding the reduction of the offerings of the Humanities, History and Social Science Department’s “Gay and Lesbian Studies I” mystifies me.

 Reaction to the change led Wearden to respond in his Oct. 29 email with, “The fact is that we, like other colleges and universities across the U.S., have had to respond to declining undergraduate enrollment. Yet rather than cutting courses from our strong, diverse curriculum, we responded by limiting the sections available per course based on enrollment.”

 But the numbers do not match the claim. A popular class among students, its sections have always filled or seen robust enrollment, particularly last semester, according to OASIS records. I understand eliminating sections that do not draw enough enrollment, but when the reduction of sections creates enough dissatisfaction that the Provost feels the need to respond, there is a flaw in the logic.

 In his Oct. 29 email, Wearden invited the Columbia community to get involved in the strategic planning process, especially if they have concerns about issues such as “GALS” or other courses.

 I wholeheartedly agree with Wearden’s appeal, and I hope students take it to heart. While the Student Government Association represents the interests of students, its existence does not always guarantee that each individual voice is going to be heard.

 The use of the Civic Commons website during this strategic planning process does, though. Students can voice their acceptance or displeasure with their programs, the curriculum or the general direction of the college. 

 This is the student body’s chance to help shape the college. I implore each student, regardless of year or major, to participate in this process. It is not often that students at any college are given a chance like this. To not take it is to forfeit any right to complain.