Top highlights of 2011–2012

By Heather Scroering

Blueprint prioritization process:

The yearlong prioritization process, which the college implemented last June to re-allocate funds and evaluate the strength of every academic and business program within the college, has been the talk of the campus all year. Two committees of faculty and staff members­—one focusing on academics, the other on business—were created to guide the process. No program escaped scrutiny, as each was evaluated by deans, assistant vice presidents, vice presidents, the provost and the prioritization teams. President Warrick L. Carter and the Board of Trustees are currently deciding whether to act on these recommendations. Their decisions will be announced in June. Some of the major proposed changes are as follows:

•A new Internet Media Production Department that will offer programs including mobile media, radio and writing for television, recommended by Louise Love, interim provost and vice president of Academic Affairs.

•A new Creative Writing program, also recommended by Love, though no details were offered in her recommendation.

•A more selective admissions policy to ensure student success from start to finish, recommended by the

Academic Team.

•A “decrease in resources” for The Chronicle and a shift to an online publication in two years, also recommended by the Academic Team.

G8, NATO derail spring semester:

Originally scheduled to take place simultaneously, the G8 and NATO summits were expected to occur May 15–22 at McCormick Place, 2301 S. Lake Shore Drive. As a result, Columbia’s academic calendar was modified, pushing the Manifest Urban Arts Festival forward to May 4 and Commencement ceremonies to May 5–6 instead of May 19–20. Before G8 was relocated to Camp David in Maryland, there was speculation that the college might shorten the semester by cutting spring break or condensing J-Term. While spring break survived, January classes were cut from three to two weeks so the spring semester could start sooner and end May 5 rather than May 15, as reported by The Chronicle on Sept. 12.

The Chicago Theatre to host 2012 Commencement ceremonies:

The NATO summit also affected the location for graduation. The ceremonies, usually hosted at the University of Illinois at Chicago Pavilion, 525 S. Racine Ave., were moved to the Chicago Theatre, 175 N. State St., because of the academic calendar modifications, as reported by The Chronicle on Nov. 14. Because the venue is smaller, there will be six ceremonies rather than three. The college plans to hold graduation at the UIC Pavilion again next year.

Occupy Columbia coalition:

Since its inception last September, the Occupy Wall Street movement has spread around the globe, raising issues such as unequal distribution of wealth and denial of social services to the poor. An offshoot of the movement called Occupy Columbia was formed in the fall. The group’s specific demands from the administration are to freeze tuition, stop the prioritization process, publish the college’s budget and do away with “bad faith bargaining and union busting tactics.”

The group meets weekly and has organized demonstrations outside of Carter’s office on the fifth floor of the Alexandroff Campus Center, 600 S. Michigan Ave., as reported by The Chronicle on Dec. 12. They also hosted a general assembly April 17 in Grant Park at Harrison Street and Michigan Avenue to voice dissatisfaction with the administration by holding a no confidence vote.

Gloria Steinem visits Columbia:

The famed feminist Gloria Steinem visited Columbia’s campus Feb. 7 as a special guest for the college’s Conversations in the Arts program, as reported by The Chronicle on Feb. 13. She spoke to a large crowd in Film Row Cinema at the Conaway Center, 1104 S. Wabash Ave., touching on topics including student loan deficits and the negative effects of a patriarchal society. Prior to her lecture, Steinem talked to students from women and gender studies courses and members of student feminist organization The F Word. Steinem was one of three keynote speakers of the program. Michael Beschloss, historian of American presidencies, visited March 8, and political figure Donna Brazile spoke on Oct. 24.

President Warrick L. Carter announces tuition increase:

Carter informed the student body in a Feb. 6 email of a 5.2 percent tuition increase beginning next semester, as reported by The Chronicle on Feb. 20. The email stated that the rise was “in line” with the national average for private colleges. However, according to The College Board, decisions from other colleges and universities were still being made at the time of Carter’s announcement, making it impossible to determine the national average of tuition increases of private colleges for the 2012–2013 academic year.

P-fac negotiations:

Columbia’s part-time faculty union, P-Fac, filed complaints with the National Labor Relations Board in March 2010, accusing the college of 36 unfair labor practices. While the union withdrew 31 of them, the NLRB upheld five, issuing a complaint Sept. 30 that included a finding that the college refused to collectively bargain with the union, as reported by The Chronicle on Oct. 17. Contract negotiations between P-Fac and the administration, which began in March 2010, were suspended on Oct. 28, when federal mediator Javier Ramirez stepped down. P-Fac contended the administration fired Ramirez, but the administration denied this, as reported by the Chronicle on March 12.

Attempting to restart the negotiation process, the administration offered a contract proposal on Dec. 19, which contained no salary increase. P-Fac has not formally rejected the contract but expressed its dissatisfaction with the offer to its membership. At present, the administration is attempting to resume negotiations via exchange of documents, a process the union rejects, as reported by The Chronicle on March 12. The college contested three of the ULPs at a hearing before a NLRB administrative law judge on Feb. 6–9, as reported by The Chronicle Feb. 20. The decision has not yet been announced, but Annice Kelly, vice president of Legal Affairs and General Counsel, said in the same story the verdict is likely to be delivered in May.

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