Students should pay attention to prioritization

By Brianna Wellen

Terms such as Program Information Requests, listening forums and priority ranking may sound foreign to Columbia students. However, they are terms that are currently shaping the future of the college. Columbia is in the midst of a prioritization process that is placing every aspect of the college under the microscope. While the process seems tedious and perhaps boring on the surface, it’s worth students’ time to pay attention and understand what’s going on.

The first round of evaluations was on the nonacademic side, putting programs such as recycling at risk. During listening forums, program representatives were allowed to defend their programs, make a case or agree with decisions made during the priority ranking process. A surprisingly low number of people turned up to defend the programs in question—which either means that people agreed with the rankings or didn’t care enough to argue.

With academic rankings right around the corner, the prioritization process will begin to directly affect students’ education more and more. Students, staff and faculty should start tracking this process more closely to be in a position to stand up for programs they value.

Columbia offers unique classes, curriculum and student experiences, to say the least. For an outside group, it seems nearly impossible to understand some of the particular details that work together to create our niche academic environment.

With proper input from all parties involved, there can be a collaborative give-and-take to maintain programs that make Columbia unique while still distributing resources in an efficient way.

Unfortunately, not everyone can win in this process. Each department will obviously want the most for itself in order to to keep Columbia growing with the high standards set by the school. This gives even more incentive to stay in the know throughout the various phases; no one should assume the class, equipment or program they hold dear is safe.

Analyzing the distribution of resources is a good move to make Columbia more efficient and improve the education of students. However, there is always pushback to any change. Even if the changes are positive, a sudden shift in priorities could cause uproar among the Columbia community. While students should be paying more attention, Columbia should also be promoting the changes more publicly at each stage of the process to ensure transparency. This shouldn’t take place behind closed doors.

While the administration claims they’re pushing transparency, most of the information is available only to faculty and staff who have access to IRIS. Students are still virtually left in the dark when it comes to the official documents.

Prioritization is only one step in a series of changes coming down the pipeline. Columbia’s Focus 2016 initiative will continue to evolve programs, departments, finances and enrollment at the college. Students who don’t pay attention now—especially underclassmen—may be blindsided with even bigger changes later.