P-Fac: ‘No confidence’ in college administration


vote of no confidence


Columbia’s Part-Time Faculty organization overwhelmingly voted no confidence in President and CEO Kwang-Wu Kim and his administration, according to a Sept. 30 P-Fac press release provided by Nancy Traver, an adjunct professor in the Communication & Media Innovation Department and P-Fac publicity chair. 

The voting period, which began June 24, was extended twice to include non-union and inactive adjuncts before closing Sept. 25. 

The union cited 10 instances in the past academic year that called for a vote of no confidence, including refusal of a complete transparent budget, “drastic” changes to the college for financial reasons, the failure to honor the college’s mission in the Strategic Plan, “the hiring of six new [highly] paid administrators,” top-down decision making, cutting course offerings and class sections, the elimination of the First-Year Seminar Department, the move to a university model, failure to honor the collective bargaining agreement and failure to bargain in good faith with United Staff of Columbia College and finalize a contract. 

“I hope [the administration] recognizes our reasons for launching the vote of no confidence,” Traver said. “We want the college to more closely follow the [college’s] original mission of the college.”

Dick Kiphart, chair of the board of trustees, said he absolutely does not support the vote of no confidence and has full faith in Kim. He said the board of trustees has “bent over backwards” for P-Fac by hiring lawyers and being the first to get them a signed contract. 

“We did everything that they asked us to do,” Kiphart said. “In the meantime, Kwang-Wu has been fantastic.”

The ballot said voters could either vote yes or no to having “no confidence in the present administration at Columbia College Chicago.” P-Fac’s official website states the organization has “no confidence in the Kim Administration and the board of trustees at Columbia College Chicago.”

Kiphart said he does not think these claims are justified.

“We love P-Fac and Columbia would not exist without P-Fac,” Kiphart said. “We will do everything we think is appropriate to help them because we love those guys.” 

Administrators did not comment on the vote. However, in a May 10 Q&A with The Chronicle, Kim said a similar petition created last spring by the protest group “SaveColumbia” calling for a vote of no confidence from the college community felt like a gesture. He said if the Student Government Association told him the vast majority of students were extremely unhappy about his presidency, that would bother him.

According to Gregory Foster-Rice, associate professor in the Photography Department and Faculty Senate president; Nick Hoeppner, engineer in the Radio Department and president of the United Staff of Columbia College; and Jerel Ballard, a junior journalism major and president of SGA, none of their organizations would conduct a vote of no confidence in the administration.

According to Traver, P-Fac has many concerns regarding the Strategic Plan, which she said received little faculty input, creating a “smokescreen” for another version of prioritization as the previous administration had been criticized for in the past.

“I am hoping it is a message to the administration and the board of trustees saying they need to change course,” said Diana Vallera, an adjunct professor in the Photography Department and president of P-Fac. 

Jim Nagle, an adjunct professor in the English Department, a member of P-Fac and Columbia Adjuncts United, an alternative adjunct group that has previously criticized P-Fac for its disaffiliation with the Illinois Education Association, said he disagrees with some recent administrative decisions, like the elimination of the First-Year Seminar program and increased class sizes but thinks the vote of no confidence is “premature.” 

“[These actions] are the kinds of things that need to be dealt with through bargaining and not through a no-confidence vote,” Nagle said. “The no-confidence vote is usually the last thing you do before someone is forced out of office.”

Nagle said he thinks the way the ballot was constructed influenced adjunct professors to vote no confidence. He said he thinks the vote will be symbolic, but is more a tactic than a strategy.

Nagle said he thinks involving multiple groups would create a stronger voice to have a larger impact on the administration.

“On most campuses, if anything is going to get accomplished, it is by everybody working together, not by just one organization going off on its own,” Nagle said.

Traver said P-Fac discussed reaching out to other organizations and groups to participate in the vote of no confidence but decided against it because the reasons for conducting the vote mostly involved P-Fac.

Foster-Rice said the Faculty Senate does not agree that a vote of no confidence is necessary.

“There is room for improvement in terms of communications, but I feel the current administration [is] a trustworthy partner and one with expertise that will be valuable to Columbia’s future,” Foster-Rice said in a Sept. 25 emailed statement.

Foster-Rice said it is important to recognize the current administration is not the same administration that “led the college into fiscal uncertainty” and the prioritization process. He said he thinks the Strategic Plan promises a different process and a different outcome if faculty remains involved as responsible and diligent partners.

“I would rather work at the table we have been invited [to] and help change the college based on our expertise rather than dismiss this process or the administration,” Foster-Rice said. “We need to work together to build on our achievements and establish positive change at the college.”

In an Sept. 25 emailed statement on behalf of the United Staff of Columbia College, the college’s staff union, Hoeppner said the US of CC, which is currently in contract negotiations with the administration, is taking a different approach to resolving conflicts with the administration.

The statement said it is up to P-Fac to make the vote of no-confidence “lead to positive change.”

Ballard said SGA has had no reason to vote no confidence in the current administration because they have not heard such concerns from students who attend SGA meetings.