A string of recent updates regarding the college’s relationship and collective bargaining with part-time faculty demonstrate a flawed rapport between the two parties, an issue that must be amended for the greater benefit of the college.
In an Oct. 11 email to faculty and staff, President and CEO Kwang-Wu Kim responded to several issues raised by the part-time faculty union. The email began by clarifying that the union, formerly known as P-Fac, only represents adjunct faculty at the college, despite changing its name to the Columbia Faculty Union.
Dr. Kim reaffirmed the college’s commitment to collective bargaining with the union and the value of adjunct professors at the college.
According to the email, C-Fac’s contract expired Aug. 31, 2017, and the bargaining teams of both parties have met more than 20 times since September 2017. The college presented the union with a new Collective Bargaining Agreement Oct. 5, which included compensation increases, increases to the annual professional development fund and equal access to facilities and equipment in each department, among other provisions. Kim stated in the email that the union had yet to respond to the proposal or make proposals of their own. He also said the union refused requests by the college to involve a federal mediator to assist negotiations.
Kim also used the email to defend the college against multiple allegations made by the union, including a charge that the college is evolving into a for-profit institution, that Kim’s official title was changed and that the college has instituted a “dumbed-down curriculum” and abandoned its mission of access and commitment to diversity.
These allegations are not new to those who have paid close attention or have witnessed the disagreements firsthand. In 2017, the union formed the OurColumbia coalition with others on campus making the same allegations and more: budget cuts, rising tuition, curriculum changes and bad faith bargaining by the college.
OurColumbia held strikes in December 2017 and April 2018 in protest. Additionally, a press conference has been scheduled for Oct. 17 outside of the 600 S. Michigan Ave. building to call for the removal of Kim and his administration from the college and protest the college’s alleged lack of response to sexual assault allegations at the college. The coalition encourages professors to lead students into a walk-out to join the conference.
“I am proud to have the privilege of leading an institution characterized by so much talent and passion … passion that inevitably leads to disagreements and healthy debates,” Kim said in the email. “But I hope these disagreements and debates can be grounded in factual information and occur within a framework of mutual respect.”
Whether these allegations are to be believed is up to those involved and Columbia’s community. However, it is clear the relationship between the college and union is seriously flawed and it’s impacting faculty, staff and students.
In recent faculty surveys and rallies on campus, it is also clear that faculty and staff at the college who educate students and prepare them for careers are displeased and searching for solutions. When students’ education is disrupted by these events, it is clear a problem exists. The issue does not lie with faculty and students protesting what they see as injustices; it lies with the simple fact that they feel forced to make these decisions in the first place.
We all know Columbia is at a turning point in its history as it works to improve its financial situation. But there is another crucial focus: the happiness of faculty, staff and students who define Columbia’s success.