Editor’s Note: Post-election assembly was needed long ago

By Megan Bennett, Editor-In-Chief

In journalism school, students are quickly taught one of the most important elements of news: timeliness. Aspiring reporters  are told that doing a story or creating relevant work has to be quick in response to an event, especially with national crises.

I was reminded of this lesson when the college hosted a panel of administration, faculty and one student to discuss post-election responses three weeks after the Nov. 8 election, as reported on Page 4.

The College Assembly was a good idea and showed Columbia a more human side to the college’s leaders. However, it was too late.

During the last few weeks, Columbia’s community—with the help of lower-level offices or employees—has begun to pick themselves up again on their own. The college choosing to now host an official assembly shows a lag in attempts to streamline communication and events, which can have drastic effects on collegewide morale while faculty, staff and students wait for proper, thoughtful response. 

The News Office confirmed Columbia has formal crisis communication plan like those typically in place at colleges or universities, but does not publish it.

While not the first post-election event or announcement, the College Assembly was the first one that addressed all members of the college community. It came two weeks after the Nov. 14 email President and CEO Kwang-Wu Kim sent to students with his post-election thoughts, which The Chronicle’s Editorial Board pointed out Nov. 21 was a message that should have been sent out sooner like those from other Chicago institutions. 

Student Health and Support hosted one other event Nov. 17 to address student concerns that was attended by Kim but not directed toward faculty and staff, who also deserve equal communication because of their direct role in students’ day-to-day lives.

This election’s outcome is unsettling for many people at the college, such as Dean of the School of Fine & Performing Arts Onye Ozuzu who admitted she struggled with how to address the results. Regardless, events like the assembly would have made more sense if done in a timely manner. 

Columbia may be better late than never with this panel, especially because putting together a panel of thoughtful, influential college players may take time and Kim has already addressed students. This may be acceptable at another institution, one that does not pride itself on its diversity and strides with equity and inclusion, but not at Columbia. This community, more than those at institutions that are predominantly white or male, needed quick, state-of-emergency reaction to the election results with everyone ready to drop their current tasks for the security of the students.

In addition to the counseling event, some took it upon themselves to provide a safe place for the college community after seeing a lack of official response, as reported Nov. 21 by The Chronicle. Through social media, these students and one faculty member met at the 1104 S. Wabash Ave. Building on Nov. 15 to discuss their response to Trump. 

In the future, should a similar incident cause as much discontent and worry, these students could actively seek out members of the administrative cabinet or the higher-ups could put word out to them for a more time-sensitive collaboration. Because there is no precedent for how the administration should operate in this kind of situation, there should be one rule: Reach out as quickly as possible. Panelists could have included more students alongside administration if scheduling was the issue.

An event that speaks to every member of the college community is commendable, and a necessary supplement for the one college-hosted event made for students. However, in order to support everyone who relies on Columbia for guidance either as a student or employee during this difficult time, the waiting time should be minimal.