Editor’s Note: Looking ahead at what to expect for the spring semester

By Ariana Portalatin, Editor-In-Chief

Each semester at Columbia brings new developments that impact our community and shape the college’s future.

Much of what occurred during the Fall 2018 semester—administrative changes, tuition increases, tense relations between administration and campus—set the stage for this semester. With that said, here are some highlights from last semester and expectations for the spring:

Provost search:

Stan Wearden announced his departure as senior vice president and provost in April 2018. While it was originally announced he would step down from his position in June 2019, Wearden instead left in January for Methodist University. Suzanne Blum Malley was appointed interim provost while the national search for a permanent successor continues. Two finalists were selected and will visit Columbia Jan. 31 and Feb. 7.

Strategic Plan updates:

Columbia is nearing the end of its fourth year of Strategic Plan implementation, which is scheduled for completion in 2020.

Construction of the student center, a component of the plan’s student success goal, is scheduled to be completed this summer. The South Loop has watched the center be built from the ground up since November 2017, and students will get to see the center come together as the semester continues.

Additionally, Columbia will be hosting events about specific Strategic Plan goals: enrollment and diversity. According to a Jan. 14 email, President and CEO Kwang-Wu Kim said the college has a goal of reaching 8,000 students by 2025. Plans will be discussed Jan. 29 with new Vice President of Enrollment Management Michael Joseph.

Kim also announced a split of diversity, equity and inclusion work between two committees and said initiatives will be discussed during a Feb. 14 forum.

New faculty and staff benefits: 

A Dec.20 email from Kim announced new benefits for full-time, non-union employees, including additional insurance options, expanded bereavement and parental policies and the ability for dependents and spouses or partners to take classes at the college tuition-free regardless of whether they are degree-seeking.

In October 2018, Faculty Senate discussed increased healthcare costs combined with a lack of cost of living adjustments. The 2018 faculty survey showed faculty were not satisfied with salaries. The Senate had plans to continue discussions on this through December and have possible administrative action by the end of the 2018-2019 academic year.

Relationship between administration, students and faculty:

A major event during the Fall 2018 semester was the call for Kim’s resignation in October by the C-Fac union, OurColumbia and supporters. This followed separate demonstrations in December 2017 and April 2018.

The faculty survey also showed faculty were displeased with college administration and policies. Only 24 percent of respondents were satisfied with the college’s implementation of policies and 38 percent reported being satisfied with how changes were communicated.

A lack of shared governance has also been discussed several times with Faculty Senate. Faculty members were unhappy with an April 2018 announcement from Kim and Wearden of the possible discontinuation of several academic programs without input from faculty members.

With many more changes to be expected this semester, it will be interesting to see how the campus reacts as the college works to get ahead of challenges in higher education.