Editor’s Note: VP announcement limits message, transparency questionable


Editor’s Note: New CFO needs to bring financial confidence back

By Editor-In-Chief

Sharon Wilson-Taylor, former associate vice president and Dean of Students who was asked to fill in as interim vice president of Student Success following Mark Kelly’s departure, was permanently appointed—along with a revert back to Kelly’s original title—to vice president of Student Affairs, announced in a Sept. 7 email to faculty and staff.

With Wilson-Taylor’s credentials, history at Columbia and ability to bring different viewpoints to the administrative cabinet, she is likely the best person to succeed Kelly. However, the announcement and subsequent administrative actions regarding her appointment lacked consistency and left students out of the equation.

Despite Wilson-Taylor and President and CEO Kwang-Wu Kim’s recent comments on improving the student experience and Wilson-Taylor’s visibility, the formal email was not sent to students. The announcement, like the one for her interim appointment, was sent exclusively to  faculty and staff, leaving those directly affected left to figure it out. While The Chronicle relays this information to students, Columbia ignoring its responsibility to also do so is troublesome. 

If the administration wants to send a consistent message telling students to use Student Affairs as a resource, not letting them know Kelly—a student favorite for decades—has been replaced can make that message seem insincere. If students aren’t notified about changes to student-serving higher-ups, how useful can that administrator be?

In addition to the limited access, a July 7 email to faculty and staff from Kim also discussed future preparations for a national search starting in the Fall 2016 Semester to permanently replace Kelly. In a July 19 interview with The Chronicle, Wilson-Taylor also said she would be “filling in” until the national search was completed. 

The decision to not follow through with a national search is major, as the process is an expensive and time-consuming undertaking that may or may not yield successful results. Omission of the scrapped search from the Sept. 7 announcement causes confusion and makes the decision process seem cursory, leaving people to draw their own conclusions as to why it wasn’t carried out.

 Other unanswered questions include whether Wilson-Taylor’s previous position will  continue to exist—as she currently does the work of both—as well as what the revert from “Success” to “Affairs” means.

In an attempt to report the breaking news, The Chronicle requested interviews with Kim and Wilson-Taylor. Those requests were not immediately approved by college spokeswoman Cara Birch, but the administrators unexpectedly came to The Chronicle’s office with the expectation to be interviewed on the matter, despite prior warning to Birch that the reporter working on the story was in class at that time. Another reporter—luckily available—was able to quickly substitute. A follow-up interview request with Kim was also initially denied but later occurred with reporter persistence. 

While The Chronicle appreciates administrator visits, surprise notice from the college’s News Office and the expectation for said administrators to be interviewed by knowingly-absent employees is inappropriate. It creates distrust and suspicion around the announcement. It also is disrespectful of administrator’s time when The Chronicle is unable to give their presence and thoughts the proper attention—something often fought for.

It’s critical during significant changes directly affecting students that the decision is not clouded by administration-made suspicions, especially when Wilson-Taylor has the chops to back up Kim’s choice. 

For any announcement of this magnitude, let the decision speak for itself, accompany it with appropriate facts and  answers to anticipated questions. Over-controlling the narrative makes it look like there is something to hide, leaving uncertainty looming long after the announcement date.