CiTE eliminated, lack of administrative announcement raises questions among faculty, staff


G-Jun Yam

CiTE eliminated, lack of administrative announcement raises questions among faculty, staff

By Editor-in-Chief

Despite the lack of a formal announcement, Columbia’s Center for Innovation and Teaching Excellence was closed and many of its programs discontinued this summer.

The college quietly removed the CiTE website and its description in the college directory earlier this month, raising questions regarding the future of faculty development from employees who participate in CiTE programming and academic staff members who relied on CiTE staff for software and curriculum support.

An announcement on the CiTE’s official Facebook page on Aug. 3 confirmed the end of the center.

“The Center for Innovation in Teaching Excellence no longer exists,” the post read. “It has been defunded, de-staffed, and dismantled. An external program review of the CiTE was conducted in Spring 2016, the results of which were never shared with CiTE staff. See all the workshops and programs posted here? You’ll never see the likes of it again, at least not here. Good luck, Columbia College Chicago!”

Despite requests for comment and an interview which was scheduled and later canceled, Senior Vice President and Provost Stanley Wearden was not available for comment as of press time to discuss the future of faculty development at the college and the communication of CiTE’s elimination.

However, in accordance with the collegewide Strategic Plan, the college announced in an April 12 collegewide email the hiring of Robert Green as vice provost of Digital Learning. The college also appointed Associate Chair in the English Department Ames Hawkins to faculty administrative fellow, announced on the college’s website March 1. Both will be working with the college’s technology training and faculty development throughout the Fall 2016 Semester.

Hawkins sent out an emailed survey Aug. 17 to collect information and make recommendations for future programs. She added the survey is beginning with full-time faculty to best assess the needs for creating a “comprehensive faculty development center” that addresses all evaluated areas for faculty members, including teaching as well as additional work and service.

“I’m looking to figure out what the full-time faculty perception and desires are with respect to comprehensive faculty development issues and the like,” Hawkins said.

Former CiTE instructional specialist David Noffs declined The Chronicle’s request for comment. CiTE’s Brian Block and Maggie Ritter, now both employees under “Faculty Development,” could not be reached for comment as of press time. Former executive director Lott Hill could also not be reached for comment.

Faculty Senate President Greg Foster-Rice could not be reached for comment as of press time.

Jennie Fauls, assistant director of the program in Writing and Rhetoric in the English Department, said she often used the CiTE to receive both mandated technology and learning management system training, also to stay up-to-date on best teaching practices.

She added that the center’s existence was an essential part of the college and has heard “absolutely nothing” regarding alternative employee training.

“I’m extremely disappointed,” Fauls said. “It really challenges my faith in this institution. This has felt personal and shaken us because it is an indispensable part of a college with so many faculty—to have a hub for faculty development and the communication portion is extremely disappointing as well. At the moment, this is all just emails, phone calls and behind-the-scenes rumors.”

Diana Vallera, president of the college’s part-time faculty union and an adjunct professor in the Photography Department, said she has met with Wearden and new Faculty Development leaders in order to ensure part-time faculty members, who often used its programs and were offered stipends to attend, will receive similar support.

However, Vallera added that she is not only confused by the decision to dismantle the center—along with its popular programs—and create a new department, she is disappointed with the “top-down” decision-making from the administration, comparing it to the elimination of the college’s First-Year Seminar program during the Spring 2015 Semester and the administrative combination of the Theater and Dance departments announced this July.

Though Vallera said Wearden told her there will be opportunities for involvement and feedback during the semester, she said that it seems that most decisions have already been made.

“Afterward, it’s easy to say, ‘We want your input.’ In this case, it’s already too late because CiTE’s gone,” Vallera said. “We don’t have the option to say, ‘Why don’t we improve CiTE, if that’s what needs to happen.’ Our options were removed from us. Now, we’re having to start over, and it’s unfortunate.”

Hawkins, who said she will be meeting with Vallera in September discuss part-time faculty development.

As an assistant director in the English Department, Fauls said she has already received questions from employees asking what training they will need to complete. While normally she would direct them to CiTE, Fauls said she cannot because there is no website or clear alternative option.

Because of this, Fauls said she worries how faculty members will complete mandated technology training before the beginning of the Fall 2016 Semester. Fauls, who was scheduled to teach a Moodle-related course this fall, was told by Noffs on Aug. 1 that it was “abruptly” cancelled.

“I would assume that every teacher has every right to scrap [mandated training] and go back to teaching methods we were doing in 1980,” she said.

As someone who received a fellowship from the CiTE this year, Fauls said she was told in an email that all fellowships given before the CiTE’s elimination would still be honored but added that she worries about the college keeping this promise due to financial constraints.

Vallera said if budget constraints are a factor in these decisions, it is still important for the administration to involve them in order to come up with plans that are financially viable, yet still in the best interest of the college’s mission and its students.

“[Faculty and staff] didn’t have any input, so we don’t know what was considered,” Vallera said. “CiTE’s gone, so there’s nothing we can do about it, but I’ll be part of whatever comes next and helping shape that.” 


Updated: 1:30 p.m., Aug. 23

Despite members of the college community expressing disappointment with the removal of the CiTE’s announcement process, Senior Vice President and Provost Stan Wearden said faculty members were aware of the college’s work with creating a new faculty development center.

While he said the college’s administration could have communicated more clearly regarding the CiTE’s dismantling, there have been discussions with Hawkins and faculty members about the Strategic Plan’s goal to create a new development model.

“Maybe we didn’t directly consult the faculty, ‘should we eliminate the CiTE?’ as we were doing this, but we did consult the faculty a lot about what their faculty development needs were and about our plans,” Wearden said. “Faculty Senate, P-Fac and others have supported the idea that we need a more comprehensive faculty professional development center. Sometimes when you have to make specific personnel decisions, you can’t consult on those by law. We had to do this in order to create the financial space so that we would have funding to hire people who have broader and deeper expertise.”

Wearden added that while he understands and sympathizes with former members of the CiTE’s frustrations after their positions were terminated, the Aug. 3 Facebook post—made by no current Columbia employees—was not “completely accurate.”

“I certainly understand their disappointment,” Wearden said. “I think it was somewhat unprofessional to do it that way.”

The decision, which Wearden said was made during the summer, was made because he said he thought the CiTE was unable to administer different types of faculty development, including expertise on how to teach various types of classes like lecture halls and seminars, as well as assistance with building full-time faculty up to apply for tenure.

“What CiTE did was fine, they did good things—particularly in the area of community building—and in Moodle training,” Wearden said. But we need a faculty development center that can look at the whole range of faculty professional development …. We really just didn’t have that full range of expertise in the CiTE. We need people with broader expertise.”

Though technology training will now be administered through Green’s office, Wearden said the former center’s community-building workshops will not be continued. Hawkins’ recommendations for CiTE’s replacement are due during the late Fall 2016 Semester, while positions for a new professional development center will be posted during the spring.

He added that some grants previously provided by CiTE will still be honored and administered through Pegeen Quinn, associate provost of Academic Personnel, while others, including Moodle-related grants, will be eliminated because of the college’s decision to change its learning management system late next year.

“I think people were satisfied with CiTE, but they didn’t know what a comprehensive faculty development center would be,” Wearden said. “You can be satisfied with what you have, but I felt like our faculty deserved so much more  in terms of faculty professional development, and I was seeing that in a lot of scenarios.”