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Breaking: President Kim to step down on July 1 

Abra Richardson
Columbia President Kwang-Wu Kim addresses the Student Government Association in their weekly meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2024, at the Student Center. Kim’s announcement to step-down was made the day after he met with SGA.

This story has been updated.

President and CEO Kwang-Wu Kim announced he will be stepping down from president of Columbia on July 1. 

Senior Vice President and Current Chief Financial Officer Jerry Tarrer will become interim president and CEO on July 2 while the Board of Trustees conducts a presidential search.

The college made the announcement on Wednesday, Feb. 14, just days after Kim said the college may need to cut academic programs and lay off full-time faculty with tenured positions. He also said the college’s deficit had grown to $38 million. 

During a seven-week historic strike last fall by the Columbia Faculty Union, which the college said cost $13 million, the part-time union and students repeatedly called for Kim to resign.

Dozens of students marched to his house on Nov. 10 in the Gold Coast neighborhood of Chicago and called for the college to sell the property.

Chairman of the Board of Trustees John Holmes said Kim “has been a steady and exemplary leader of Columbia for more than a decade” and that “the Board of Trustees is incredibly grateful for his service to our institution.” 

“We are fortunate that he has agreed to lead the work developing the plan to forge an even brighter future for the college,” Holmes said in the email announcement. “His passion for Columbia and his insistence on our students’ success has shaped the college for the better. We look forward to celebrating President Kim’s lasting contributions in coming weeks and during commencement weekend.”

The college’s Student Government Association met with Kim on Tuesday, Feb. 13, but he gave no indication of this announcement, said SGA President Tyler Harding. 

“I hope that while the college continues to search for a new president, they are searching for someone who is going to keep the students in mind, especially in a financial situation like the college is currently dealing with,” Harding said. 

Latino Alliance President Steve Brizuela Fernandez, a senior music business major, said students he’s talked to are relieved.

“I am not sure about the logistics of it,” Fernandez said. “I’m assuming it’s a good step forward. People think that he’s a problem. A lot of people were relieved. People seem content with it, especially Latino Alliance.”

Kim started as president and CEO in July 2013 and will mark 11 years in the presidential role when he leaves. 

“Since my arrival in 2013, Columbia has been my truest home and a constant source of inspiration and growth,” Kim said in the announcement. “While the prospect of leaving is bittersweet, as a life-long traveler I am looking forward to my next journey, and I am encouraged to know that the college is in such capable hands. There will be time for goodbyes in the coming months. For now, the most important thing for me to say is ‘thank you.’”

Kim holds a doctor of musical arts degree and an artist diploma from the Peabody Institute of Johns Hopkins University. Kim came to Columbia from Arizona State University, where he served as dean and director of the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts. 

The announcement said the details of the presidential search will be shared before the end of the semester.

Faculty Senate President Madhurima Chakraborty, who had just met with Kim and the rest of the Faculty Senate Executive Committee, said she was speechless following the news of his departure.

“I have very little sense of how this is going to play out for full-time faculty right now,” Chakraborty said. “I hope that the current CFO and soon to be interim president will articulate his vision for vulnerable parts of the college soon.”

“I wish Dr. Kim the best in his next ventures,” Chakraborty said.

Vivian Richey and Emily Ramirez contributed to this report. 


Spanish digest:

El presidente y director ejecutivo Kwang-Wu Kim anunció que renunciará a la presidencia de Columbia el 1 de julio.

El vicepresidente senior y actual director financiero Jerry Tarrer se convertirá en presidente y director ejecutivo interino el 2 de julio, mientras la Junta de Síndicos realiza una búsqueda presidencial.

El colegio hizo el anuncio el miércoles 14 de febrero, apenas unos días después de que Kim dijera que el colegio podría necesitar recortar programas académicos y despedir a profesores de tiempo completo con puestos permanentes. También dijo que el déficit del colegio había crecido hasta los $38 millones.

El presidente de la Alianza Latina, Steve Brizuela Fernández, estudiante de último año de negocios de la música, declaró que los estudiantes con los que ha hablado se sienten aliviados. “No estoy seguro de la logística”, comentó Fernández. “Asumo que es un paso positivo. Las personas piensan que él es un problema. Mucha gente estaba aliviada. La gente parece estar conforme con esto, especialmente la Alianza Latina”.

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About the Contributors
Olivia Cohen, Editor-in-Chief
ocohen@columbiachronicle.com   Olivia Cohen is a senior journalism major, minoring in Women's, Gender and Sexuality Studies. She primarily reports on Columbia's financial health, administration and unions, but has also written about personnel and department changes, COVID-19 policies and abortion. She joined the Chronicle in August 2021.   Hometown: Minneapolis, Minnesota
Abra Richardson, Senior Photojournalist
arichardson@columbiachronicle.com   Abra Richardson is a senior photojournalism major and has covered Chicago music festivals, fashion and metro protests. She joined the Chronicle in August 2021.   Hometown: Palatine, Illinois