State of the College Address

By Heather Scroering

In his first appearance before the Columbia community in several months, President Warrick L. Carter gave two State of the College addresses within two days, first to a small but sporadically hostile group of students, then to a larger but more subdued audience of faculty and staff.

The student address was hosted by the Student Government Association March 21 in The Loft, 916. S. Wabash Ave. Building.

Carter delivered his 30-minute speech to approximately 100 students, faculty and staff members. He touched on

topics including:

•The uniqueness of the prioritization process at the college, as “no other institution” has prioritized itself based on criteria chosen by faculty and staff;

•How the college is 97 percent tuition driven;

•How the college previously cut $17 million;

•The college’s recruitment plan for the West Coast, Southwest, South East and China;

•How the prioritization process is still in the recommendation phase.

“What is wonderful about our community is that we’re smart enough to know what the word ‘recommendations’ mean,” Carter said of the prioritization process. “But in some cases, people have begun to act as if a decision has been made. I know no decisions have been made because the Board [of Trustees] and I make them.”

Justifying the tuition hike, Carter explained that a $17 million cut had been made in 2010–2011 to pay off building and other expenses from projects that were started in 2008, when the college was more financially stable. However, he said the academic side of the college

was untouched.

“We had to cut, but none of it affected you,” Carter said. “None affected Academic Affairs. Business Affairs, Institutional Advancement, [Campus] Environment, they took the cuts—$17 million worth. We can’t continue to cut our way out of this.”

He also said that every decision the college makes is for the students, including the prioritization process.

Though Carter said the prioritization process is student-centered, no student—except those in SGA recently—has been consulted about decisions that will be made in the process. Prior to an email sent March 14 to the student body from Carter, no formal communication had been directed to students from the administration, as previously reported by The Chronicle on March 19.

But it was Carter’s explanation for the China recruitment strategy, in which he illustrated with a quote from a famous American bank robber, that sparked the first angry response from a student during the Q-and-A session after the speech.

“Why do you rob banks? [Willie Sutton] said, ‘Because that’s where the money is,’” Carter said. “So when people ask us, ‘Why do you go to China?’ We say, ‘That’s where the people are.’”

A student present at the address accused the president of doing the same to students.

“It was ironic that you mention robbing a bank,” the student blurted. “Disguised by your fancy words and your statistics, that is essentially what you are doing to the students who sit here and pay that salary for you, who pay for your vacation.”

From that point on, the tone of the students’ questions became increasingly more contentious, culminating in a comment from a student who claimed to be homeless and asked, “What are you going to do, man?”

During the exchange, Carter lost his cool when a student interrupted him by shouting out a question from the audience, to which Carter told the student to “shut up.”

However, he apologized for his reaction at the end of the session and promised the college would attempt to find housing for the homeless student.

One student pointed out that 1,500 signatures of students who felt they have not been involved in the process were collected within three days. The student asked Carter how the prioritization process can be considered inclusive and transparent when students have been left out.

His response was simply, “Because we feel that is has been.” This stirred the audience, and a student was even removed from the forum when he shouted profanities at Carter.

According to SGA President Cassandra Norris, SGA has had access to prioritization reports, but she said there has not been a platform for communication to students until recently, even for the organization.

After a March 13 meeting with Louise Love Interim Provost and vice president of Academic Affairs; Anne Foley vice president of Planning and Compliance; and Board of Trustees member Allen Turner, students received an email from Carter that briefly addressed the prioritization process on March 14.

Norris said in her introduction that Tally Ho, the college’s newsletter, and The Chronicle have run articles on the process, but both are “peer-to-peer” publications. Prior to this, no official communication to the students from the college occurred, she said.

When asked why it took SGA’s voice to prompt communication when it was evident from several events, such as the student protest at Love’s listening forum on March 5, Carter said he believes students were following the process through The Chronicle.

While approximately 100 people showed up to the address, Norris pointed out that the student body is composed of more than 11,500 students.

“If the majority of students didn’t like [the prioritization process], then more than a hundred should have came out,” Norris said. “I’m not saying that I agree with everything, I’m not saying I disagree with everything. I’m saying that if you really want to get your voice heard, there are avenues to do that.”

She added that the general response she has heard from students regarding the process is one of indifference, but SGA wants to hear whatever concerns students have, and they can make recommendations to She promised all suggestions would be compiled and sent to Carter.

In his State of the College address for faculty and staff members March 23, Carter touched on similar issues but received a far more polite response.

The second speech, which was held in Film Row Cinema of the Conaway Center, 1104 S. Wabash Ave., was delivered to a full auditorium and two full overflow rooms.

Carter reiterated that no decisions have been made in the prioritization process. He also touched on the declining enrollment issue saying the college lost more than 800 students from 2008–2011 and more attention should be turned to retention and enrollment.

Carter singled out four departments that have had continuing increases in enrollment, asking members of English, Dance, Music and Television to stand.

“What’s going on in those programs, Because the students come from the same high schools, having nothing special on the ball,” he said. “What’s going on with [the] Music [Department]? It’s not the economy; it’s ourselves.”

Carter said that perhaps the college was “asleep at the switch” and warned that it now has competition where it did not have it before.

While he took questions at the end of the address, the session, which was scheduled to end at 3 p.m., was cut short, giving only five people the opportunity to speak.

One audience member inquired about possible layoffs resulting from cuts to programs from the prioritization process. Carter said the college plans to move people around who are properly skilled in other areas, but some may face layoffs.

First-Year Seminar lecturer Fereshteh Toosi inquired why the college is not relying on its endowment, and Carter said it is not large enough.

He said when he got to the college, the endowment was only $45 million, and while he and the administration were able to build it to $115 million, the economy took a toll on the funds. The college is working to grow the endowment three to four times larger than annual operations, but until then the funds are not strong enough to rely on.

Toosi, who also attended the student address, said the students’ forum was much more revealing.

“The students asked more hard-hitting questions, and I think that speaks to a lot of the problems within the fact, that although Carter claims there is transparency, a lot of people are very nervous,” she said. “The staff and faculty may not have been able to express themselves in the same way the students did.”

In his delivery, Carter stressed the importance of the student body.

“We say that we are, and we really do practice, being student-focused,” Carter said. “We have to do new things, and unfortunately they are the ones who pay for it. They are the ones who give us the funds to buy new buildings [and] make sure you are paid. But we’ll make sure this 5 percent increase does positive things for them.”