Campus clinic to close at end of Fall 2023 semester

By Olivia Cohen, Senior Editor

File photo Andres Guerra

Columbia’s on-campus health clinic for full-time faculty and staff will close at the end of the Fall 2023 semester instead of the beginning as had been expected.

President and CEO Kwang-Wu Kim announced this week that the clinic would remain open until December.

What the administration is saying: “The decision was driven by the administration to reduce expenses; the timing was informed by consultations with both faculty and staff representatives,” Chief of Staff Laurent Pernot told the Chronicle on June 2.

What the Faculty Senate is saying: “Our initial ask had been for the clinic to stay open, but when we were told that the clinic’s continuing operation would come at the cost of even more staff cuts than was already anticipated, that point became impossible to pursue,” said Madhurima Chakraborty, president of Faculty Senate. “Instead, we asked that the college reconsider its proposed timeline for closing the clinic so that those who use the clinic, especially as their primary healthcare provider, have more time to find alternate sources of care.”

Chakraborty said when the Senate’s Executive Committee met with members of the President’s Cabinet on May 24 to discuss the future of the clinic, the administration was looking close the clinic in August or September.

“The message from the Office of the President detailing that the clinic would indeed close, but not until the end of the fall semester, felt like a little bit of good news in otherwise bracing circumstances,” Chakraborty said.

For context: Since 2022, the college’s on-campus health clinic typically had about 110 visits on average each month from faculty and union staff, far less than capacity and representing just a fraction of employees eligible to use its services.

  • Overall, the clinic has been chronically underused, with 95 visits in October 2022, which is 34% of the clinic’s capacity to serve patients.
  • In April of this year, during the peak of the semester, the clinic had 88 regular visits and 69 visits for biometric screenings. That was roughly the same number as April 2022.
  • The college employs 240 full-time staff and 255 full-time faculty as of this past spring. Full-time faculty and staff and their families have access to the clinic, but part-time staff and faculty do not.

Zooming out: Columbia is one of the few colleges that has an on-campus, physical clinic for their employees. Neighboring universities such as DePaul and Roosevelt have referral programs, where they recommend services to employees off-campus.

Breaking down the numbers: Pernot said it costs the college about $585,000 per year to keep the clinic open. The college’s rising deficit has forced it to take more money than anticipated out of the college’s endowment. First-year retention from this academic year into the 2023-24 year also is lower than expected, meaning the college will lose additional tuition dollars. The college is facing a $20.5 million deficit and has been requested by its Board of Trustees to close that gap by 2026.