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CFAC, students hold protest at president’s address

Hundreds of students led by the head of the Columbia Faculty union confronted Columbia President and CEO Kwang-Wu Kim on Saturday, Oct. 21, demanding that he step down amid growing concerns over measures the college is taking to close a $20 million deficit, including increasing class sizes.

The students, along with Diana Vallera, president of the Columbia College Faculty Union, which is currently in contract negotiations with the college, took over a president’s brunch at the Student Center that was part of Family Weekend. 

Before they entered the building, students carrying posters with slogans such as “value your students” and “no faculty=no students” pushed up against security officers who were standing at the front doors to the building at 754 S. Wabash Ave. Students yelled “Hey, Hey, Ho, Ho, Dr. Kim has to got to go” as they made their way up the stairs and elevators to the 5th floor where the brunch was being held. 

Kim was on the stage to give an address to parents and students when the protestors marched into the room with Vallera. 

“Students come for the faculty. They come from an institution that believes in community building, they come for an institution that’s going to promote and help secure a job when they leave here,” said Vallera, CFAC president and part-time photography instructor.

A security guard followed Vallera as she walked up the stairs and onto the stage where Kim was talking. Kim handed her the microphone. At one point, Vallera criticized a $240,000 bonus she said that Kim had received. Kim disputed this, saying, “the correct number is $250,000,” which “was part of the deferred compensation agreement that’s in my contract.” 

“I don’t think that everything you’re saying is actually based on a full knowledge of what’s going on at the college,” Kim said to Vallera.

Union leaders had encouraged students to confront Kim during a town hall meeting they held on Friday, Oct. 20. Students, dressed in red at the direction of the union, gathered outside of the Student Center the next morning. Vallera used a bullhorn to direct students around campus security, first encouraging them to use their campus IDs to enter the building, as required, and then telling them not to. She said she was concerned that the students would get in trouble. 

Vallera chose eight students from different departments to represent CFAC with a list of demands for Kim and other administrators. Among the demands delivered during the demonstration:

  • the immediate removal of Kim and Provost Marcella David, 
  • tuition freeze and 
  • a DEI ombudsman position

Other demands included claims that could not be immediately verified by the time of publication.

Senior Vice President and Provost Marcella David, who also addressed the parents and protestors, said over the summer there was “an additional challenge with our budget.” The college is trying to “make sure that we are able to provide what we have to provide within the budget that is available,” she added.

David said pending course cuts were based on student enrollment expectations and measures like offering classes in only one semester opposed to both the fall and spring semesters.

David said the thought process behind course elimination was “thinking about sections where there may be opportunity to make a section larger and a multi section class so that we could run one or two or three or four fewer sections in a multisection class.”

Kym Hampton, a Columbia parent, attended the president’s brunch when the student protestors arrived. 

“Hearing about classes being cut and class sizes being increased, it’s very concerning,” Hampton said. “What I really also wanted to ask is what happens if the teachers go on strike to the students who are enrolled in these classes, and what does that do to their tuition for the rest of the semester?”

CFAC will finish voting on whether to authorize a strike on Wed. Oct. 25. Union leaders have said if the demands are not met by Thursday, Oct. 26, part-time faculty members would strike. Part-time faculty make up the majority of faculty at Columbia. 

First-year traditional animation major Anya Kruiki, who participated in the protest, said she doesn’t feel like her voice, or the voice of other students and part-time faculty, were heard during the demonstration. But she said she was glad parents of students were there to witness it.

“They saw what we saw,” she said. 

Vallera said the goal of the protest was to “save Columbia from false advertising.”

“We were approached and said you don’t want to disrupt this day, we have to disrupt this,” Vallera said. “We have to make sure that everyone understands what’s going on at this institution. Our goal is to save it and have a Columbia that we’re proud of and that we recommend our students to come to.”

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About the Contributors
Vivian Richey
Vivian Richey, Assistant Campus Editor
vrichey@columbiachronicle.com   Vivian Richey is a sophomore journalism major, who reports on the college's Faculty Senate, Columbia's COVID-19 protocols and campus art exhibitions. She joined the Chronicle in January 2023.   Hometown: St. Louis, Missouri
Allison Shelton
Allison Shelton, Reporter
ashelton@columbiachronicle.com   Allison Shelton is a sophomore journalism major, with a minor in adverting and fashion communications.  She primarily reports on Columbia's Student Government Association but has also written about sustainability, campus events and the college's unions. Shelton joined the Chronicle in August 2023.   Hometown: Kansas City, Missouri
Lukas Katilius
Lukas Katilius, Photojournalist
lkatilius@columbiachronicle.com   Lukas Katilius is a junior photojournalism major. He has covered various campus and Chicago events. Katilius  joined the Chronicle in July 2023.   Hometown: New Lenox, Illinois