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Congratulations to the Class of 2024!

College advertises DEI courses not offered for several years

CFAC leaders meet with administrators of the college for a bargaining session at the 600 S. Michigan Ave. building on Thursday, Oct. 26, 2023. (Peyton Reich)

Columbia Admissions published an Instagram post this week advertising course offerings and minors that “give students new perspectives and deeper understandings of diversity, equity, and inclusion.”

Some of the courses listed were “Deaf Representations in the Media,” “Black Artistry and the Archive” and “Asian American Literature.”

However, of the six courses that Admissions highlighted, only one is being offered in the Spring 2024. Several have not been offered in the last two years. 

According to Senior Director of Enrollment Marketing Communications Andrew Whatley, the post was written and scheduled before the Spring 2024 schedule was published. “We plainly should’ve double-checked it before it went live,” said Whatley in an email to the Chronicle. The post has since been updated to list courses that are offered next semster.

The marketing push comes in the middle of a strike by Columbia’s part-time faculty union over cost-cutting measures the college has taken to close a $20 million deficit. The result will be fewer opportunities for Columbia’s 584 part-time instructors to teach.

Hundreds of classes were impacted this week during the 5-day-old strike, even as full-time faculty continued to teach, and some part-time instructors held class anyway or moved their courses to Zoom.

By the numbers: The course set for Spring 2024, Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender History in the U.S., is also the only class that was offered for the active Fall 2023 semester. The three sections are currently taught by part-time faculty members. In spite of the fact that the course’s sections have routinely been nearly filled each semester, the available sections have been decreasing, going from a past of four full classes of 26 students down to two, with 32 seats each, for Spring 2024. 

Carmelo Esterrich, a full professor in the Humanities, History and Social Sciences Department, said the department is still seeking out a new teacher for the LGBTQ history class after its longtime part-time instructor Keith Green departed from the school in August for a full-time position elsewhere. 

The five other courses listed, and their respective departments, include:

  • Black Artistry and the Archive (Humanities, History and Social Sciences) 
  • Deaf Representations in the Media (American Sign Language) 
  • Chicago Latinx Community, Culture, and Citizenship (Liberal Arts and Sciences) 
  • and Transnational and Global Feminisms (Humanities, History and Social Sciences) 

Many Columbia courses are offered only once a year, either in the spring or fall semesters. Chicago Latinx Community, Culture, and Citizenship, for example, is typically only held during the fall. Taught by Esterrich, he said it wasn’t offered to students for Fall 2023 because he requested a one-time break while he teaches two other courses, one of which has nearly 50 students. 

“It is a super popular class; I am only not teaching it now because I was taking a breather,” Esterrich said, adding that it is near 150 students. “But the dean of LAS, who controls all the ‘Big Chicago’ classes, is really interested in my teaching it again” in the Fall 2024 semester.

Of these five courses, three have only been offered once over the past four semesters. Two haven’t been offered at all since at least before Spring 2022.

Black Artistry and the Archive was taught by Melanie Chambliss, but she left the college for the University of Rochester. She was one of three Black full-time faculty who left after the spring semester.

What students are saying: Sam Carlson, a junior radio major, said there doesn’t seem to be as many course options as previous semesters. “I’ve looked and there were options, but I’ve noticed that it wasn’t as much as there was like in previous semesters,” Carlson said.

Carlson took a queer literature class but wished it had been more representative. 

“I didn’t have the best experience with it,” they said. “There wasn’t a whole lot of diversity somehow in that class and the stories that we were reading because they were mainly focused on white male stories.”

Ada Greene, a senior film and television major, took Black Artistry and the Archive when it was offered and said the class taught her many things about Black history and culture she didn’t know. 

“We were learning about how history is documented and who documents it and who’s preserving it and what stories are being preserved. So it was analyzing not only history, but who’s in charge of the narrative of history,” she said. “So I always recommend that one.”

Greene said Columbia’s DEI courses are valuable.

“I think everybody should be getting multiple different DEI courses and should be exploring things that they’re not familiar with and different cultures and different perspectives like that’s important to a well-rounded education,” Greene said.

What’s next: Union leaders said they expect to continue negotiations through the weekend.

Additional reporting by Maya Swan-Sullivan and Leah Love. Comment from the Admissions Office was added to paragraph four. 

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About the Contributors
Ruth Johnson
Ruth Johnson, Former Creative Director
Peyton Reich
Peyton Reich, Photojournalist
preich@columbiachronicle.com   Peyton Reich is a junior photojournalism major, minoring in marketing. Reich has covered the Mexican Independence parade, Columbia's Black Student Union and theatre performances. Reich joined the Chronicle in August 2023.   Hometown: Flossmoor, Illinois