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Columbia Faculty Union hosts town hall, discusses demands

File photo

The Columbia Faculty Union hosted a town hall on Friday, Oct. 20 in response to a series of cost-cutting measures the school is considering to try to close the $20 million deficit.

Hundreds of students attended the event, which was held on the eighth floor of the 1104 S. Wabash Ave. building. It was led by Diana Vallera, a part-time photography instructor and CFAC president. 

“The administration wants students and our most marginalized faculty to shoulder the burden for their bad management decisions,” Vallera said.

The union, which currently is in contract negotiations with the college, is demanding the immediate removal of the college president, no bonuses for any administration in the spring, fair treatment and payment of faculty. 

The union is now voting on whether to authorize a strike. The voting started on Friday and will be open to union members to vote for the next five days, until Wednesday, Oct. 25. If the union votes to authorize the strike, it could start next Thursday. 

“We are committed to reaching a fair contract for part-time faculty members that also serves our academic goals for students,” according to an email from Chief of Staff Laurent Pernot and Special Counsel Labor Relations Terrance Smith sent late Friday, Oct. 20.

Sophomore acting major Emma Green said she did not expect the turnout at the union-sponsored event to be that large. 

“It was insane how many people showed up for the betterment of Columbia,” Green said.

Vallera said on Oct. 4 the union requested a list of all of the college’s checks issued from 2017-2013 and was told by the college’s attorney in an email on Oct. 19 that the union’s request for financials appeared “irrelevant” and that “the union is not entitled to that financial and related information.”

Vallera’s presentation at the Friday event, advertised as “the real town hall,” suggested the college discontinue using consultants, stop giving administrators bonuses who are “already grossly overpaid” and focus on students instead of advertising and branding for the college. 

The union has filed an unfair labor practice complaint with the National Labor Relations Board over increasing class size and cutting courses.

Fact Book Data from the Columbia’s Institutional Effectiveness shows that since 2019 the average class size has been 10-19 students in one class with a 14:1 student to faculty ratio.

Senior film and television major Ren Eck said she feels sickened by the way faculty has been treated.

“Finding out more information about how the faculty has been mistreated, puts it all into perspective for me, because I really love these instructors,” Eck said.

First-year film major Damien Cutler decided to go to Columbia despite his older brother dropping out during the pandemic.

“I decided to take the risk and hopefully that after this happens, it actually becomes worth it for students to continue to be here,” Cutler said.

Cutler was one of the students who volunteered to hand CFAC’s list of demands to the president and said he felt passionately about doing so.

“I’m trying to do what I can to make my voice heard, to put a voice in for people that either haven’t been able to or on issues that people aren’t really paying attention to,” Cutler said.

Eck said she hopes each voice is heard at a union-backed protest planned for Family Weekend.

“I really hope that Dr. Kim hears that this is not a problem going away. That’s the biggest thing is, I want him to know that they can’t continue to keep this information under wraps,” Eck said.

Green said Columbia needs new leadership. 

“We need to change who is in charge,” she said. 

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About the Contributor
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