C-Fac, supporters call for President and CEO Kwang-Wu Kim’s resignation

By Tessa Brubaker and Olivia Deloian

The Columbia Faculty Union and OurColumbia coalition is demanding the resignation of President and CEO Kwang-Wu Kim amid allegations that Kim and his administration allowed a culture of sexism and racism at the college.

A press conference calling for Kim’s resignation was held Oct. 17 outside the 600 S. Michigan Ave. building. The press conference included testimonials from students, C-Fac members and the president of the faculty union at University of Illinois at Chicago.

“This campus is in desperate need of measures to advance diversity, equity and inclusion,” said Diana Vallera, adjunct professor in the Photography Department and C-Fac president. “Dr. Kim’s administration promotes a racist and sexist culture. He creates a hostile environment where the most socially marginalized voices are silenced and disregarded.”

Vallera said the college needs to make sure they retain and hire both male and female faculty of color.

Prexy Nesbitt, adjunct professor in the Humanities, History and Social Sciences Department and C-Fac’s director of diversity, said he wants the administration to bargain with C-Fac fairly and respectfully.

“Until they start treating every human being in this school with respect and with understanding and with compassion, with caring, we are gonna continue to be here,” Nesbitt said. “We’re going to mobilize, and we’ll only get stronger.”

However, support for C-Fac at the press conference was not universal.

Michele Hoffman, adjunct professor in the Science and Mathematics Department, passed out fliers during the conference that read, “Diana Vallera is the problem, not the solution,” raising issues about C-Fac’s president, including what is described as unprofessional student involvement.

Hoffman said she attended the conference to see what C-Fac had to say about the current state of the university and was surprised upon hearing its proposed arguments.

“This press conference didn’t touch upon things I thought they might be touching upon today,” Hoffman said. “They described a bunch of things regarding racism [and] sexual discrimination, and those are really serious issues, [but] those also aren’t things [C-Fac] bargains for.”

Hoffman said state and federal regulations have control over diversity at universities and part-time faculty do not have a say in that.

Hoffman said she has not experienced instances of racism and sexism C-Fac addressed because the Science and Mathematics Department has many female faculty members of color and various gender identities.

Hoffman also said she finds the involvement of students in the C-Fac protests and press confrences to be problematic and does not believe they should be involved in an employment agreement.

The C-Fac steering committee denied the allegations made in Hoffman’s flier in an Oct. 19 email statement to The Chronicle. 

“We will not dignify any of the accusations except to say the college has discriminated against Diana Vallera in the past, and we’re disappointed in witnessing these tactics again.  Michele Hoffman has admittedly never attended any Union meetings or made any attempt to contact any of the leadership.  She does not know Diana Vallera, and we are investigating her sources.  We will always support our students’ activism,” the statement said.

C-Fac’s new collective bargaining agreement will make sure the contract is committed to diversity issues, Vallera said.

Senior Director at the News Office Lambrini Lukidis said it was disappointing to hear the allegations made by C-Fac and OurColumbia about Kim and his administration. She said the work Kim has done even within his senior leadership team filled with women leaders should speak volumes.

“Overall it was disheartening to hear that. We deny the allegations of institutional sexism, racism and misogyny,” Lukidis said. “Dr. Kim’s record speaks to the contrary of that.” 

Senior cinema art and science major Jack Porter said he came to the rally to protest his unhappiness with the size of classes and his education.

“I’m protesting the fact that they’ve been cutting a lot of classes and continually downsizing and making our education not worth the money,” Porter said. “The education I have gotten has not always been up to snuff, as Columbia likes to advertise it, and I’m very disappointed with how they’ve been shortchanging students these past few years.”

Nesbitt spoke to The Chronicle after the conference and said unless the college starts to change how they treat the union and students, a big C-Fac strike may be in the future.

“We’re gonna be here for a long time. We’ve got a lot of work to do,” Nesbitt said.