Students use Facebook to voice college concerns


Screengrab of "Columbia is Falling! Revolution is Beginning!" Facebook page

The closed Facebook group “Columbia is Falling! Revolution is Beginning!” was started as a place for students to voice their concerns about possible changes in the Theatre Department, according to Abhishek Shrestha, a junior theatre major and one of the group’s admins.

By Managing Editor

Following the news of multiple staff layoffs at the college, a new Facebook group of concerned students, alumni and faculty titled “Columbia is Falling! Revolution is Beginning!” went live June 1.      

The private group, which has a public description, lists members’ concerns about the future of Columbia’s Theatre Department, which saw three staff positions eliminated amidst the collegewide layoffs May 31, as reported June 6 by The Chronicle.

The concerns listed by the group include increased class sizes, possible 100-person lecture classes, faculty and staff “[continuing] to get fired” and programs being “cut.” The group’s description also states these changes will be made because of the college’s “financial crisis.” The group has 273 members as of press time.

Abhishek Shrestha, a junior theatre major, and Travis Coe, a 2015 theatre alumnus, both said they started the group after they heard about recent layoffs and possible changes being made to the department from theatre faculty members.

“We started the group so students from across the department could come together and organize our thoughtsand concerns because we had so many,” Shrestha said. “We got a pretty big turnout really quick. We’ve had various different posts and some great conversations happening.”

John Green, chair of the Theatre Department, said the department is pleased that the students are responding to and concerned with issues at the college but added that  many of them are unfounded. Despite staff eliminations, he said there are no plans for 100-person classes, program cuts or faculty terminations in the Theatre Department.

“In many ways, what [the group is] responding to is a general college situation rather than an individual department situation,” Green said.

Green added that there are plans for new programs to be added in upcoming semesters, rather than some being cut.

Jeff Ginsberg, associate professor in the Theatre Department and member of the Facebook group, said he asked to be involved in the group to be available to answer any questions the members had about changes in the department.

“[The members] are just feeling the heat about how the department could evolve and that would be a much different place and have a much different educational outcome than what they’re experiencing now,” Ginsberg said.

While enrollment caps in classes may have been raised in the Theatre Department, Ginsberg said they were only by one or two spots.

Green said he and Ginsberg are working on an effective way of getting students information about changes in the Theatre Department as soon as it is available and confirmed.

He said students will most likely issue a series of statements this summer in order to “calm everyone’s fears, answer their questions … and reassure them that the future of the department is actually very bright.”

Shrestha said the group does not have any actions planned for this summer or the coming school year yet because they want to ensure they have the “right agenda.”

While The Chronicle’s requests for interviews with the college administration were not granted, college spokeswoman Cara Birch urged students  in a June 7 emailed statement to ensure accuracy when discussing college-related issues.

“While a closed Facebook group can be helpful for the exchange of a specific group’s ideas or to share concerns, we encourage all students to be informed of the facts, to check their sources, and to establish dialogue before citing issues that may be false or inaccurate,” Birch said in the statement.

The group is currently working on doing research and having discussions about  problems and concerns they have about the departments and the college they can address moving forward, according to Shrestha.

“We know what we see, and what we see is sort of our tuitions rising and vital faculty members being cut for budget reasons, and some things just don’t feel right,” Shrestha said. “I feel like we should voice our concerns about that.”