As the new decade begins at Columbia, it is the perfect time for students and staffers alike to look back on how far the college has come and where it can go in the next 10 years.
As administrators and notable figures at the college—such as President and CEO Kwang-Wu Kim and Columbia part-time faculty union President Diana Vallera—contemplate that very thought, I wondered what students wanted out of Columbia.
Before Columbia students trickled back onto campus for the first day of classes, I turned to the Chronicle’s staff, who were hard at work on their first stories of the semester.
Our staff represents much of the demographic at Columbia. We have commuter students and students who live in dorms; international students, transfer students, traditional and nontraditional students; students from different majors including journalism, cinema art and science, creative writing and more; and students representing a wide array of genders, sexual orientations, races and socioeconomic backgrounds.
So I asked all 35 of them: “What would you want Columbia to change about itself in the next decade?”
Here are some of their responses:
“More study abroad options [and] study abroad scholarships so trips are more accessible for more people.” —Mari Devereaux, managing editor
“It would be great if the school made our many artistic resources available to all students. For example, opening film studios to fine arts majors even if they don’t take a [black and white] photo class. Many artists dabble in multiple things, and limiting resources that they pay for anyway stifles possible independent experimentation and growth.” —Camilla Forte, photojournalist
“I’d like to see more opportunities for interdepartmental collaboration [and] mingling, and I think that removing barriers from resources that divide students by major would help in that. Most of the time, I only get to interact with students from other [departments] if I’ve worked with them at a job, if they’re a friend of a friend or if we’ve taken a [general education class] together.” —Shane Tolentino, senior graphic designer
“It would be nice to see the college work toward becoming more environmentally friendly. If Columbia created a comprehensive green initiative, I think the school would be a lot more attractive for prospective students.” —Justin Anderson, photojournalist
What I so often hear from students in my classes is that the college is run too much like a business rather than like an educational institution made for creative-minded students. This decade is Columbia’s chance to change that narrative by actually sitting down with students across all facets, not just during the regular Let’s Chat event with Kim.
Rather, all administrators, from the provost to deans of different schools to department chairs to leaders of the college’s unions and even to administrators like Vice President of Enrollment Management Michael Joseph or Associate Vice President of Security Ronald Sodini should sit down with students frequently and find out what they actually need out of Columbia.
What I suspect they’ll find are desires for better access to different resources, more modern diversity initiatives that may align with Columbia’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion office and, most frequently, better mental health resources. What truly matters though is that Columbia takes the time to listen to what we have to say. Don’t just analyze our data, don’t seek out select students, but do take a minute to stop us at the Student Center or while we’re getting coffee and talk to the students who keep you in business.