Columbia’s strategic sham

By Editorial Board

Following the conclusion of a two-week feedback phase intended to give the college community a chance to offer input on the recently released Strategic Plan, there seems to be one group whose voice is decidedly absent from the discussion. 

Students—the group whose input should be valued above all—posted little feedback to Civic Commons, begging the question: Does student input even matter? The administration has made small attempts at encouraging student input, but the great divide that lies between students and higher-ups has widened and will only continue to do so—particularly with the impending creation of more administrative positions.  Laden with corporate jargon, the plan is hard to decipher, leaving students to stumble through a lengthy document that affects them directly.

The Strategic Plan outlines the addition of six new positions to the administrative roster including a Vice Provost of Global Education, a Dean of Graduate Studies, a Vice Provost of Online Education, an Associate Vice President of Enrollment Services, a Vice President of Strategic Marketing and Communications and a Vice President of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.

More vice presidents, deans and provosts only mean more six-figure salaries, more bureaucratic division within the college’s leadership and more expensive search committees seeking out strangers to lead the college. Students seem unaware of the effect these new positions have had and will have on them, though. And if students are aware, few are speaking up. 

Administrators have inconsiderately thrown this draft of the Strategic Plan at students and faculty—as it arrived over Spring Break among the stresses of registration and midterms—with no answers to the many questions it raises. Moderators on the Civic Commons site have remained silent, only taking time to thank participants for their “insightful” and “thoughtful” comments. 

The transparency of the administration has only become more opaque. The plan lacks specificity and does not actually define the problems the college is facing, only the goals it hopes to achieve. The language is deliberately vague, allowing space for behind-the-scenes action to be taken, actions that have already been met with criticism and resentment.

The administration is relying upon what little trust it has built with students and faculty to carry the Strategic Plan through to the finish, and though few seem game, this tenuous trust seems like it may be enough as students remain silent. 

The student body should demand more from an administration that is only looking to the future of the college and not its current state. If the administration truly wants to create a brighter horizon for Columbia, it would recognize the value of the current students’ concerns and understand that additional administrative positions will do nothing for students but further isolate them from the college. 

Addressing the needs of current students builds better relationships and connections that would certainly benefit future students.

More administrative positions only take away from students and the connections they have with faculty. Students have little to no interaction with administration; the administration is not active in the lives of the students in the way faculty is. The idea that students would benefit from more vice presidents and provosts is a sham—especially given that these new vice presidents and provosts will not be selected by students, but by firms looking out for the best interests of the business of the college and not the students of the college. Not to mention the money it takes to pay for these new positions.

The administration is certainly hoping to address the growth and sustainability of Columbia in the Strategic Plan, but have—whether on purpose or not—diminished and excluded the voice of its students.