Exclusive: Chair of CTVA department to step down this summer 

By Olivia Cohen, Editor-in-Chief

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Thelma Vickroy, the chair of the Department of Cinema and Television Arts, will step down effective in August when her three-year term ends.

Eric Freedman, the outgoing dean of the School of Media Arts, announced her departure in an email obtained by the Chronicle.

He will hold a forum for CTVA faculty members next week.

“In advance of our forum on Wednesday, March 8, I am taking this opportunity to let you know that Thelma Vickroy has chosen to step out of her role as chair at the end of her current contract in August,” Freedman wrote in the email.

In an email to the Chronicle on March 3, Vickroy said she “had the honor to guide” the department through the pandemic and “the changing world that accompany this worldwide event.”

“I am so very proud of the work that the students, staff and faculty were able to accomplish in these difficult circumstances,” she said.

In an email to the Chronicle on March 2, Freedman said he was holding a forum to speak to faculty “about their interests, concerns, perspectives and goals, as we build a unified vision and action plan for the department.”

Some CTVA faculty members do not want Freedman to oversee the meeting and plan to request representation from the provost’s office. Freedman is leaving Columbia at the end of the semester to be provost at Truman State University in Missouri. Before he departs, he also will oversee the selection of the new chair of the Communication Department.

“Across this leadership transition, it is important that we continue our work in modernizing the curriculum and remapping our undergraduate and graduate degree programs,” Freedman wrote to faculty. “For the benefit of our students, we need to be certain our programs remain nimble and responsive and aligned with the current state and possible futures of our collective media industries.”

Vickroy took over the chair position in August 2020 at the height of the pandemic. Her tenure was marked with controversy and complaints.

As chair, she oversaw the elimination of 16 mm and 35 mm film instruction. Students and alumni organized an online petition drive that collected more than 2,000 signatures.

At the time, Vickroy acknowledged to the Chronicle that the change was upsetting, but said it was necessary “in today’s entertainment industry environment.”

She also shifted the department away from live TV production and during her time, the documentary major was eliminated. Effective this semester, the department no longer accepted applications to that program.

Vickroy holds a bachelor’s degree in Theatre Arts from California State University and a master’s degree in Fine Arts from New York University. 

The chair, who is also a professor in the department, focused on documentary and television production, as well as middle and high school education.

Before coming to Columbia, Vickroy was the chair of the Department of Cinema and Television Arts at California State University, Northridge, located in Northridge, California. 

Editor’s Note: This story was updated to include Vickroy’s response to the Chronicle’s request for comment.