Columbia admins need to prioritize procedure

By Editorial Board

In the midst of Columbia’s prioritization process, emotions can run high. With long-standing and successful programs like the Radio Department looking at an uncertain future, the college community is truly in a state of unrest.

But sometimes unrest is needed, as exemplified by the comments of Vice President of Student Affairs Mark Kelly.

In his executive summary released last week, Kelly’s proposals included consolidating the Student Affairs and Institutional Marketing departments and making admissions guidelines stricter.

While Eric Winston, vice president of Institutional Advancement, may think Kelly’s summary was “opportunistic,” according to a response he posted on Feb. 16 to IRIS, Columbia’s prioritization website, the timing of Kelly’s suggestions is not the issue.

Instead, the issue is how administrators air their grievances regarding the prioritization process. Winston’s letter is one example of how not to argue about prioritization plans.

The prioritization process is meant be transparent and open, so it is inevitable that administrators and faculty will disagree about virtually every aspect of the exhaustive process, sometimes outside office doors.

But snarky public debates and statements are unprofessional and reflect poorly on the entire college community. At a time when Columbia is contemplating far-reaching changes, a respectful dialogue will make the transition smoother and open the door to compromise.

While Winston’s concerns are not unfounded about executive summary guidelines, his assertion that Kelly’s recommendations are motivated by self-interest, as reported in this issue of The Chronicle, certainly are.

Kelly’s suggestions for Columbia’s future could have been presented at a different juncture, but just because they emerged as part of the departmental ranking process does not negate their value. That is why it is of the utmost importance to develop an organized way for administrators to communicate ideas to the college community and avoid unprofessional exchanges.

Written guidelines for the executive summaries were not provided to vice presidents. Carter instead verbally told them to write a one-page summary with no further instructions, according to Anne Foley, vice president of Planning and Compliance.

All administrators are expected to present solutions for problems within the college, but finding an a collegial way of doing so is the only way to get results.