Story Week ends without proper communication of its conclusion

By Editor-in-Chief

“Author the culture of your time,” is one of many slogans Columbia repeatedly touts at its orientations and open houses, but what serves as arguably the biggest opportunity for students to do just that has been quietly canceled. Freshmen and transfer students, along with Chicago’s devoted literary community, will miss one of Columbia’s most celebrated events this spring. 

For the last 19 years, Columbia students and thousands of Chicagoans have gathered every March to enjoy Story Week, a Columbia-sponsored festival that enables prominent and rising authors to share their work. 

However, the event, hosted by the Creative Writing Department, has been canceled just shy of its 20th year, as reported in the Front Page article. Described as “one of the largest and longest creative writing festivals in the country,” the annual Story Week festival has drawn as many as 2,500 attendees to its readings and discussion panels. Last year’s festival brought in more than 50 noteworthy speakers, as reported March 9, 2015, by The Chronicle.

Students and local residents have adored the festival for years for many reasons.

Story Week allowed students interested in writing careers to be exposed to successful industry professionals, offered nearly a week of entertaining and educational events for those not enrolled in writing curricula, promoted diversity by exposing all attendees to a slew of stories written by authors of various backgrounds and served as an unmatched networking opportunity by bringing some of the most talented creative minds right to the college’s own campus.

This cancellation, paired with the 2014 discontinuation of Conversations in the Arts, another Columbia-hosted event that ran for 10 years and offered students the chance to hear from the most compelling creatives in various industries, including Joan Rivers and Horatio Sanz in recent years, marks another missed opportunity for students resulting from the college’s reprioritized budget. 

What’s nearly as disturbing as learning the college will not host the festival this year is the way in which members of the community have—or have not—been made aware of the discontinuation of Story Week. 

Many students and faculty members within the Creative Writing Department had no idea that Story Week will not be running this year when The Chronicle became aware of the news.

Repeated requests for comment on the demise and possible future of the festival at Columbia were rebuffed by the college’s spokeswoman, Cara Birch, and Tony Trigilio, interim chair of the department.  

Some students say they are enjoying the department’s new Creative Writing Reading Series, but that they were never made aware that the series is intended to replace Story Week.

One student made it clear that she appreciates the reading series but said it is not as valuable to students as the festival was. 

Another concern that undergraduates face with the demise of Story Week is the lost opportunity to engage in departmental events relating to their industry.

While the reading series may be entertaining, it only includes graduate students as speakers, whereas Story Week enabled both current undergraduate and graduate students to showcase their talent. 

Columbia may be attempting to tout its Creative Writing Department as colleges nationwide compete to bolster their graduate programs, but attributing the cancellation of one of the college’s most beloved events to budget cuts and replacing it with an event that solely benefits its graduate students deprives undergrads of networking opportunities and community engagement, two things Columbia prides itself on.