Year in Review

By Tessa Brubaker, Campus Reporter

This year brought change in many forms to Columbia, Chicago and the entire country. Students and Chicagoans celebrated triumphs, mourned losses, demonstrated support and disapproval and helped define the year as remarkable.

Columbia saw its first major change of the 2016–2017 academic year in July 2016 when former Vice President of Student Success Mark Kelly, one of the college’s best-known and longest serving administrators, announced he was leaving the college after 32 years to accept a new position as commissioner of the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events for the City of Chicago. Although he officially said farewell to the college community July 28, 2016, he was invited back to the college to receive an honorary degree at this year’s commencement ceremonies.

 Vice President of Student Affairs Sharon Wilson-Taylor was named Kelly’s interim successor shortly before receiving the permanent position—one of many appointments the college made throughout the year. Others included Chief Financial Officer Jerry Tarrer, Dean of Students John Pelrine, Faculty Ombudswoman Connie Meyers—who left the college after eight weeks—Vice President for Development and Alumni Relations Shawn Wax and Dean of Academic Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Matthew Shenoda.

 While Columbia spent the summer preparing for the upcoming year, the U.S. was faced with tragedy after the Orlando shooting at the Pulse nightclub on June 12, 2016—the deadliest mass shooting by a lone gunman to date. Americans across the country mourned those whose lives were lost, and in Chicago, a vigil was held the evening of the shooting in Chicago’s

Boystown neighborhood.

Classes kicked off with the annual New Student Convocation Sept. 2, 2016—the first without Kelly’s “Hell Yeah” liturgy—at which college officials encouraged students to stay true to themselves and make the most of their Columbia experience. President and CEO Kwang-Wu Kim welcomed students and urged them to take advantage of Columbia’s opportunities.

Despite predictions that the college would finally halt its declining enrollment, Columbia continued to report drops at the start of the Fall 2016 Semester, bringing the college to a 20-year low that continued into the Spring 2017 Semester. The college finished with a total enrollment of 7,179 students.

Curricular review and departmental restructuring continued throughout the year. A Sept. 9, 2016, email to students announced a proposal to cancel the Fashion Studies BFA program and adapt the Fashion BA major to industry demands but left students and faculty angry and confused, some of whom created an online petition.

Departments within the School of Media Arts were combined for the Fall 2017 Semester. These included mergers of the Communication and Radio departments; Television and Cinema Art and Science departments; and the Animation Program, which will become part of the Interactive Arts and Media Department.

Now in its second year of implementation, the college’s Strategic Plan activity included other major curricular proposals as well as diversity, equity and inclusion efforts like the Undoing Racism workshops and Shenoda’s appointment.

 Chicago’s sports fans witnessed history being made in early November with the Chicago Cubs’ World Series win. The long-awaited win brought joy to Chicagoans whose celebrations began the night of and continued to Nov. 4, 2016, when an estimated five million fans attended a downtown parade to celebrate the win alongside Cubs teammates.

 The streets were packed once more to protest the election of now-President Donald Trump on Nov. 9, 2016, as well as to demonstrate ongoing resistance for his Jan. 20 inauguration. His presidency sparked other protests, including the Jan. 21 Chicago Women’s March and the April 22 March for Science.

College officials reaffirmed their support of international students following Trump’s executive order on Jan. 27 banning immigrants from seven predominantly Muslim countries. A Jan. 31 statement from International Student Affairs Office offered support and advised visa holders to refrain from traveling until further information was known.

The school announced a 4 percent tuition increase for the 2017–2018 year Nov. 15, 2016, raising tuition to $25,580. Students taking six or more credits were assessed a $150 technology fee beginning in the Spring 2017 Semester to help improve student technology.

Columbia’s faculty and staff unions collided with the administration over pay, contract enforcement and negotiation and teaching assignments. US of CC and the college agreed to a new contract after four years of negotiations, resulting in salary increases, signing bonuses and retroactive pay increases of two percent. The staff and part-time faculty union’s dispute over teaching rights of staff members resulted in NLRB and federal court proceedings.

 Columbia’s academic year came to a close with the annual Biggest Mouth event, which awarded first place honors to R&B soul artist and junior music major Anna Agosta. Her band will open for Manifest headliner, Sunflower Bean, May 12.

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