Strategic Plans go both ways

By Editor-in-Chief

The reactions of the campus community to the Strategic Plan have been varied, garnering support for its boldness from some while drawing the ire of an ever-growing population of faculty, staff and students.

In this issue, sources’ displeasure with the plan is evident, and the college community’s chilly attitudes toward voicing their opinions have seemingly thawed. Last week few people would comment, let alone answer requests for comment from Chronicle reporters. Now, campaigns to combat the Strategic Plan have begun springing up across the campus, with some expressions as mild as writing letters to others calling for pickets, as detailed in the Front Page stories about the plan.

What seems to fuel the most anger is the fact that several aspects of the plan were implemented prior to or during the feedback phase, the most drastic being the termination of the First Year Seminar Department and its full-time faculty—and cutting a huge chunk of course offerings from adjunct faculty.

Senior Vice President and Provost Stan Wearden’s response that only the parts of the plan that have been enacted are the most dire is part of a larger systemic issue, though. Even if the parts of the plan that debuted before the feedback phase was completed—faculty buyouts, the FYS program, administrative hiring searches—were pressing, it doesn’t change the fact that they were still implemented long before those affected by the changes were able to give their thoughts on the matter.

It delivers the message that these changes were already planned and would come to fruition even if the campus decreed them contradictory to Columbia’s mission. It’s understandable that so many members of the campus community are angry and planning to fight the changes, and the upper-level administration should seriously take their reactions and concerns into account.

An administration composed of almost entirely new people cannot realistically expect a campus that once prided itself on its originality to accept what can be described as a radical revisualization of the college, especially when the plan puts jobs, programs and identity into a state of flux.

The increasing outcry against the plan is indicative of the real response that the college community has toward the Strategic Plan. 

When a document manages to unite faculty, staff and students in the pursuit of fighting it, it seems like the comments on Civic Commons are less than accurate gauges of likability. And despite the availability of an anonymous response form—as if IP addresses aren’t a thing—there is still a large portion of the campus community that is still afraid to voice their opinions.

What the administration seems to forget is that this is the second go-round of rethinking the college’s missions and programs in recent years. Blueprint Prioritization, a process that spawned recommendations targeting specific faculty and programs, occurred only a year before Kwang-Wu Kim was named president and CEO in 2013.

The college is in a financial crisis, and in all honesty, the current upper-level administration is only trying to compensate for the failures of former president Warrick L. Carter’s administration. But there is also the issue of some administrators not realizing that what worked at their large, public universities may not work here. And there is also the issue that the college has yet to really expand on what is creating the deficit and where all of the money really goes.

It would behoove the administration to release what sacrifices it is making in the face of budget cuts and how the Strategic Plan will impact them, other than the creation of six new administrative positions. Before it does that, it is improbable that the campus community will accept the plan and what it aims to do.