Last week, the Executive Board of the USofCC Union met with Columbia College Chicago President Kim to discuss various issues important to the Union. Dr. Kim spoke frankly about recent layoffs, new hires, and the direction of the College.
We discussed fundraising efforts, and Dr. Kim expressed confidence in the increasing donor interest he’s witnessed including more contributions from alumni. He was also excited to announce a new position in enrollment management with a fresh innovative direction, and he is very supportive of Mark Rosati’s work in his role as VP of Strategic Communication and External Relations. He would like to direct more resources to support a larger marketing campaign that would not just cover Columbia as a whole but would focus on individual programs. Dr. Kim did express concern that recent marketing efforts did not showcase the College’s unique strengths.
The Union expressed concern about the College’s emphasis on hierarchy, and we conveyed that staff members are made to feel replaceable and not valuable to our college community. An example we used was the tendency to lay off essential personnel without having a plan to cover the important work that is lost, let alone the institutional knowledge. The small salary increases used to cover additional work exacerbates the feeling, and there is the issue of honoring compensation retroactively when additional work is incurred. The Union also reminded the President that some staff members have been here for one, two and three decades. For many staff members, Columbia College is their second home and a career with which they have defined themselves with pride. Staff contributions and dedication need to be recognized and celebrated. Staff morale also needs to be addressed, which we highlighted, suggesting action items like professional development opportunities and supervisor evaluations.
The search for a new Provost has begun and Dr. Kim said he was not limiting the search, but he would like to see a female candidate immersed in the arts and not isolated to academia. He plans to seek candidates who can realize ideas and translate concepts into actions. Asked about the school structure, Dr. Kim said he would leave the discussion for the next Provost, though he still believes there are benefits to additional program/department realignments. He was surprised by the recent departures of some upper level administrators but feels confident the College has the capacity and talent to continue to improve upon the work started in the office of Equity and Inclusion while a search for a new Dean in both the School of Fine and Performing Arts and DEI are conducted.
The Union encouraged Dr. Kim to communicate and share his views more often with the college community. We assured him that we would welcome his thoughts and insights, more so than a requisite announcement of a new hire, departure or of an honor. Dr. Kim spoke with greater confidence about the direction of the College and his role in shaping Columbia’s future.