Protests As Columbia College Plans To Raise Tuition, Weighs Cutting Programs

CHICAGO (CBS) — Students and faculty at Columbia College are protesting plans to raise tuition, as the school also weighs cutting some programs and restructuring some academic departments, according to published reports.

The Columbia Chronicle reported that numerous protest groups have been gathering outside Columbia College to protest “the direction in which the college is moving.” Among the groups protesting are members of the part-time Columbia faculty union P-Fac, as well as the Columbia staff union and an Occupy group dedicated to Columbia College, the Chronicle reported.

This past Thursday, the protest groups handed a petition to Columbia administrators demanding that tuition costs be frozen.

Tuition will rise 5.2 percent for the 2012-2013 school year, the Chronicle reported.

The protesters have also held demonstrations at nearby East-West University and other institutions to protest “union busting,” the Chronicle said.

Columbia journalism department adjunct professor and P-Fac media chair Nancy Traver told the Chronicle that the union has not had a bargaining session with administrators for a new contract in more than four months, and is also petitioning for a health insurance policy for adjunct faculty.

Meanwhile, Chicago Tribune arts critic Howard Reich reported this past weekend that plans are also afoot at Columbia to eliminate two well-respected music institutions. The Office of the Provost-Academic Affairs at Columbia advised shutting down the Chicago Jazz Ensemble and the Center for Black Music Research, in an effort to streamline its focus toward educating students and getting them to graduate, Reich reported.

The recommendations were found in an internal document, “Blueprint: Prioritization,” that was obtained by the Tribune.

The Chicago Jazz Ensemble was founded at Columbia College in 1965, and was revived in the 1990s by its founder, William Russo, after going dormant for a while, the Tribune reported. The report recognizes the “leadership” of the ensemble in setting up performances and programs, but recommends shutting it down, the newspaper reported.

The Center for Black Music Research was founded in 1983. Columbia recommends closing it, with the exception of its library and archive, the Tribune reported.

Some faculty members are also upset about the decision not to renew the contract of Randy Albers, who had been chairman of the Fiction Writing Department. A petition has been launched to protest the move.

The petition also makes reference to the “Blueprint: Prioritization” document, which it says called for a “restructuring” of the fiction department, and accuses the school of “‘prioritizing’ many faculty members out of jobs.”

  • Marcia Brenner

    Unfortunately, your article does not have it’s facts straight. Last Thursday was the Occupy Chicago Protest which also involved East-West University and the Columbia College Chicago PFac union and part time faculty members. This Monday there was one protest: it involved part time faculty and students who were joined in protesting cuts in departments made by the “Blueprint Prioritization” process, including the decisions not to renew contracts for several department Chairs, including Ken Daley of English and Randall Albers of Fiction. Among the protest group were dozens of Fiction students and part time faculty, several of whom are responsible for the creation of AlbersforChair. org, a website devoted to protesting the decision to not renew Albers contract. At this point the website has more than two hundred signatures and also dozens of testimonials, and it is still growing.

  • J.H.

    The article and above comment left out the part about students going into the forum the Provost was holding on these issues and interrupted her with a Mic Check, which was received by a round of applause from most of the faculty in attendance.

    Here’s a video recap:

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  • Nancy Traver

    The article above does not accurately report what P-fac is seeking: a fair contract that would provide job security. The part-time faculty’s contract with Columbia College expired in August 2010. The college has failed to bargain with us in good faith. Administrators offered a new comprehensive contract proposal in December that is very regressive and would take away the most basic rights held by unions. Furthermore, we are not “helping” East-West fight against union-busting tactics; our union is fighting those tactics, which are employed by Columbia College. We turned in petitions last week signed y 1,500 faculty members, staff and students urging the administration to offer the part-time faculty a fair contract. The college fired the federal mediator who was trying to help us bargain. The prioritization process further endangers adjuncts because so many of them could lose their jobs as departments and programs are cut. If someone at CBS would like to write an accurate story, please contact me.

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