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

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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.”

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