The independent part-time faculty union at Columbia College in Chicago voted no confidence in President Kwang-Ku Kim, Provost Stanley Wearden and the college’s Board of Trustees after a campaign lasting several months.
“The vote by our members illustrates the extremely low level of support Dr. Kim and Provost Wearden have among the adjunct faculty at Columbia,” Diana Vallera, president of Part-Time Faculty at Columbia College (P-fac), said in a statement. “This administration has only taken steps to erode the trust of the faculty.” The union says that the college unilaterally moved to eliminate its first-year seminar department in favor of larger, university-style classes, for example, and that it’s generally moving away from its traditional model of offering small classes taught by working professionals. The union, which voted to disaffiliate from the National Education Association earlier this year, also has accused the college of refusing to honor elements of the collective bargaining agreement it signed in 2013.
Not all faculty groups believe the vote of no confidence was the right move. James Nagle, an adjunct instructor of English at Columbia, and a member of Columbia Adjuncts United -- another part-time faculty association loyal to the NEA -- referred requests for comment to an editorial in the student newspaper, The Columbia Chronicle, which he said summed up his own thoughts about the vote.
“Increasing class sizes, top-down decision making and abrupt program eliminations are issues affecting the entire college community, but the vote of no confidence only reflects P-fac’s opinion of the administration,” reads the editorial. “If P-fac wants the Board of Trustees to acknowledge its grievances, it needs to show that the vote is a strategy to make constructive change, not a tactic to shame the administration. The vote can only be effective when the union proves its outlined concerns affect the greater college community and will eventually have ripple effects collegewide.”
Gregory Foster-Rice, an associate professor of the history of photography and president of the Faculty Senate, a body representing full-time faculty, said in a statement that the senate had never considered a vote of no confidence. “I would rather work at the table to which we have been invited and help change the college based on our expertise rather than dismiss this process or the administration,” he said. “We need to work together to build on our achievements and establish positive change at the college.”
The college has raised numerous concerns about the accuracy of P-fac’s public statements and the validity of the no confidence voting process. For example, the college says that the voting period was extended twice, over several months, and that the average class size went up just 6 percent this year over last. More generally, the college said in a statement that it values its part-time faculty, and that its new strategic plan -- developed last year in consultation with the faculty -- was a source of the controversy. “The plan sets forth key initiatives that support student success and academic excellence while continuing to strengthen the college’s prominence in arts and media education,” reads the statement. “To that end, hard choices must be made and, inevitably, there are those who will disagree.”
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