Strike Information

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Update 12.06.2023

Dear Columbia College Chicago Community, 

Regrettably, mediation between the college and the union bargaining teams to date appears to be yielding the same result as negotiations: continued deadlock on key issues. The fact that CFAC remains on strike means we have an urgent need to make instructional and operational plans for spring. This changes our priorities at the bargaining table. The college sought mediation weeks ago to avoid being in this situation.
 
We thank our faculty who have devoted countless hours to step in to restart instruction. The strike and the union’s determination to prolong it have not only disrupted instruction and the college experience for many of our students but also promises to cost the college untold millions of dollars in direct and indirect costs. The measures we took ahead of this semester were in response to a deficit of $20 million that will now grow instead of shrink.
 
At this late date in the semester, there cannot be a return of striking part-faculty as a group. The college cannot continue to offer a return-to-work bonus and other assorted offers to employees who have refused to return to work. Simply put, there is no time left for striking part-time faculty to return to teaching this semester, and, after 31 bargaining sessions (18 of them since the strike began), countless additional phone calls, and three mediation sessions we must turn our attention to ensuring that we have a spring semester free from further disruption. 
 
In order to do what is right for the institution, we have withdrawn our prior comprehensive offer and made a new comprehensive offer. The new offer will include the previously offered raises, medical benefits, and new titles, but will reflect three important realities of where we are now: 
 

  • The college can no longer justify the previous comprehensive offer in its entirety given the financial repercussions of the union’s strike.
     
  • The college cannot justify offers that were designed to bring strikers back to work when the union leadership has rejected these offers and continued to strike.
     
  • With the strike ongoing with no progress in mediation, the college needs to plan as needed to ensure a spring semester for our students.


In particular, the college can no longer agree to renew the previous contract’s terms capping our ability to hire full-time teaching track faculty at 65 (the cap in the old contract expired when CFAC refused in August to extend the old contract during negotiations). The college today proposed that part-time faculty applications will get priority consideration if the college posts new full-time faculty positions. Our offer still contains a provision for some degree of guaranteed course offers for most part-time faculty.  
 
We still hope that this can happen through a contract, and we will continue to mediate with help from FMCS to accomplish that. In the absence of a contract and with continued demands by the union that are not acceptable to the college, the college must also now plan for the possibility of starting the spring semester in a different way as well as make decisions that account for the fact that striking part-time faculty may not return.
 
The union leadership appears intent on continuing to strike even after the college has made significant proposals designed to bring about a return to work. Now with instruction having not only resumed but with some classes down to just one class meeting before the end of the semester, a return to work for fall is not feasible. It also flies in the face of practicality: After some classes went five weeks without an instructor, students resumed classes with different faculty, new assignments, etc. Making another switch and introducing more disruption and another need to transition this late in the semester is not student-focused and makes no sense from an instructional or organizational standpoint. 
 
There is one reason why we are here: The union went on strike and repeatedly refused to return in the face of good contract offers. We are unclear whether our numerous proposals have been shared with union members and put to a vote. The union has also avoided responding to the federal mediation office for weeks, sowing confusion by saying the college had refused mediation.
 
While much has been made – deservedly – about the union’s demands over employment guarantees, there were many other obstacles put up by the union leadership as both sides met nearly around the clock to arrive at a deal over Thanksgiving weekend. The union president stated she wanted a deal and a return to work, and we do not doubt that commitment, but her approach to negotiating did little to advance that goal. One proposal could be viewed as either wholly unrealistic or designed to scuttle agreement: A return-to-work proposal made by the union over the Thanksgiving break which would have paid strikers more money for a strike-shortened fall semester than if they had not struck at all. In contrast, the college went from offering a $500 per-person bonus for agreement on a contract and ending the strike to offering $250 per person per credit taught: $750 for someone teaching three credits and $2,250 for someone teaching nine credits.
 
The college had endeavored for weeks to bridge the differences with CFAC and bring striking part-time faculty members back to the classroom. These efforts intensified before and during Thanksgiving weekend, a point at which the window to complete the semester was rapidly closing. In addition to offering a 16-percent pay increase and first time ever medical benefits, we structured offers the week of Thanksgiving that were designed to have instruction fully resume with CFAC members on Monday, November 27. We emphasized to the union president that, given the college’s alternative plans to restart the semester in earnest that week, it would be difficult if not impossible after that point to re-insert striking faculty members into an already confusing and fast-changing situation for students. The new offers we made over that weekend – including a $250 per person per credit bonus for ending the strike and returning to the classroom – were set to expire the evening of November 26; the union let the deadline pass with no agreement.
 
The update we hoped to send was not that negotiations and mediation to date have failed to yield a result. Unfortunately, that is the case. We will continue to mediate and bargain, and we remain committed to a new contract, ideally for the spring semester. Part-time faculty will always be welcome and needed at our college – as exemplified but our continued agreement to some degree of guaranteed offers to part-time faculty. But we must face reality and prepare for the college and instruction to go on.

Terence Smith

Special Counsel Labor Relations

Laurent Pernot

Chief of Staff

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All students and faculty should be aware that:

  • The college and all campus buildings will remain open.
  • The college is committed to protecting every student’s academic progress, including progress toward graduation.
  • Students will not be held accountable for attendance or progress in courses that are not held due to the strike. However, as is normally the case, students will be marked absent if they miss a class that is being held.

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NOTICE:

The college does not tolerate harassment of any kind including on social media: strikers and their supporters should be allowed to express themselves without fear of harassment, violence, or retaliation.

Similarly, anyone refraining from strike-related activities should also be free of harassment, violence, or retaliation.

Any situation of concern should be reported to Campus Safety and Security immediately at (312) 369-1111.

You should also contact Safety and Security in the unlikely event that you experience anyone attempting to prevent access to buildings or disrupt the operations of classes.

 


Letters from the Provost

  • Message to Students (11/21)

    Update 11.21.2023

    Dear Columbia College Chicago Students, 

    I am writing to you about the restart of strike-affected classes. By now, many of you have been contacted by your new instructors of record and if not, you will be hearing from them or your academic department chair this week, so please check your email and Canvas.  

    It is important that you complete your fall semester courses and stay on your path to graduation. The Office of the Provost and the academic departments are taking every necessary step to protect your progress. For that reason, the deans, chairs, full-time faculty, willing part-time faculty, and staff have been working to develop plans to resume classes affected by the strike.  

    What to expect. In instances where the part-time faculty member remains unavailable, instruction will be completed by a new faculty member assigned to the course, a subject-matter expert chosen from our full-time or part-time faculty ranks, or a new instructor chosen because of their expertise.    

    In select circumstances, new instructors may not complete a course as originally planned, instead providing learning opportunities that facilitate learning outcomes relevant to the course or program and allowing students to complete the semester and move forward. 

    Each situation is different, so students should look for messaging from departments and the faculty assigned to each class as it resumes. In some instances, classes have already resumed and are moving forward. In other instances, because of the Thanksgiving holiday break, this will occur next week. All students will receive an update from their departments this week.  

    When your class resumes, you will be expected to attend class and complete the coursework as required by the instructor. Your grade for the course will be determined by the work done before and after the interruption caused by the strike.

    Some students have indicated they will not attend in solidarity with a striking instructor. That is a personal choice—but the college is not establishing campus accommodations for those who do so. 

    Other things to know. Here is some additional information about our planning: 

    1. Whatever the context, the goal is not to overwhelm you with content. A careful review of learning outcomes, both those achieved and those yet to be covered, will allow faculty to adjust instruction to the remaining time. 

    1. We are extending the grading window to give faculty more flexibility to accept student work and more time for assessment.  

    1. We are not extending the semester. In very limited circumstances some classwork may extend into January to achieve learning outcomes. 

    1. We are bringing back a more flexible pass/fail option for students to relieve stress and support course completion. More information about the pass/fail option and extended grading deadline is being shared in an email from the Registrar and will also be posted on our FAQ site. 

    Why students should return.  

    Your faculty and staff are working tirelessly on plans to finish the semester because finishing protects you and the time you invested in learning this fall. This is the way for you to finish the semester in good standing. This is the moment for you to complete the requirements for graduation. This is the moment for you to finish the work to earn grades that keep you moving forward. This is the way for you to be best positioned to complete your education and remain in good standing for scholarships and financial aid.  

    Marcella David

    Senior Vice President and Provost

  • A Letter from the Provost to the Columbia Community (11/15)

    Dear Columbia College Chicago Community,

    This is not a letter I am happy to write.

    I had hoped that the strike would be resolved, and that our part-time faculty colleagues would return to teaching, sharing with students their plans for achieving learning outcomes and finishing the semester. My intent is not to rehash negotiating points in this message, but I will reiterate my conviction remains that the principles the college is advancing in negotiations represent the best way to ensure our future.

    Unfortunately, there is no agreement, and the strike continues.

    Even as the union and college negotiators work to find resolution, my most important concern is the impact the strike is having on our students. I am directing the deans and department chairs to assess the learning that has occurred and work toward the completion of courses, developing and implementing alternative plans as necessary, including the possibility of replacing faculty who are not teaching.

    To the full-time faculty and staff, I want to assure you that when your deans and chairs ask you to step in, it is not with the goal of undermining the union. My singular priority is my commitment to student learning and success. Our students need a clear pathway forward that honors our responsibility for their learning, even as we continue to hope for a resolution to end the strike. I believe that in this moment a resolute commitment of efforts is the only pathway forward, and I hope we can all come together to ensure our students’ success.

    Marcella David
    Senior Vice President and Provost

  • A Letter from the Provost to the Columbia Community (11/11)

    Dear Columbia College Chicago Community,

    It is Saturday, November 11, 2023. As the Student Center is filling up with prospective students and their parents for Open House, here we have concluded the second week of the strike called by the part-time faculty union. While it is still unclear if we will return to the classroom next week, I am hopeful the union will consider the comprehensive contract offered to CFAC on Friday. What is also unclear is how to reconnect as a community after rhetoric from the union that calls into question the quality of the educational programs of Columbia College Chicago. I am writing this community letter to speak to these issues.

    Students, please keep learning! Take advantage of alternative learning opportunities that departments are offering based on their capacity. It is true that the union has managed to shut down classes, including claiming to students that there are no alternative class offerings available or suggesting that a student who is attending a class taught by a substitute or an alternative activity planned by the department is somehow harming the union’s efforts.

    You are not.

    The union has the right to strike, but some faculty who are teaching are sometimes being reported to the union for their efforts, and being labeled “scabs,” whether or not they are in fact union members crossing the line. That some of those accusations coming from students they love are doubly regretful, when what they want – what we want – is to limit further disruption of your studies, and when they are stepping up to ensure the continuity of your education.

    Students, please register for classes. The union has stressed that the changes we are making to the schedule are shocking and damaging. They are not, they are part of the curricular management processes of colleges and universities, which change course offerings frequency, class size limits, and other aspects of scheduling to adapt to enrollment and staffing needs. The process is undertaken by the departments and faculty, and at Columbia College Chicago, the quality of our offerings and our commitment to ensuring learning outcomes that prepare you for your success remain at the forefront of our minds.

    Our schedule is live, we have classes for our majors, minors, and a rich array of Core classes and electives. Are popular classes full? Yes, but that is always the case. We will continue to make adjustments to open sections and make seats available in key courses. The waitlist feature helps us identify and make those adjustments in the coming days and weeks before the semester starts.

    Importantly, I hope you see that the decisions of what classes to offer and what classes to make larger are consistent with the careful considerations I described above: the most significant changes in class size are reserved for lecture classes and are mostly taught by highly regarded full-time faculty. Our studios have been preserved in smaller formats and our offerings remain rich and varied. I am sure that there are students who are nonetheless upset about the missed opportunity to take a particular class. If it is a required course and you are on the path to graduation, we will work with you to keep you on track. However we need to make difficult choices about where to direct finite resources, and we have chosen to focus those resources on additional sections of required courses instead of some elective offerings.

    Students, don’t be afraid of change. While the kinds of changes I have asked departments to make are typical curricular adjustments, what is unusual at this moment is that I have asked them to do a lot in a short period of time. There will be more curricular changes, including changes I have proposed to streamline the Core, and a request to departments to review their curriculum to improve pathways to degrees. After years of trying to reduce deficit spending without significant changes to our schedule of courses, we must protect the future of the college by making substantial changes to the way we teach while at the same time ensuring that our curriculum remains current and reflective of the changes happening across the creative disciplines, professions, and industries.

    We undertake this task because we want to remain an affordable and accessible option for students seeking degrees in creative practices that are grounded in a liberal arts Core that is relevant and connected to the creative disciplines that form the heart and soul of Columbia College Chicago.

    In fact, I believe this presents the opportunity for Columbia College Chicago to prove to the world that we continue to provide top-rate education without sacrificing our commitment to creative collaboration, affordability, and access. But the first step is for us to bring down the costs of instruction.

    The real deal. The “costs of instruction” are mostly the costs of our people, and running a college means that in addition to our faculty and academic staff, we also invest in the people who provide student services, keep our buildings running, and provide administrative resources. Starting from before I came, as lower enrollments mean less tuition revenue, we have scaled back on all expenses and reduced the overall number of full-time faculty and administrative staff to save money.

    This summer’s effort to streamline the Spring '24 schedule is primarily impacting our adjunct faculty. Our adjunct faculty include those who teach occasionally, those who teach to supplement their income in a way that allows them to engage in their creative practices, and those who teach at Columbia College and other institutions as a way of creating a full-time portfolio. They are all passionate about working with our students, and some transition into full-time positions. The reduction of offers to teach is a regretful but necessary step we take to address our ongoing fiscal circumstances.

    Our future challenges. The next few years will be challenging. The problem we are addressing will only be fixed if we approach it honestly.

    • This is not “just a question of 2 million dollars.” That union talking point is meant to suggest that if only administrator salaries were cut, and the president’s house sold, everything would be fine. The $2 million target that led to my August call for section reductions in the Spring '24 schedule was part of an overall cut of almost $3 million to academic affairs and approximately $6 million in other cuts for the fiscal year undertaken in the spring and summer budget planning process. That still leaves us with a significant deficit for the fiscal year, and if we leave our approach to how we teach and the way we schedule courses unchanged, we will face the same deficit scenario again and again. Rethinking our programs, schedules, and course delivery is the best – and only – way to make significant improvements to the cost of instruction.

    • Making significant improvements in the cost of instruction will mean reducing the money we spend on instructional salaries. The union has come to understand this. The solution they offer is to restore part-time faculty teaching offers by eliminating teaching-track faculty, and not allowing staff with teaching responsibilities to teach students as they engage in their jobs of event planning, print-making, and the like. These steps would endanger the student experience. Our full-time faculty and staff who teach are working to improve the college in the classroom and out, and they support student learning in important and irreplaceable ways, including by committing their expertise and time to building the curriculum.

    • Making changes to the curriculum and schedule is a process that should be led by the full-time faculty, with input from those part-time faculty who sit on the department curriculum committees. My vision of how we accomplish the task of curriculum review is that we shift to a creative educational process that happens in the context of fiscal constraints but is managed by those responsible for curriculum development, the faculty. The departmental conversations this fall have been more limited in scope and participation: individualized conversations with faculty about their ability to teach larger sections, smaller groups of faculty members coming together to think about how to revise foundational courses to allow for effective learning in larger formats, and department and school leadership determining the frequency of electives based on current enrollment needs. As those conversations transition to deeper questions about curriculum efficiencies, faculty engagement in those processes will be vital.

    • I celebrate our full-time faculty. Our students have been told that the experience of working with our part-time faculty is the “true” Columbia College Chicago experience, the implication being that our full-time faculty are not engaged in industry-leading creative practice. That is far from the truth. We have award-winning full-time faculty – and you should read that literally: Grammy, Pulitzer, MacArthur, NSA grants, Fulbright, these accolades, and more are all represented on our full-time faculty. I celebrate your accomplishments and I thank you for your efforts to support our students in the past two weeks.

    • We need to stop promising our students that they will be able to take any class they want. We need to stop sending mixed signals by offering degree programs with excessive numbers of electives. We need to stop suggesting that narrow degree specializations are necessary for student success – or indeed that narrow specializations are the best preparation for launching a creative career in today’s collaborative creative climate.

    • We need to offer each other grace. I understand and appreciate the impact these changes will have on our faculty – part-time and full-time – and the anxiety change causes our students, faculty, and staff. I respect that we differ in our views of what is best for our college and that differences in principles should be voiced and discussed. I respect the principle that motivated the students who disrupted the Columbia Weekend event to express their views.

    But.

    Those same students shouted at the parent of one of their classmates, calling her a “f***ing Karen.” There is some talk about disrupting classes and student productions. Union members who have taught classes or who resigned their union membership have been bullied, not just by union colleagues, but by students. Some have reported being doxed, as have some full-time faculty.

    We must do better. This community prides itself on being welcoming, inclusive, and supportive; surely, we can disagree on principles about important things without resorting to hateful behaviors. Let us all commit to caring for each other, even in disagreement.

    Marcella David
    Senior Vice President and Provost

Strike FAQ

Student FAQ

Dear students,

The college is continuing to bargain with the union in good faith, and we are hopeful for a resolution that returns all students and faculty to the classroom as soon as possible. We write to respond to some frequently asked questions and concerns.

Faculty FAQ

Dear faculty,

The college is continuing to bargain with the union in good faith, and we are hopeful for a resolution that returns all students and faculty to the classroom as soon as possible. We write to respond to some frequently asked questions and concerns.

Union Issues FAQ

  • Student statements based on CFAC pronouncements

    “You won’t be able to graduate because of what the college is doing.” [We have heard this from many students who heard it from CFAC leadership and some part-time faculty]

    Response: This is a regrettable scare tactic by the union. This administration has a demonstrated record of prioritizing improvements in graduation rates as an institutional imperative. Required courses will continue to be offered, along with substantial elective offerings in departments. The latest changes include efforts to facilitate pathways to graduation.

  • CFAC Statements & Responses

    CFAC Statement: “This administration has spent recklessly for years and continues to do so. Dr. Kim, against protests from faculty and students, built a $50 million Student Center, and the college is locked into a debt cycle. Last year alone, the college spent almost $4 million servicing interest on debt. That's twice the amount the Provost wants to save by cutting our classes. It’s wasted money. It’s bad management.” [October 20 CFAC forum]

    Response: We believe the Student Center has been and continues to be a valuable resource for students to study, build community, and create a safe environment. Setting this aside, 75 percent of the college’s debt results from borrowing that took place before President Kim’s administration. The $3.7 million annual debt interest is reasonable for an institution our size, and also, in 2019, the college retired, i.e. paid down $11 million debt early.


    CFAC Question: “Where Does the Money Go?” [October 20 CFAC Forum]

    Response: The college’s finances are publicly available: The college reports key financial data to the IRS and posts those completed IRS forms on the college website; an external auditing firm puts together audited financial statements for the college, which are posted on the college website, and other charts and tables are either posted or shared in various settings with campus stakeholders. The following chart shows that, between 2019 and 2023 (a time span during which enrollment decreased 6 percent), instructional department spending decreased 4 percent; spending on student services is down less than 2 percent; the academic administration budget decreased 30 percent; and college administration increased 12 percent – driven in large part by increases in security costs (pay increases to security personnel by our security contractor, rising costs of college insurance policies, increased IT software and hardware costs, with those costs passed on to the college), staff compensation increases and COVID expenses.

    The largest financial change is that, due to changed economic trends and student and family expectations, Columbia is spending $77 million on student scholarships this year to support families and our mission. That amount is double what it was in FY18.

    College expense trends are below:

    budget chart


    CFAC Statement: “The administration won’t even discuss course cancellations, rising class sizes, and curriculum changes with us at the bargaining table.” [October 20, 2023 CFAC forum]

    Response: The union is free to disagree with what the college says or puts on the table, but to repeatedly say that the college is refusing to bargain is simply untrue.

    On August 25, President Kim’s chief of staff and the college’s special counsel for Labor Relations met with the union president and her outside legal counsel and asserted the college’s management rights to make decisions to which the union objected, but they each stipulated that the college was willing to bargain over the impact of those decisions on members. In September, the union president denied this happened, and the college emailed the union stating, “The college remains prepared to discuss the impact of section reductions and increased class sizes.”

    The next morning (September 20), in bargaining, the union made what it called a “supposal” that would have given the union a veto over course offerings and class size decisions and would have in any event capped any enrollment cap increase for any class to two (regardless of the initial size of the section), with the college paying the instructor $500 for an increase of one student and $1,000 for two students. While the college did not agree to the “supposal,” it was discussed at length during the two-hour bargaining session.


    On September 27, the special counsel for Labor Relations emailed the CFAC bargaining committee to say:

    “While the parties are not in agreement that course offerings and class size are mandatory subjects of bargaining, we remain willing to discuss the impact of recent decisions to reduce sections and increase class size in certain cases.”

    Response: Although the college does not agree to the structure suggested by the union, it is open to further discussion about the following framework:

    Regarding section reductions, the college is willing to discuss the availability of impact payments for certain instructors who, as a result of section reductions made pursuant to the Provost’s directive, apply for but do not receive any courses for which they are qualified for two concurrent semesters. Such a payment provision would apply to instructors with seniority who have taught a minimum number of courses over the past few academic years.

    Regarding class size, the college cannot agree to place veto control over such inherent management decisions with an employee committee or to pay instructors extra based on each additional student. The college is, however, willing to make paid training and other resources available to instructors to enhance course delivery for a significantly larger class.

    The college looks forward to continuing discussions about the particulars of such a framework.”

    On several occasions after that, the union acknowledged the communication but refused to discuss that language or impact in general.


    CFAC Statement: “Inventing a Crisis: The college had been operating at a deficit for years. However, the moment we sat down at the bargaining table, what was previously called the “strategic deficit” became a “crisis” and suddenly it’s up to faculty to make the sacrifices.” [October 20, 2023 union forum]

    “It’s up to faculty” response: For years, the college has made cuts that have impacted every employee group – staff, administrators, and full-time faculty – except part-time faculty. Under President Kim’s leadership, annual expenses have been curbed by $40 million. Since 2019, there have been 124 staff, administrator, and full-time faculty position eliminations – 41 of them outright layoffs. There have been benefit cuts, and the costs of other benefits have gone up. Many non-CFAC employees went without raises for years while CFAC got raises. While these cuts have avoided a significant worsening of our deficits, they have not led to significant decreases in deficits. Therefore, we have to broaden the scope of measures being taken – by finding efficiencies in the instructional budget and by finding additional efficiencies this year and following years in non-academic budgets. There is no question that part-time faculty will lose sections to teach under the changes to course offerings and class size. But it is simply not true that just one employee group is being asked to make all the sacrifices.

    “Inventing a crisis” response: We have spent $80 million in deficit since 2019 – only $25 million was initially planned for strategic deficit spending to jumpstart an enrollment turn-around. This year, we will add $20 million in deficit spending, for a total of $100 million, which is depleting college resources. These issues were brought up by the college long before negotiations with CFAC even started. The union keeps denying this is really happening, but ignoring a crisis does not mean it’s not there.

    It is important to know the college essentially has three sources of funds to meet operating expenses: Tuition revenue, cash reserves, and the endowment. Columbia’s income (made up mostly of tuition) has covered only about 90 cents of every dollar in costs, requiring the college to draw upon reserves and the endowment.

    As a result of this, cash reserves, built over years to help the college weather difficult times, are projected to be depleted by the end of the fiscal year 2024-25.

    This means the college will need to shore up cash reserves with large withdrawals from the endowment. If no corrective action is taken, the endowment – which currently remains healthy at about $190 million, would decrease to $90 million in five years.

    For these reasons, the Board has directed that decisive action be taken above and beyond the efficiency measures already taken in recent years. These measures include reducing some sections and increasing class size where academically feasible. We have been clear that this will result in a larger share of classes being taught by full-time faculty, and that there will be fewer sections taught by part-time faculty. This is what the part-time faculty is threatening to strike over.


    CFAC Statement: The union has said the administration is planning to move the college to a for profit model.

    Response: No. We have not ever considered it, nor would we. For-profit models are wildly different than the non-profit model we operate under. One of the big differences between for-profit vs. non-profit is that the Board of Trustees get paid in a for-profit model, and there are investors who have nothing to do with the institution who receive funds that would otherwise stay with the institution. Our Board is made up of volunteers who are doing this because of their interest in Columbia. I am not aware of a private, nonprofit institution shifting to a for-profit model before, and we are not interested in exploring this.

Recent Messages

  • CFAC Negotiation Update (12/6)

    Update 12.06.2023

    Dear Columbia College Chicago Community, 

    Regrettably, mediation between the college and the union bargaining teams to date appears to be yielding the same result as negotiations: continued deadlock on key issues. The fact that CFAC remains on strike means we have an urgent need to make instructional and operational plans for spring. This changes our priorities at the bargaining table. The college sought mediation weeks ago to avoid being in this situation.
     
    We thank our faculty who have devoted countless hours to step in to restart instruction. The strike and the union’s determination to prolong it have not only disrupted instruction and the college experience for many of our students but also promises to cost the college untold millions of dollars in direct and indirect costs. The measures we took ahead of this semester were in response to a deficit of $20 million that will now grow instead of shrink.
     
    At this late date in the semester, there cannot be a return of striking part-faculty as a group. The college cannot continue to offer a return-to-work bonus and other assorted offers to employees who have refused to return to work. Simply put, there is no time left for striking part-time faculty to return to teaching this semester, and, after 31 bargaining sessions (18 of them since the strike began), countless additional phone calls, and three mediation sessions we must turn our attention to ensuring that we have a spring semester free from further disruption. 
     
    In order to do what is right for the institution, we have withdrawn our prior comprehensive offer and made a new comprehensive offer. The new offer will include the previously offered raises, medical benefits, and new titles, but will reflect three important realities of where we are now: 
     

    • The college can no longer justify the previous comprehensive offer in its entirety given the financial repercussions of the union’s strike.
       
    • The college cannot justify offers that were designed to bring strikers back to work when the union leadership has rejected these offers and continued to strike.
       
    • With the strike ongoing with no progress in mediation, the college needs to plan as needed to ensure a spring semester for our students.


    In particular, the college can no longer agree to renew the previous contract’s terms capping our ability to hire full-time teaching track faculty at 65 (the cap in the old contract expired when CFAC refused in August to extend the old contract during negotiations). The college today proposed that part-time faculty applications will get priority consideration if the college posts new full-time faculty positions. Our offer still contains a provision for some degree of guaranteed course offers for most part-time faculty.  
     
    We still hope that this can happen through a contract, and we will continue to mediate with help from FMCS to accomplish that. In the absence of a contract and with continued demands by the union that are not acceptable to the college, the college must also now plan for the possibility of starting the spring semester in a different way as well as make decisions that account for the fact that striking part-time faculty may not return.
     
    The union leadership appears intent on continuing to strike even after the college has made significant proposals designed to bring about a return to work. Now with instruction having not only resumed but with some classes down to just one class meeting before the end of the semester, a return to work for fall is not feasible. It also flies in the face of practicality: After some classes went five weeks without an instructor, students resumed classes with different faculty, new assignments, etc. Making another switch and introducing more disruption and another need to transition this late in the semester is not student-focused and makes no sense from an instructional or organizational standpoint. 
     
    There is one reason why we are here: The union went on strike and repeatedly refused to return in the face of good contract offers. We are unclear whether our numerous proposals have been shared with union members and put to a vote. The union has also avoided responding to the federal mediation office for weeks, sowing confusion by saying the college had refused mediation.
     
    While much has been made – deservedly – about the union’s demands over employment guarantees, there were many other obstacles put up by the union leadership as both sides met nearly around the clock to arrive at a deal over Thanksgiving weekend. The union president stated she wanted a deal and a return to work, and we do not doubt that commitment, but her approach to negotiating did little to advance that goal. One proposal could be viewed as either wholly unrealistic or designed to scuttle agreement: A return-to-work proposal made by the union over the Thanksgiving break which would have paid strikers more money for a strike-shortened fall semester than if they had not struck at all. In contrast, the college went from offering a $500 per-person bonus for agreement on a contract and ending the strike to offering $250 per person per credit taught: $750 for someone teaching three credits and $2,250 for someone teaching nine credits.
     
    The college had endeavored for weeks to bridge the differences with CFAC and bring striking part-time faculty members back to the classroom. These efforts intensified before and during Thanksgiving weekend, a point at which the window to complete the semester was rapidly closing. In addition to offering a 16-percent pay increase and first time ever medical benefits, we structured offers the week of Thanksgiving that were designed to have instruction fully resume with CFAC members on Monday, November 27. We emphasized to the union president that, given the college’s alternative plans to restart the semester in earnest that week, it would be difficult if not impossible after that point to re-insert striking faculty members into an already confusing and fast-changing situation for students. The new offers we made over that weekend – including a $250 per person per credit bonus for ending the strike and returning to the classroom – were set to expire the evening of November 26; the union let the deadline pass with no agreement.
     
    The update we hoped to send was not that negotiations and mediation to date have failed to yield a result. Unfortunately, that is the case. We will continue to mediate and bargain, and we remain committed to a new contract, ideally for the spring semester. Part-time faculty will always be welcome and needed at our college – as exemplified but our continued agreement to some degree of guaranteed offers to part-time faculty. But we must face reality and prepare for the college and instruction to go on.

    Terence Smith

    Special Counsel Labor Relations

    Laurent Pernot

    Chief of Staff

  • Message from the Deans (12/3)

    Update 12.03.2023

    Dear Students,  

    There has been a great deal of confusing information floating around regarding the ending weeks of this semester, and we wish to clarify and explain what is happening and, equally important, why it is happening. 

    Simply put, the college remains committed to providing the best possible experience we can for our students.  

    Department chairs are working with a variety of instructors – part-time faculty not on strike, full-time faculty, and newly hired instructors – to allow you to complete your semester’s classes and continue your progress toward graduation.  

    Everyone teaching is qualified to teach the courses they have been assigned to. The union's claims that the faculty stepping in to teach these classes are unqualified are unjustified. In fact, many faculty are stepping in to teach classes they have previously taught – and in some cases, designed. 

    The union has also called out the listing of department chairs as “instructors of record” as an indicator of poor quality. Chairs are listed next to many courses for administrative bookkeeping reasons. The reality is that other qualified faculty are teaching those classes, meeting with students, and reviewing and grading student work even though the department chair’s name may currently be on the course. 

    No matter what CFAC claims, the strike has little to do with helping students, as shown by their announcement that the remainder of classes for the semester were “canceled.” They not only do not have the authority to cancel any class – at all – they made their pronouncement with little to no concern for what our students would do to maintain their academic success, enrollment status, financial aid, health insurance, and more. The pressure striking faculty are putting on students to not attend restarted classes – some going so far as to call students “scabs” – is a hurtful strategy aimed at advancing the union’s position without regard to the cost to students. 

    Even as negotiations continued and the college bargained around proposals that could present significant fiscal challenges to the college and academic risk to you, we decided to take action to ensure that you would be able to complete your semester: 

    • Students scheduled to graduate this semester were at serious risk of failing to complete their degree requirements. Having stepped in, we are committed to working with every student scheduled to graduate this term to allow you to complete learning outcomes, fulfill your requirements, and earn your degree.  
    • For other students, courses that are not completed this semester would affect their eligibility to enroll in some courses offered in the spring and subsequent semesters, impacting, and altering their path to graduation. Again, departments are actively working to avoid this. 
    • Additionally, the number of credits completed and grades earned could impact students’ grade point averages and drop some students to part-time status, which could critically impact financial aid and insurance requirements. That is the truth, and we, members of the college’s academic leadership, are not willing to allow our students to be harmed in this way. We are committed to protecting students’ progress toward their degrees. 

    In some cases, this may mean the classwork or format for the last few weeks is different than originally planned, but in all cases, the changes are designed to deliver and assess the course’s learning objectives.  

    We understand some of you feel you should not attend classes taught by new instructors. It is critical to your academic progress that you attend class and do the work required in these final weeks of the semester. It is our highest priority to facilitate your ability to do so.  

    One last word about the spring semester. In our roles as deans, we have overseen some of the changes to course offerings and class size. We have done this to address the college’s deficit in a way that provides both quality instruction and remains affordable to our students. In fact, streamlining our schedule means we can avoid looking for other ways to close the fiscal gap, like reducing scholarships or significantly raising tuition. We have not made one change to the schedule without making sure it was pedagogically and academically sound. No courses have been eliminated from the curriculum; rather courses may have been put on a different rotation schedule and will be offered less frequently. 

    Many students and parents have written eloquently about the special relationship you have with a particular part-time faculty member that you don’t want to lose. We agree and understand. Our part-time faculty is and will remain, a valuable part of our institution. 

    We are grateful for your input and patience these last few weeks – and understand that, in some instances, your patience ran out. Most of all, we’re happy you can focus on your creative work once again by returning to class and completing the semester. 

    Sincerely,

    Steve Corey, Professor
    Dean, School of Liberal Arts and Sciences

    Tom Dowd, Associate Professor
    Interim Dean, School of Media Arts

    Suzanne McBride, Professor
    Dean, School of Graduate Studies

    Rosita Sands, Professor
    Dean, School of Fine and Performing Arts

  • CFAC Negotiation Update (12/01)

    Dear Students, Faculty, and Staff,  

    After the union let more than 30 days pass since the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service offered its services to the union and the college (the college responded and agreed right away), the federal mediation office notified us that the union agreed to mediation yesterday. We look forward to starting this long-delayed process. 

    Terence Smith
    Special Counsel Labor Relations

    Laurent Pernot
    Chief of Staff

  • CFAC Negotiation Update (11/27)

    Dear Members of the Columbia College Chicago Community,

    The college and the union met throughout the holiday weekend, but the college remains unable to accept the union's demand of a guarantee of employment to nearly all part-time faculty and demands that would undermine the college's ability to make decisions to address the financial challenges faced by Columbia. As a result, the union has signified that the strike will continue, even as the two teams have agreed to continue to actively seek an agreement. Consequently, the resumption of instruction announced by the Provost and academic departments is taking place as the strike continues.

    Over the Thanksgiving break, the college supplemented its prior proposals numerous times, agreeing to: 

    • Add new part-time faculty membership on key faculty committees.
    • Provide CFAC with proactive input opportunities on the college's proposed budget.
    • Increase the minimum guaranteed number of sections offered to CFAC members.
    • Increase the number of sections to be restored for the spring semester.
    • Increase the compensation to faculty members losing sections.
    • Increase the return-to-work bonus.
    • Create an advisory committee on class sizes.

    The college's already agreed-to measures can be found here.

    Terence Smith
    Special Counsel Labor Relations

    Laurent Pernot
    Chief of Staf

  • A Message to Students (11/21)

    Update 11.21.2023

    Dear Columbia College Chicago Students, 

    I am writing to you about the restart of strike-affected classes. By now, many of you have been contacted by your new instructors of record and if not, you will be hearing from them or your academic department chair this week, so please check your email and Canvas.  

    It is important that you complete your fall semester courses and stay on your path to graduation. The Office of the Provost and the academic departments are taking every necessary step to protect your progress. For that reason, the deans, chairs, full-time faculty, willing part-time faculty, and staff have been working to develop plans to resume classes affected by the strike.  

    What to expect. In instances where the part-time faculty member remains unavailable, instruction will be completed by a new faculty member assigned to the course, a subject-matter expert chosen from our full-time or part-time faculty ranks, or a new instructor chosen because of their expertise.    

    In select circumstances, new instructors may not complete a course as originally planned, instead providing learning opportunities that facilitate learning outcomes relevant to the course or program and allowing students to complete the semester and move forward. 

    Each situation is different, so students should look for messaging from departments and the faculty assigned to each class as it resumes. In some instances, classes have already resumed and are moving forward. In other instances, because of the Thanksgiving holiday break, this will occur next week. All students will receive an update from their departments this week.  

    When your class resumes, you will be expected to attend class and complete the coursework as required by the instructor. Your grade for the course will be determined by the work done before and after the interruption caused by the strike.

    Some students have indicated they will not attend in solidarity with a striking instructor. That is a personal choice—but the college is not establishing campus accommodations for those who do so. 

    Other things to know. Here is some additional information about our planning: 

    1. Whatever the context, the goal is not to overwhelm you with content. A careful review of learning outcomes, both those achieved and those yet to be covered, will allow faculty to adjust instruction to the remaining time. 

    1. We are extending the grading window to give faculty more flexibility to accept student work and more time for assessment.  

    1. We are not extending the semester. In very limited circumstances some classwork may extend into January to achieve learning outcomes. 

    1. We are bringing back a more flexible pass/fail option for students to relieve stress and support course completion. More information about the pass/fail option and extended grading deadline is being shared in an email from the Registrar and will also be posted on our FAQ site. 

    Why students should return.  

    Your faculty and staff are working tirelessly on plans to finish the semester because finishing protects you and the time you invested in learning this fall. This is the way for you to finish the semester in good standing. This is the moment for you to complete the requirements for graduation. This is the moment for you to finish the work to earn grades that keep you moving forward. This is the way for you to be best positioned to complete your education and remain in good standing for scholarships and financial aid.  

    Marcella David

    Senior Vice President and Provost

  • An Update From The President

    Update 11.18.2023

    Dear members of the Columbia College Chicago Community,

    As the strike called by the part-time faculty union continues into a fourth week, I am writing to update you on the immediate steps the college is taking to ensure students can maintain academic progress.

    We remain unable to reach an agreement with the union, although we continue to negotiate with its bargaining team and have sought the involvement of a federal mediator. 

    Classes taught by part-time faculty have not been cancelled nor will they be cancelled for the remainder of the semester as a result of the strike. 

    We are aware of instances where faculty are informing students that courses are being cancelled for the semester, even though faculty cannot cancel courses, only the college can.

    As I have written previously, there are always allowances built into the semester for lost instructional time; this is what allowed us to successfully complete the spring 2020 semester when the COVID pandemic closed the campus in March of that year.  We had hoped that we could resolve this dispute in a timely fashion and bring striking faculty back to the classroom without implementing special measures beyond those needed to coordinate the restart of the affected classes.  But we are about to exhaust the allowances for lost instruction.

    Therefore, with my support and approval, the provost, in her capacity as the college’s chief academic officer, is taking the following steps to protect the education of our students:

    • In accordance with college policies and legal provisions, striking faculty members may be removed as instructors of record for their classes over the coming week. As applicable, they will then be replaced in this capacity by other faculty members designated by academic department chairs.
    • The new instructors of record will assess students’ progress to date and work with department chairs and other academic leaders on the achievement of stated course learning outcomes. This is the prerequisite for the awarding of course credit. Some of this work is already finished, and it will continue into next week.
    • Provisions for the awarding of grades and credit will take different forms depending on the course. In some instances, a new instructor may take up teaching the class outright. In others, learning outcomes may be achieved through modes of instruction and assignments that differ from those initially planned for the course.
    • Due to the disruption of a portion of the semester, students will be permitted to elect a pass/fail grading option for any course.
    • The deadline for instructors to enter grades will be extended from December 21 to January 3. While classes will not meet beyond the official end of the semester on December 16, the extension of the grading period will provide additional time and flexibility for students to complete projects or turn in assignments.
    • All these measures are being implemented in alignment with the expectations and requirements of the Higher Learning Commission (HLC), the college’s accreditor. We are in consultation with our HLC liaison and other Commission officials on these matters. 

    We understand that some of these approaches deviate from standard instructional methods, but we are committed to ensuring that our students can earn the credits they signed up for this semester and that key learning outcomes in courses are met.

    I should emphasize that students are responsible for attending classes, taking part in course activities, and completing course assignments under the new instructors of record.

    The college has received inquiries about the possible issuance of tuition refunds.  The provision of tuition credits in some instances is under consideration, although we must first get a clearer understanding of what course delivery will look like for the remainder of the semester.

    While I realize that this situation is not optimal, I want to assure you that academic leaders, administrators, staff members, and faculty – including many part-time faculty members – are dedicated to going above and beyond for the duration of the semester to advance the best academic interests of our students. It is unfortunate that students find themselves in this complicated situation due to a labor dispute. I am deeply disappointed that some of our educators have opted for a job action over negotiation, and I hope that more of them will decide to return to the classroom.

    We will follow up as needed with additional communication, including a planned virtual town hall for family members.

    Sincerely,

    Kwang-Wu Kim
    President and CEO

  • Negotiation Update (11/16)

    Update 11.16.2023

    Dear Columbia College Chicago Students, Full-time Faculty, and Staff,

    In negotiations yesterday, there was more progress on most issues than at any time since the strike began. Still, we remain without an agreement because the union continues to insist on a guarantee of employment for nearly all part-time faculty (except the most recent hires), essentially granting quasi-tenure to adjunct faculty via a labor contract. 

    Last night, the union refused to bargain over other offers we had just made because of the employment guarantee issue. The truth is that we got close on many issues and might have gotten closer had we continued to bargain today as well, but the union said it was not ready to do that. 

    Here are highlights of the college’s most recent proposals: 

    • Increased the compensation proposal to 16 percent pay increases over 4 years (the union previously proposed 15 percent over three years).
    • More than doubled the offer for a lost section fee regarding Spring 2024, to pay $1,000.00 to part-time faculty members for each section lost in Fall 2023 or Spring 2024 (the union proposed $1,500). 
    • Offered a new $500.00 one-time pivot fee to members for adjusting to a class size that has grown by 50 percent or more based on previous sections taught (the union proposed a permanent pay bump of 50 percent).  
    • Extended a contract-signing bonus of $500.00 through tonight for an end to the strike, one that we will not be able to justify extending if the union chooses to continue to strike and jeopardize student instruction and success. 
    • The college has agreed in principle to a second new health care benefit – college payments into an individual health reimbursement account for part-time faculty. More research into regulations and quotes from vendors is needed to determine the exact details of such a benefit.
    • Guaranteed course offers to the most senior adjunct faculty (440 sections in fall semesters and 400 in spring semesters). 
    • Offered to add 45 sections back to the spring schedule (up from 30). The union continues to ask for 70, which is not practical at this stage of registration, and rolls back too much of the expected deficit reduction. 

    These new and revised proposals came on top of the college’s prior proposals, outlined below, which were made in the context of a $20 million structural deficit: 

    • Establish a free Discount Medical and Wellness Program for part-time faculty and spouses/dependents (Free telemedicine with licensed physicians and 24/7 Nurseline; discounts on vision and dental, Minute Clinic at CVS and some Target locations, prescriptions, chiropractic care, lab services, diagnostic imaging; medical bill negotiation).  
    • Institute formal notification of any directive by the Provost to plan a reduced schedule, along with a formal process for input by CFAC leadership.  
    • Increase the course cancellation fee paid to part-time faculty to $400 ($700 if the cancellation occurs less than three weeks before the start of the semester) – this is different from the lost section fee and applies to a scheduled section that is canceled prior to the start of a term. 
    • Re-title adjunct faculty as “Adjunct professor of instruction.” 
    • Assemble a joint committee on performance evaluations.  

    The union and the college remain far apart on the issues of guaranteed employment and the institution's ability to determine class sizes. However, for the very first time, the college has agreed to guarantee courses to the most senior adjunct faculty. There has historically been significant fluctuation in part-time faculty course sections in recent years – sometimes greater than 20 percent – and the college simply cannot responsibly give such employment guarantees. There will always be a significant contingent of part-time adjunct faculty at Columbia, and they will always be a valued part of the community and our delivery of instruction to students. We cannot, however, create the equivalent of tenure for these colleagues. 

    In sum, the union leadership has inextricably tied a return to the classroom to its quasi-tenure demand. We hope part-time faculty instead decide to look at the totality of the college’s offer and, above all, return to the classroom and their students. 

    The union did agree to consider, after initially rejecting our suggestion, bringing in a federal mediator to try and break the deadlock. We have reached out to our assigned commissioner at the Federal Mediation & Conciliation Service.  

    Terence Smith
    Special Counsel Labor Relations

    Laurent Pernot
    Chief of Staff

  • Negotiation Update (11/14)

    Update 11.14.2023

    Dear Columbia College Chicago Students, Full-Time Faculty, and Staff,  

    Today, the college significantly increased its contract offer to the union. The union continues to attempt to deny the college’s management rights and to control curricular matters. And, by camping on various positions without moving, in the face of significant movement by the college, the union shows little regard for the students who, by the union’s decision, will continue to miss classes. We hope union leadership and unit members consider this offer and return to the classroom to avoid further disruption to our students’ education. 

    In addition, the union has engaged in regressive bargaining by rolling back prior proposals and upping demands rather than moving in the college’s direction, while the college has made significant movement in the direction of the union. 

    Unfortunately, the union’s counterproposals demonstrate that the union does not appreciate the college’s fiscal situation. The college was going to save $1.8 million from the schedule modification. Instead, the union’s proposal would cost $2 million above and beyond the college’s contract offer this year alone. That’s not in touch with the fact the college needs to close a $20 million deficit. 

    Since our offer last Friday, the college has increased key numbers in our proposals twice, on Monday and again today.  

    With today’s offer, the college’s compensation proposal went from a 12-percent increase over four years to 15-percent over four years (3%, 3%, 4%, 5%). 

    The college further agreed to give the most senior adjuncts job security, by guaranteeing the same number of offers they have received for the last few years. The college is offering to freeze the number of assignments for A-prime adjunct faculty (440 in the fall and 400 in the spring) to where it has historically been over the length of the contract. The union rejected that and instead made a proposal to freeze their current levels, which could create a situation in which the college might have to terminate full-time faculty or pay full-time faculty to not teach. The union also proposed that part-time faculty be assigned sections prior to graduate student instructors – belying its claim to put students first, because this would in most cases outright deny graduate students employment that helps them pay for graduate school and because this is crucial teaching experience they need to seek employment upon graduation. The union likewise said in bargaining that the college should instead cut pay across the board to everyone at the college (while still insisting on a pay raise for part-time faculty), let go of full-time faculty, and proposed in writing to take courses ahead of specialized staff who teach (many of whom are their own members). This is not acceptable to the college. 

    The college has offered to restore 45 courses/sections that were cut for spring (an average of three per department), up from 30 in last week’s offer. 

    Further, the union today proposed – again, more than two weeks into a strike and months into bargaining – a healthcare benefit that would cost more than $650,000 annually alone. 

    The college has very limited room to responsibly move beyond today’s revised offer, given the need to reduce the $20 million deficit. 

    We are offering a $500 signing bonus to those members teaching in fall 2023 should the union agree to the contract and end the strike. 

    As a reminder, the college proposed the following last week, which remains in the college’s proposal: 

    • Establish a free Discount Medical and Wellness Program for part-time faculty and spouses/dependents (Free telemedicine with licensed physicians and 24/7 Nurseline; discounts on: vision and dental, Minute Clinic at CVS and some target locations, prescriptions, chiropractic care, lab services, diagnostic imaging; medical bill negotiation – no insurance required to be eligible).
    • Institute formal notification of any directive by the provost to plan a reduced schedule, along with a formal process for input by CFAC leadership.
    • Increase the course cancellation fee paid to part-time faculty to $400 ($700 if the cancellation occurs less than three weeks before the start of the semester).
    • Apply the course cancellation fee to any section lost by part-time faculty as a result of the Spring ’24 schedule change (calculated on the difference between the course load in Spring ’24 vs. a faculty member’s course load the prior two spring semesters). 
    • Re-title adjunct faculty as “Adjunct professor of instruction.” 
    • Provide paid training for part-time faculty teaching classes with appreciable increases in class size.
    • Assemble a joint committee on performance evaluations.

    The college is taking steps to support faculty who return to teaching, and provide learning opportunities in those classes in the event faculty do not return. 

    Terence Smith
    Special Counsel Labor Relations

    Laurent Pernot
    Chief of Staff

  • Presidential Forum (for Students, Faculty and Staff)
    Watch the virtual President Forum, which took place on November 14, 2023. In this forum, President Kim addresses the ongoing part-time faculty union (CFAC) strike, the College's financial status, and student retention and enrollment. Please note, this recording is available for full-time and part-time faculty, staff and students. 
  • Update to Students

    UPDATE - 11.12.23

    Dear Students of Columbia College Chicago,

    The College has shared with the union a comprehensive offer for ending the strike. While the union may not call an end to the strike, some faculty who were on strike have signaled a return to teaching. Therefore, it is important that you continue to check Canvas Banners as some classes may resume even if the union is still on strike. Also, please continue to monitor the strike FAQ page, Engage Columbia, and email messages for updates about Monday morning classes and the remainder of the week.

  • Offer Update (11/12)

    UPDATE - 11.12.23

    Dear Faculty, Staff, and Students of Columbia College Chicago,

    As announced on Friday, November 10, 2023, the college made a comprehensive contract offer to CFAC, the union representing part-time faculty.  Today, we are sharing the highlights of this offer with the entire Columbia community.

    We hope the union and its members will consider this proposal, which is designed to recognize part-time faculty's contributions to the college, and a return to instruction for part-time faculty and students.

    The comprehensive offer would, among other things:

    • Increase part-time faculty compensation by 12 percent over four years.
    • Establish a free Discount Medical and Wellness Program for part-time faculty and their spouses/domestic partners/dependents, with no requirement for underlying insurance, including:
      • Free telemedicine with licensed physicians
      • ­24/7 Nurseline
      • ­Discounts on vision and dental
      • ­Minute Clinic at CVS and some Target locations
      • ­Prescriptions
      • ­Chiropractic care
      • ­Lab services
      • ­Diagnostic imaging
      • Medical bill negotiation
    • Restore 30 sections to the spring 2024 schedule.
    • Increase the course cancellation fee paid to part-time faculty to $400 ($700 if the cancellation occurs less than three weeks before the start of the semester).
    • Pay a course cancellation fee to part-time faculty who lost sections as a result of the Spring 2024 schedule change.
    • Assign extra courses to the most senior instructors before making assignments to members in the B tier (34-50 credits) and guarantee a share of course offers to those most senior instructors.
    • Provide paid training for faculty teaching appreciably larger classes.
    • Pay a $500 signing bonus provided the Union agrees to an unconditional return to work before midnight on Sunday, November 12.

    Terence Smith
    Special Counsel Labor Relations

    Laurent Pernot
    Chief of Staff

  • Offer Update (11/10)

    UPDATE - 11.10.23

    Dear Staff, Full-time Faculty, and Students of Columbia College Chicago,

    We are writing to inform you that today, the college made a comprehensive contract offer to CFAC, the union representing part-time faculty. This proposal, which was shared with all part-time faculty members, includes offers on compensation and benefits, modifications to the spring schedule, compensation for part-time faculty due to the loss of sections, and formal channels for input on future changes. We hope the union and its members will consider this proposal, which is designed to recognize part-time faculty's contributions to the college.

    Terence Smith
    Special Counsel Labor Relations

    Laurent Pernot
    Chief of Staff

  • Video Message from President Kim (11/10)

    Dear Columbia College Chicago Students,

    Please find an update from President Kwang-Wu Kim in the following video message:

     

    -------------------

    All students and faculty should be aware that:

    • The college and all campus buildings will remain open.
    • The college is committed to protecting every student’s academic progress, including progress toward graduation.
    • Students will not be held accountable for attendance or progress in courses that are not held due to the strike. However, as is normally the case, students will be marked absent if they miss a class that is being held.

    -------------------

    NOTICE:

    The college does not tolerate harassment of any kind including on social media: strikers and their supporters should be allowed to express themselves without fear of harassment, violence, or retaliation.

    Similarly, anyone refraining from strike-related activities should also be free of harassment, violence, or retaliation.

    Any situation of concern should be reported to Campus Safety and Security immediately at (312) 369-1111.

    You should also contact Safety and Security in the unlikely event that you experience anyone attempting to prevent access to buildings or disrupt the operations of classes.

     

  • Update on Negotiations / Spring Registration (11/05)

    Dear Faculty and Staff,

    We are writing to update you on the negotiations between the college and CFAC, which took place on Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday this week. While there has been some progress on certain issues, there is no agreement on several of the union’s demands. The decision on whether to continue to stay out of the classroom lies with the union. We remain committed to continuing to bargain in good faith to arrive at a solution to the work stoppage and a fair contract that rewards the contributions of part-time faculty while positioning students and the college for continued success.

    Spring registration is not canceled due to the CFAC strike. Registration begins tomorrow at 7 a.m.

    Terence Smith
    Special Counsel Labor Relations

    Laurent Pernot
    Chief of Staff

    -------------------

    All students and faculty should be aware that:

    • The college and all campus buildings will remain open.
    • The college is committed to protecting every student’s academic progress, including progress toward graduation.
    • Students will not be held accountable for attendance or progress in courses that are not held due to the strike. However, as is normally the case, students will be marked absent if they miss a class that is being held.

    -------------------

    NOTICE:

    The college does not tolerate harassment of any kind including on social media: strikers and their supporters should be allowed to express themselves without fear of harassment, violence, or retaliation.

    Similarly, anyone refraining from strike-related activities should also be free of harassment, violence, or retaliation.

    Any situation of concern should be reported to Campus Safety and Security immediately at (312) 369-1111.

    You should also contact Safety and Security in the unlikely event that you experience anyone attempting to prevent access to buildings or disrupt the operations of classes.

  • President's Update (11/03)

    UPDATE - 11.03.23

    To the families of Columbia College Chicago students,

    I am writing with an update about the strike by some of our part-time faculty.

    We regret that instruction has been disrupted for many of our students. The best place for them to be is in the classroom with their faculty. The two bargaining teams continue to actively negotiate. While we do not know when the strike will end, we are committed to arriving at a fair and constructive resolution.

    Administrative offices and academic departments continue to share relevant information with students. In the short term, please remind your student to check their college email account and the Canvas academic portal. While some class sessions are being canceled, others are meeting with a different faculty member, and some students may not be aware of this. As we have emphasized to students, any faculty member teaching a class that was originally assigned to a now-striking faculty member has the professional qualifications, expertise, and experience to provide high-quality instruction in that class.

    Should the strike continue beyond this week, academic departments will, wherever possible, reach out to students whose faculty are on strike to keep them engaged in meaningful academic pursuits, including alternate forms of instruction, tutoring, and other departmental activities. All college facilities remain open, including creative spaces, labs, and studios, and students can check out equipment to complete required coursework and pursue their creative endeavors.

    Finally, you should know that every academic semester is designed to accommodate the loss of some instruction – as can occur in the case of an extended weather emergency or faculty or student illness – without compromising the achievement of course learning outcomes. As I mentioned to you previously, we are committed to protecting students’ ability to maintain their academic progress, and our academic leadership will take the necessary steps to deliver on this commitment.

    I thank you for your continued patience and understanding as we implement changes that are necessary to ensure the college’s continued financial health and stability. Rest assured, too, that notwithstanding any conflicts that may exist at the moment, every member of this community is dedicated to supporting our students’ persistence to graduation and future professional success.

    Sincerely,
    Kwang-Wu Kim
    President and CEO

    -------------------

    All students and faculty should be aware that:

    • The college and all campus buildings will remain open.
    • The college is committed to protecting every student’s academic progress, including progress toward graduation.
    • Students will not be held accountable for attendance or progress in courses that are not held due to the strike. However, as is normally the case, students will be marked absent if they miss a class that is being held.

    -------------------

    NOTICE:

    The college does not tolerate harassment of any kind including on social media: strikers and their supporters should be allowed to express themselves without fear of harassment, violence, or retaliation.

    Similarly, anyone refraining from strike-related activities should also be free of harassment, violence, or retaliation.

    Any situation of concern should be reported to Campus Safety and Security immediately at (312) 369-1111.

    You should also contact Safety and Security in the unlikely event that you experience anyone attempting to prevent access to buildings or disrupt the operations of classes.

     

  • Student Q&A (11/02)

    UPDATE - 11.02.23

    Dear students,

    The college is continuing to bargain with the union in good faith, and we are hopeful for a resolution that returns all students and faculty to the classroom as soon as possible. We write to respond to some frequently asked questions and concerns.

    Q: “My faculty member said they are striking, so class is canceled.”

    A: Not necessarily. Check with your chair or go to class to be sure. In many instances, classes are being taught by someone else in the department, sometimes the chair or another seasoned faculty member who are experts both in teaching but also accomplished professionals in their respective fields.

    Q: “Faculty who replace striking faculty cannot issue grades in that class.”

    A: That is untrue. The College has the ability to arrange for substitute instruction and issue grades for students in a class where the assigned instructor is unavailable, unable, or unwilling to complete their assignment for whatever reason. This is not a violation of the instructor’s academic freedom.

    Q: “If I go to a class taught by a substitute, I am breaking a rule.”

    A: You are not. We hope your faculty member comes back to teach soon – and we know they share the same wish. But don’t miss out on learning from other faculty if that’s available to you.

    Q: “I heard hundreds of classes from the published spring schedule will be canceled, so I don’t know what to register for.”

    A: We know there have been questions about registration and availability of classes. The Spring 2024 Schedule that is available on my.colum.edu accurately represents what we plan to offer and also includes waitlists for most courses. As we get closer to the start of the semester, a class might get canceled if it’s severely under-enrolled; this is something that happens every term. To register for your classes please consider this checklist of actions to get the courses you need at the times that you want. As always, speak with an advisor if you have questions.

    Q: “I can strike as a student.”

    A: It’s ultimately your choice to go to class. But know if a class is meeting, the expectation is that you attend that class. Many classes are meeting because the initially assigned faculty member is not in the union, or because another faculty is substitute-teaching the course of a striking faculty member.

    -------------------

    All students and faculty should be aware that:

    • The college and all campus buildings will remain open.
    • The college is committed to protecting every student’s academic progress, including progress toward graduation.
    • Students will not be held accountable for attendance or progress in courses that are not held due to the strike. However, as is normally the case, students will be marked absent if they miss a class that is being held.

    -------------------

    NOTICE:

    The college does not tolerate harassment of any kind including on social media: strikers and their supporters should be allowed to express themselves without fear of harassment, violence, or retaliation.

    Similarly, anyone refraining from strike-related activities should also be free of harassment, violence, or retaliation.

    Any situation of concern should be reported to Campus Safety and Security immediately at (312) 369-1111.

    You should also contact Safety and Security in the unlikely event that you experience anyone attempting to prevent access to buildings or disrupt the operations of classes.

     

  • Spring 2024 Course Schedule (10/28)

    Columbia College Chicago Students,

    We are pleased to announce that the Spring 2024 schedule of classes is now available to view in MyColumbia in advance of the registration process which will begin November 6.

    We understand that this has been a confusing and anxiety-provoking week, and we have heard and want to respond to your questions about the Spring 2024 course schedule. Department chairs and academic staff have been working closely with staff in the deans’ offices to prepare the schedule, and here are a few key facts:

    • Students filled 28,422 total seats in classes in Spring 2023. There are 28,975 available seats for Spring 2024.

    • Of 1,531 course sections on the schedule, 55% are seeing no increase in class size over Spring 2023 – in fact, 15% of classes are seeing a decrease, and 40% are staying the same.

    • Of the sections with an increased class size, 50 percent have increased by 20% or less. Among classes that are increasing in size, the average increase is 5.7 seats.

    • An example of a class that has increased significantly in size is the History of Photography, which is a lecture class with active learning components.

    • Our studio classes remain small as appropriate to the subject matter.

    We asked our department chairs to describe the way they approached building the spring schedule, and here are a few things they shared about their planning for Spring 2024:

    • Fashion: We prioritized classes needed in the majors and minors, raised section capacities in classes that could benefit from revisions to better meet pedagogical goals, prioritized in-person or hybrid over web, and eliminated one class where learning outcomes can be met using options from another department, and distributed the schedule to balance space demands. – Dr. Colbey Reid, Chair of Fashion Studies

    • Photography: We are providing students with access to the courses they need to graduate. We reduced the number of some multi-section classes being offered by increasing the number of students by two in the remaining sections. We doubled the size of the lecture-based classes, History of Photography I and II. – Ross Sawyers, MFA, Chair of Photography

    • Theatre: Theatre worked to prioritize courses that students would need for graduation. We looked for ways to reduce multi-section offerings, while still providing a selection of electives. We added a new course, Latinx Theatre, which we hope will garner much student interest. We added student seats to classes, in collaboration with coordinators, that we felt would not inhibit learning outcomes from being achieved. – Dr. Jimmy Noriega, Chair of Theatre

    • Cinema and Television: Our goal was to preserve the number of seats in Foundations courses from previous years to serve incoming students, keeping the production courses smaller while experimenting with a larger aesthetics class. Our planning ensures adequate seats for majors and minors to avoid bottlenecks toward graduation while balancing major elective offerings fairly between disciplines to offer a variety of student experiences. – Wenhwa-Ts’ao, MFA & Eric Scholl, MFA, Interim Co-Chairs, Cinema and Television

    Registration opens on November 6. We encourage you to log in to MyColumbia, where you can review the schedule and your student account, clear any holds, and get ready to register as soon as the system opens for you. If a course is not open, you should use the waitlist feature to indicate your interest. If you have questions, please reach out to the College Advising Center, your department chair, or your department’s academic manager for assistance.

  • Strike Update (10/27)

    On Thursday, the Columbia College Chicago Faculty Union voted on a strike authorization and plan to strike on Monday, October 30.

    Please refer to the information below and FAQs for questions related to classes and attendance.

    Our focus at this time is minimizing any disruption to students’ schedules. Campus will remain open, and classes will continue as normal. Again, for official information and updates, please visit colum.edu/strike-information.

    All students and faculty should be aware that:

    • The college and all campus buildings will remain open.
    • The college is committed to protecting every student’s academic progress, including progress toward graduation.
    • Students will not be held accountable for attendance or progress in courses that are not held due to the strike. However, as is normally the case, students will be marked absent if they miss a class that is being held.
  • President's Message to Students (10/25)

     

    Dear Columbia College Chicago Student,

    I am reaching out to update you about recent campus developments. Our part-time faculty union, with whom we are negotiating a new labor contract, is threatening a strike, possibly for later this week, over changes we are making to our course offerings.

    We hope that the union leadership will choose to negotiate rather than strike over this issue. If the union chooses to strike, I am committed to protecting students’ academic progress, including progress toward graduation.

    Let me also address some other misconceptions that may have arisen recently.

    To be clear, students will not lose their scholarships because of any of these measures. Columbia has doubled its scholarship support to students in the past five years, and we remain committed to working with you to ensure that finances are not a barrier to graduation.

    There is always a clear pathway to graduation for you.  In those instances – and they do occur every term – where under-enrolled classes are canceled before the start of the semester, your academic advisor will work closely with you to identify alternative courses that speak to your academic interests and degree requirements.

    Required courses in your majors will also continue to be offered with a frequency that allows you to graduate on time if you maintain good academic progress. 

    Let me reassure you that we will always offer a wide range of small classes and hands-on education in small-group settings. We know this is essential to successful instruction in creative disciplines. 
    The college will be here to see your education through. Though the college is working on ensuring long-term financial sustainability, I want to reassure you that the college is currently on a solid financial footing.
    Indeed, by next fall our goal is to open up additional opportunities to take more courses in creative disciplines outside your major, take more courses in your major, or add a minor. 

    The college, like many U.S. institutions of higher learning, has experienced a modest decrease in enrollment. To address this, we are consolidating smaller sections of some courses – usually survey or introductory courses – into larger ones in instances where we feel this will not compromise the teaching and learning experience. The academic leadership in our departments is overseeing these changes and our primary focus is always for students to successfully complete their studies.

    Finally, I want to reassure you that I take student concerns and comments seriously. As I like to say whenever I am in a public setting, I have tremendous admiration for your creative energy, your passion and talents, your unique voice, and your drive. In turn, our faculty, both part-time and full-time, are here to use their deep experience in their creative fields to help you succeed.

    Sincerely,
    Kwang-Wu Kim
    President and CEO

  • Provost's Message to Students (10/25)

    Dear Columbia College Chicago Students,

    The union representing part-time faculty members at Columbia College Chicago, CFAC, is taking a strike authorization vote and has indicated it plans to conduct a strike, perhaps as soon as tomorrow. Here is some practical information for students:

    Campus is Open

    The college and all campus buildings will remain open during the strike.

    Class Status

    We do not know if, when, or for how long the union might strike. We also do not know, nor can we ask, how many part-time faculty members intend to strike. Also, note that many classes are taught by faculty who are not members of the part-time faculty union, and we expect all of those classes to proceed as normal.

    Students should plan on attending class. If their instructor is not present, we ask that students wait at least 15 minutes before leaving, in the event the faculty is simply running late. Note that some instructors may opt to move a class session to Zoom.

    If a faculty member does strike, where possible, departments may substitute the striking part-time faculty member with other qualified instructors, so students should be prepared to possibly have a different instructor.

    Academic Status

    The college is committed to protecting every student’s academic progress, including progress toward graduation.

    Attendance

    Students will not be held accountable for attendance or progress in courses that are not held due to the strike. However, as is normally the case, students will be marked absent if they miss a class that is being held.

    Should your faculty member change your usual class time and location to a time and place that you are unable to attend, you are under no obligation to attend such a class session.

    Safety and Security

    The college does not tolerate harassment of any kind: strikers and their supporters should be allowed to express themselves without fear of harassment, violence, or retaliation. Similarly, anyone refraining from strike-related activities should be free of harassment, violence, or retaliation. Any situation of concern should be reported to Campus Safety and Security immediately at (312) 369-1111. You should also contact Safety and Security in the unlikely event that you experience anyone attempting to prevent access to buildings or disrupt the operations of classes.

    We thank you for your patience as we all work to minimize disruption where possible.

    We regret any disruption or inconvenience this situation is causing or might cause. The college values its part-time faculty members and hopes to reach a fair resolution as soon as possible.

    If you have any questions, please contact your department's leadership.

    Marcella David
    Senior Vice President and Provost