Undermining Higher Education: a follow up

There has been a considerable response since the announcement that the administration at Columbia College Chicago did not renew the contract of Randy Albers, Chair of the Fiction Writing Department. There are several points to clarify. Additionally, many new facts have come to light since the Provost’s recommendations as part of the Prioritization process, which was released Tuesday, February 28. Clarifications:

The name of Bob Dickeson’s company hired by the college is Academic Strategy Partners, not Academic Impressions, as was reported here.

So far, two deans and the provost have recommended the formation of a new Department of Creative Writing, which would encompass the Fiction Department and the Poetry and Creative Nonfiction programs presently housed in English.

Randy Albers will be retained as full-time faculty in the Fiction Writing Department. There will be a national search for a chair of the new Creative Writing Department. Randy does not expect to be included in the search. A commenter on another site where the original article was posted claims that “The administrator responsible for Randy’s termination said it wouldn’t be “fair” to keep Randy because it would look like Fiction “won” a beef from 25 years ago.” In the 1980s the Fiction program and the English Department were made into two distinct departments over pedagogical differences. Who cares? Precisely. It sounds moronic to base decisions on the future of the college over lore from a bygone era.

Chair of the English Department, Dr. Kenneth Daley, confirmed that his contract was also not renewed.

In her recommendation, Interim Provost Dr. Louise Love wrote: “This department, if approved, will bring together the talents of the writing faculties in English and Fiction to form a unified, student-centered whole….The creation of a new Creative Writing Department may be just the first step in a larger initiative to bring together writing programs across the college.”

In many ways, this makes sense. Most colleges with writing programs have a similar structure. It is news, however, that Columbia wants to be like most colleges. Love also recommends moving the Playwriting program to the Theatre Department, and cutting in half the “resources” devoted to literary journals produced by the Fiction and English Departments.

According to a letter from former Chair Randy Albers, regarding the new department: “This department would, with proper support by the college administration, have the potential for attaining excellence at least comparable to the present Fiction Writing Department.”

The recommendations made in the process of Prioritization are not what will happen, per se, they are recommendations of what the individual provost, dean, or other administrator think should happen and will most likely happen. President Warrick Carter then will offer his suggestions to the board of directors late this spring. The board then decides what is approved. This is expected in the summer. Plan now.

Currently, the Fiction Writing Department is naming an Interim Chair for the 2012-2013 school year, according to a source who will remain anonymous. It is expected, because of this, that the Fiction Department will retain its unique identity for one more year.

On Monday, March 5th, from 9-12 at the Film Row Cinema (1104 S. Wabash, 8th floor), there will be a Provost Listening Forum. At the forum, a designate from each department is allowed to speak to points and counterpoints regarding the prioritization report. This is a listening forum, so there will be no Q & A or no questions fielded from the non-designate audience. A series of similar forums have been held and will continue to be held during the prioritization process.

An outpouring of support in the form of student, faculty, and peer testimonials is posted on the website, albersforchair.org. There is an equivalent page on facebook: “Fiction Writing Students, Faculty and Alums Concerned about Prioritization.”

A student movement against tuition hikes and prioritization called “Occupy Columba College” is hosting a rally on March 1st, from 12:00 to 1:00 p.m. at 600 S. Michigan.

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