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Students, part-time faculty call for Columbia College president’s resignation

Part-time faculty union president Diana Vallera speaks in front of protesters at Columbia College Chicago. | Rachel Frazin/Sun-Times

Part-time faculty union president Diana Vallera speaks in front of protesters at Columbia College Chicago. | Rachel Frazin/Sun-Times

About 50 Columbia College students and part-time faculty demanded the resignation of school’s President Kwang-Wu Kim on Wednesday, alleging that he and his administration contributed to a culture of racism and sexism.

“He creates a hostile environment where the most socially marginalized voices are silenced and disregarded,” said Diana Vallera, president of Columbia College’s part-time faculty union.

The union, which had been negotiating a new contract, has protested for job security and against staff cuts in previous years.

When speaking about Kim outside the college Wednesday, Vallera specifically cited an incident where an interim chair of a department reportedly complained that there were too many adjunct professors who were white women over age 50. She said that some of the departments are more than 80 percent male, which has never been presented as a problem.

Vallera  added that the union’s collective bargaining agreement will have language on diversity and inclusion.

Lambrini Lukidis, a spokeswoman for Columbia College, denied the allegations of racism and sexism.

“We have a diverse senior leadership team.” she said. “We have general counsel who is female. We have a senior interim provost who is female. Two of our four deans are female, so clearly Dr. Kim values the role of women in his leadership team as well as the voices of African-Americans.”

Another Columbia College spokesman, Mark Rosati, said Kim is “completely committed” to Columbia and has the full confidence and support of the school’s board.

Lukidis added that full-time faculty and staff are required to participate in diversity, equity and inclusion training.

Rosati said the college and the union have held more than 20 bargaining sessions over the past 13 months.

He also said the college has offered compensation increases but the union leadership has yet to respond.

The college also has made repeated requests to involve a federal mediator to assist in the negotiation process but the union has refused those requests, Rosati said.

The next bargaining session is scheduled for Friday.

Demonstrators on Wednesday also railed against what they believed was “corporatization” of Columbia College.

“We don’t see ourselves as a corporate entity by any means and we don’t operate as such,” Lukidis said in response.