Michael Fry, one of Columbia College Chicago’s most celebrated faculty members and a tenured associate professor, resigned January 20, citing discrimination and racial insensitivity in the television department, where he’s been a full-time faculty member since 2007. He began teaching at Columbia as an adjunct in 1997.
Fry’s photograph, and his identity as an Emmy nominee, was used in a widespread advertising campaign the school launched in 2014, and was among those displayed on the face of the school’s 600 S. Michigan Avenue building.
His resignation—an unusual choice for a tenured professor—was reported this week by the student paper, the Columbia Chronicle. The Chronicle interviewed Fry January 25, and worked on the story for nearly a month, according to campus editor Ariana Portalatin, who wrote it.
Fry, through an agent, declined to comment for this report, but told the Chronicle that he’d experienced “culturally insensitive remarks” and discrimination on the part of the television department faculty and leadership, and that three requests he made for departmental cultural sensitivity training had been ignored.
“They will use me as advertising, but they will not treat me with dignity,” Fry told the Chronicle, which also reported that “after a negative post-tenure review last year, Fry said he had reached his limit.”
Television department interim chair Sharon Ross did not return a call; former chair Michael Niederman said he’d have “no comment.”
Columbia spokesperson Anjali Julka said Fry had filed a complaint with the college’s office of human resources, but that their investigation concluded that there was “no evidence of discrimination or unfair treatment.”
“Folks at the college asked him several times to reconsider, and he declined,” Julka said. “The college would have liked him to stay on. We wish him success in the future.”