Friday afternoon, I arrive at a Columbia College Chicago building on South Michigan Avenue to talk with Fiction Writing Department Chair Dr. Randall Albers. Dressed elegantly in jeans and a French blue shirt with black stripes covered with a brown corduroy blazer, Albers’ height and distinguished presence make him slightly intimidating. Yet he smiles and greets me warmly, ushering me into his spacious office with a killer twelfth-floor view of the lake, and floor-to-ceiling bookshelves.
Although he’s technically on sabbatical, Albers frequents the department often to attend to students. We have about an hour to chat before his meeting with a thesis student. We roll into a relaxed, hour-long discussion about two main topics: Columbia’s ongoing prioritization process and the recent decision by the School of Fine & Performing Arts not to renew Albers’ position as chair of the fiction writing department. Throughout our talk, Albers is attentive and articulate, thoughtful, and gracious. Walking me out, he gives me a copy of Hair Trigger, the thick award-winning journal published by his department. A female thesis student awaits their meeting. Something in this picture seems out of place. Albers seems like a doting mentor, not a man who would be asked to give up his job.