Clothes come off at kick-off for Columbia event

  • By Peter Sachs
  • Staff Writer
  • March 11, 2009 @ 4:42 PM

At most colleges, the sight of two administrators taking off clothes in front of a crowd of students would likely be something of a spectacle.

While it’s raising some concerns at Columbia College, the incident two weeks ago is barely making most students at the free-wheeling campus blink.

Reports indicate that at a Feb. 23 kick-off meeting for Manifest, the college’s yearly arts celebration, two administrators were a little too edgy for some tastes.

Mark Kelly, the campus vice president who spearheads Manifest, reportedly took off his shirt before putting on a T-shirt advertising the event. And an academic dean, Eliza Nichols, reportedly removed her bra from underneath her shirt.

The antics were supposed to add to the “energetic and enthusiastic” event, Columbia President Warrick Carter wrote in an open apology letter.

College spokeswoman Micki Leventhal initially said the report of the incident, which first appeared in Monday’s edition of the Columbia Chronicle, as “substantially” accurate.

She later said the administration would have no comment. Neither Kelly nor Nichols returned calls seeking comment.

Many students interviewed at Columbia this afternoon say they knew nothing of the event. 

“Mark Kelly was just joking around,” says theater and fine arts major Jesse Kegan, who is helping organize Manifest. “He was being a silly guy.”

Carter’s letter said that the stunt took attention away from the work of students and apologized to anyone who was offended.

“The opening presentations by two senior college administrators were not in keeping with the expected decorum and behavior of senior leaders of this institution,” Carter said in the seven-sentence letter.

The event was taped by Frequency Television, the campus station, says Chris West, the general manager of the station. He said at the time, he didn’t think much of what happened.

“I don’t have an opinion or whatever, one way or another,” West says. “Apparently someone did take it to the president’s office (to complain). I wasn’t taken aback or anything.”

While Carter said the two officials would “accept the responsibility for their actions,” Kegan says some people are overreacting.

“This is Columbia,” he says. “People like to blow [expletive] out of proportion.”

Daily News Staff Writer Peter Sachs covers higher education. He can be reached at 773.362.5002, ext. 18