Hundreds of City College of San Francisco faculty, staff, students and other supporters packed a campus plaza to protest the struggling school’s planned administrative restructuring and use of taxpayer money outside the interim chancellor’s welcome address Friday morning.
The protest, which took place outside the Diego Rivera Theatre on City College’s Ocean campus, stems from ongoing disputes between the community college’s faculty union, American Federation of Teachers Local 2121, and the administration as the school faces accreditation issues.
The Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges last July placed City College on “show cause” status and required it to file a report by March 15 showing that significant steps are being taken to resolve the problems, which included having too many campuses and excessive non-instructional faculty costs.
If the school fails to show improvement, it could have its accreditation revoked and be shut down.
At today’s 9 a.m. rally outside where interim City College chancellor Thelma Scott-Skillman was speaking, cuts to faculty salaries and layoffs were highlighted, along with concerns of the use of state Proposition 30 and local Proposition A funding.
Bill Shields, chair of the labor and community studies departments, who has taught at the school for 16 years, said the City College Board of Trustees is scheming to dismantle the department chair structure and replace it with self-selected administrators.
This particular change to the school organization has caused outcry from faculty who believe the department chairs are democratically chosen leaders who have worked through the ranks and have experience as faculty members and involvement with the school before heading a department.
The administrative restructuring would reassign department chairs back to full-time teaching roles, a move school officials said would create savings of more than $2 million annually.
Tarik Farrar, African-American Studies department chair, told the crowd this morning that the administration claims the faculty make too much money and have too much power.
“We may not win this struggle, but we have to fight,” Farrar said.
Faculty union president Alisa Messer said the administration is diverting Prop A money, a parcel tax for CCSF that San Francisco voters approved in the November 2012 election, and is spending it on accreditation purposes.
Messer noted that “accreditation in and of itself is not a bad idea” and that the school needs standards, but the changes are “an imposition from on high.”
Prop A funding will not be available for the City College budget until fiscal year 2013-14, school officials said.
Gov. Jerry Brown unveiled a state budget proposal Thursday that, with funding from voter-approved Prop 30, would prevent community college budget cuts next year.
Some students have joined faculty in the fight to keep programming and student services amid cuts, campus closures and reorganization of the college’s finances and administration.
Ocean Campus Associated Students president Shanell Williams voiced her displeasure with cuts affecting disabled students, counseling services and English as a Second Language programming.
Williams said the students are working in solidarity with the faculty to protect the college’s longstanding model of accessibility and affordability.
Meanwhile, inside the theater, Scott-Skillman gave a grim speech to a sparsely attended welcome event to kick off the spring semester that begins on Monday.
She outlined the goal of the administration to fiscally restructure the college and conceded that the past year has been “confidence-zapping.”
Scott-Skillman noted that an onslaught of criticism of City College is having “a devastating impact on the future of this institution.”
She went on to highlight areas where the school excels, including its biotech, culinary arts and radiology programs, but admitted “there are parts of City College that are broken.”
Referencing recent changes and planned cuts and restructuring, she said, “Reforms are essential for City College’s survival.”
As part of her role in the accreditation process, Scott-Skillman said she has to write a “closure report” by March 15 with plans for affected students in the event that the school loses its accreditation.
“What happens here has major implications across the California community college system,” she said.
Earlier this week, City College officials indicated they will have to ask for more time beyond the March 15 deadline to file a report outlining the steps taken to resolve the school’s problems.
Officials may also ask the accrediting commission to upgrade the school to probationary status when it issues its ruling on June 10.
Sasha Lekach, Bay City News