CCSF Chancellor’s Promises Of “Respectful Discourse” Met With Skepticism

City College of San Francisco Chancellor Art Tyler plans to propose initiatives to promote respectful dialogue on campus and calling for an independent review of campus police officers’ response to student and faculty protests last week that turned violent, officials said today.

Tyler is set to present the proposals at the college’s Participatory Governance Council on Thursday, a week after about 100 students and faculty at two of the college’s campuses staged protests calling for the reinstatement of the school’s elected board of trustees.

Campus police arrested two students during the protests at the college’s Ocean campus last Thursday and pepper sprayed one student. A number of students also occupied an administrative building overnight.

Tyler issued a statement last Thursday expressing sadness over the clashes between police and protesters and reiterated again in a statement today that the school “must do a better job at establishing a safe and respectful campus environment.”

“It begins with doing a better job of talking to each other and sustaining a civil environment of teaching and learning,” he said.

In addition to proposing an independent review of what happened at the protests, Tyler said he would propose a plan to “assess campus climate” and come up with procedures to ensure “open free, safe and respectful dialogue” on campus.

Tyler said he also plans to call for a forum hosted by the school’s Crisis Management Team, a group of students, faculty and staff, “for discussing all issues before the college.”

Wendy Kaufmyn, an engineering instructor at the school who participated in last week’s protests, said she supports an independent review of the protests, but is skeptical about Tyler’s statements about respectful discourse.

“This whole idea of trying to have collegiality and trust is something the chancellor keeps saying, but in all of my 31 years here, there has never been this level of distrust and lack of morale,” she said.

Kaufmyn said students last week were seeking civil discourse with college administrators but “instead they were met with the police who were told to keep them out of the building even if it took violence.”

Much of the focus of the protest was on Robert Agrella, the college’s “Special Trustee with Extraordinary Powers” who has unilateral power over the school’s rules and regulations.

He was promoted to the position last July by the California Community Colleges Board of Governors, which stripped the elected board of trustees of its power.

Protesters last week said Agrella has made several controversial changes at the college in an effort to appease the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges after it announced it would revoke City College’s accreditation effective this July.

Some of those changes include agreeing to pay school administrators more than amounts on the college’s salary schedule while slashing teacher salaries and setting up a new payment policy requiring students to pay fees in full or sign up for a payment plan before registering for classes.

A group of students is planning to hold a vigil in front of Conlon Hall at the college’s Ocean campus at 2 p.m. Thursday to address the violence at last week’s protests, according to Kaufmyn,

Laura Dixon/Dan McMenamin, Bay City News

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