Whose college?

San Franciscans decry loss of City College classes — but will the new "Super Trustee" listen?

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Can Super Trustee save City College? Or are the burdens now placed on one outsider too much to overcome? Stay tuned.
GUARDIAN ILLUSTRATION BY ANTHONY MATA

[UPDATE: As this article was going to press, the ACCJC had its own accreditation threatened over its treatment of City College.]

City College will survive, it will stay open, it will prevail.

At least, that's what the school's 85,000 students and over 1,600 faculty are saying. Praying, really.

In July, the college was hit with a black eye from its accreditors, the Association of California Community and Junior Colleges, and informed that it would be losing its accreditation in exactly one year. Loss of accreditation would mean no state funding, no federal funding, and degrees would no longer be recognized.

 

The college has one year to shape up and meet 14 requirements mandated by the accreditation commission. But in trying to meet those requirements, the college itself may change its course offerings and eliminate classes that serve as critical resources for working-class students.

It's only been a month and a half since the damning news hit the college, but things are already starting to look very different. Meanwhile, dissenters who've raised concerns about the new direction things are taking complain that they've been silenced at every turn — their public forums dissolved and their elected board removed.

Critics also say Bob Agrella, who was given the decision-making power of San Francisco's locally elected Board of Trustees when the state chancellor appointed him Special Trustee with Extraordinary Powers — earning him the nickname Super Trustee — isn't listening.

 

IMMIGRANT GROUP SPEAKS OUT

Much of the outcry at City College revolves around a potential loss of classes that serve communities of color in San Francisco. While activist group Save CCSF has led the charge for the past year, other advocacy groups are now jumping into the fray to air concerns from a different perspective.

Local activists with Chinese for Affirmative Action held a press conference on July 8, decrying the potential closure of City College as an issue affecting all San Francisco immigrants.

"The closure of City College is nothing short of a civil rights crisis," said Vincent Pan, executive director of CAA.

Pan read off statistics that should have every San Franciscan worried. Students enrolled in City College's non-credit section, which offers English as Second Language classes and certification training for electricians, mechanics and firefighters, are 75 percent people of color. Those non-credit classes are the most likely to be eliminated, Pan said.

Student groups have been concerned for some time over the reformation of the college's mission statement, which establishes funding priorities as well as values. The accrediting commission had City College change that mission statement to prioritize transfer students and those seeking associates degrees. As a result, non-credit classes could be cut in the name of austerity, raising alarm for CAA.

"If the college served 70 percent white, affluent students there'd be an outcry," Pan told the Guardian. But poor communities of color have less of a voice in our political system, and the programs that benefit them may soon get the ax, he said.

That's a shame. One student at the conference, Victoria Chan, said that "growing up around sweatshops in Chinatown, I feared injustices you wouldn't expect in San Francisco." She shared her experience of being told by sweatshop owners, who employed her grandmother, that she'd never escape that life.

It was her first college course at City College, she said, that helped pull her up and out.

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