San Franciscans decry loss of City College classes — but will the new "Super Trustee" listen?
But Susan Hsieh, communications and membership manager for the CAA, says Agrella doesn't seem receptive to concerns about the loss of courses that predominantly serve communities of color.
"I think it's important Agrella maintains a connection with the community," she told the Guardian. At this point, she charged, "I don't think he has."
The Guardian worked with college officials to arrange an interview with Agrella, but it was scheduled for a date after the publication of this article.
Concerned students have started a website, movecitycollegeforward.org, where San Franciscans can submit letters to Mayor Ed Lee asking that their voices be heard. But the public already had a formal system for input with the democratically elected Board of Trustees, and now they are powerless.
TRUSTEES WEIGH IN
Rafael Mandelman, a City College trustee, echoed CAA's concern that non-credit classes are being undervalued by City College's accreditation agency.
"That is a real and legitimate concern. I think in Sacramento and at the accreditation commission there is a real bias against non-credit," he said. "The proposals around that have suggested there are people who feel community colleges should get out of the non-credit business."
But now, stripped of decision-making power as a trustee, Mandelman can't look out for those communities.
John Rizzo, Anita Grier, Natalie Berg, Chris Jackson, Mandelman, Lawrence Wong, and Steve Ngo are the elected Board of Trustees at City College, and Shanell Williams is the student-elected student trustee. For the next year at least, they have absolutely no say on what happens at City College. They will hold no meetings, and some were even barred from workgroups.
For about the past year, Agrella sat in on every public Board of Trustees meeting as a Special Trustee, with veto powers of the board. When City College's accreditation status changed, he was promoted to his current position. The Super Trustee now acts with the full power of the college's local board, which makes policy and funding decisions for City College.
One of his first acts on the job was to boot some trustees off their only workgroup.
Anita Grier, Shanell Williams, and Rafael Mandelman were all summarily barred from entering a room with a workgroup that's been tasked with selecting a new, permanent chancellor for City College. Shanell Williams, the student trustee, took to Facebook to denounce the move.
"Today I was barred from the Chancellor Search Committee by CCSF campus police," she wrote. "Student representatives should not be treated like this. I will be talking to the State Chancellor about this bullying and retaliation toward me by Bob Agrella."
Agrella also put an end to the public board meetings, the main forum for members of the public to air concerns about City College. The meetings were broadcast live on the web, and recorded into video and audio formats.
Under the new system, decisions about changes at City College will all be made behind closed doors.
Agrella left Trustee John Rizzo on that chancellor's search workgroup, implying that he had specific disagreements with the trustees he barred. Though Grier and Mandelman can't match Williams for sheer volume of polemic speech, they voiced criticism of the accrediting commission in the past. In a video Agrella released to the public on City College's website, he voiced disapproval for critiques of the college's accreditors.
"I've dedicated my entire life to community college education, but I've never had a more important task than this one," he said. "I'm well aware of the concerns expressed about regional accreditation. It has many facets. If City College of San Francisco remains in the battle for this fight, it won't survive."