Former Compton Community College Special Trustee Dr. Arthur Q. Tyler was formally announced as City College of San Francisco's new chancellor on Oct. 16. The decision ends a months-long search and comes at a time when CCSF is under state control and facing the loss of its accreditation.
As everyone fears for the future of City College, the key to understanding its new chancellor may lie in his history with similarly troubled community colleges, and to CCSF's own turbulent history.
City College is in the fight for its life as the deadline of July 2014 looms, at which point the Accrediting Commission of Community and Junior Colleges says it will revoke CCSF's accreditation. But Tyler has been in a similar position before, in Compton.
Tyler held the same position overseeing the troubled Compton Community College that Special Trustee Bob Agrella held as CCSF lost its accreditation. But more importantly, Tyler was at the helm when it was told its accreditation was revoked in 2005.
In a letter to the community, Compton's Board of Trustees outlined what they'd need to do: regain their footing and win an appeal to the accreditation commission. They filed for review, much like City College of San Francisco recently did. And they lost.
Compton Community College never regained its accreditation. It was absorbed into a neighboring district, El Camino College, and is now known as The El Camino Compton College Center, essentially another campus in the El Camino system.
"They had problems with integrity," he said at the Oct. 16 press conference, addressing Compton's failure under his watch. "It was a different situation."
Tyler is now tasked with saving San Francisco's only community college. At the ceremony, Tyler was told that he'd be held liable for CCSF's future.
"Dr. Tyler, you have many people here, whether they're students, faculty, staff, and administrators... to stand behind you as you take on this important responsibility," said Hydra Mendoza, Mayor Ed Lee's education advisor. "We're also here to hold you accountable."
After CCSF was notified it would lose accreditation in a year, the state gave Agrella the full powers of City College's Board of Trustees, leaving San Francisco's elected board powerless.
Just exactly how much power and influence Tyler will have while the state-appointed trustee remains at City College is still a mystery. But then again, the history of leadership of CCSF has been cloaked in secrecy and dubious dealings.
Former Chancellor Philip Day was head of City College in 1998, and he left under a criminal indictment, pleading guilty and later convicted of misuse of $100,000 of college funds. His chancellorship ended in 2008, but his scandal was not his only contribution to the school.
"In a lot of ways he was a great chancellor. He had some vision," Fred Teti, who was City College's Academic Senate president under Day, told the Guardian.
Day was a divisive figure, and the politics around him has split the college to this day. Teti said that rightly or wrongly, Day's legacy was mainly tied to the construction boom at City College.
"When the state Legislature passed (a law allowing) bonds for schools, he jumped on it immediately. It was really him that got all those buildings up," Teti said.
The construction boom built the college's new Multi-Use Building, and the towering Chinatown Campus. Many we talked to attributed this to Day's coalition style leadership, bringing together disparate groups of the college to a single purpose.
It was also what led him to falter, as Day's misuse of funds conviction was directly centered around funding he was using to promote more bonds for City College. He put laundered district money into an ad campaign for a facility related bond measure, and he was caught.