Fall classes at City College of San Francisco began yesterday. Students streamed through all nine campuses, navigating their schedules.
But they are coming back to a different school than they left. On July 3, Interim Chancellor Pamila Fisher received a letter from the Accrediting Commision of Community and Junior Colleges saying that the school could lose it’s accreditiaton, leading to its closure, unless it is able to succesfully “show cause” for staying open. The letter laid out 14 "major problems" that the accreditation board says CCSF must fix.
Now, the race is on, as students, faculty, staff, administrators, trustees, and community members rush to keep the school open without compromising its unique and succesful qualities.
At the Ocean and Mission campuses, student organizers put on rallies that thousands of passers-by saw on their way to class. Volunteers holding “welcome weeks” events hosted music and speakers, and implored students walking past to talk into the mic about what CCSF means to them. Organized by the Save CCSF coalition that formed in July, the welcome weeks activities, which may include speakers, music, litterature, film screenings, and other events will continue until August 31.
“This is a community, not just a college. And right now, our community is under attack,” said Robert Chu, a former CCSF student who was volunteering with the welcome weeks events.
For Jason Bowden, another student who spoke at the rally, yesterday was the first day of college. Bowden said he is planning to earn his EMT certification and Associate Degree in fire science. "The dream is to be a firefighter," Bowden said at the rally.
Bowden said he is confident the school will stay open. "Initially, I was freaked out," he said. "But with 90,000 students, from a sociological perspective it would be disastrous. But I don't want to say its not going to happen. Stupider things have happened."
Chu said he was assisted by the Extended Opportunities Programs and Services Program (EOPS).“I’m actually an orphan,” said Chu. “EOPS supported me graciously and helped me out.”
The EOPS office is in a building near Ram Plaza, where the Ocean Campus rally took place yesterday. The adjacent Student Union building houses other programs that aid students, such as Students Supporting Students and the Multi Cultural Resource Center. Nearby, offices of the Veterans Educational Transition Services and Guardian Scholars program, which supports students coming to CCSF from the foster care system. Some expressed concern that programs like these will be deprioritized for funding as the school tries to meet its accreditation requirements.
The rally’s backdrop was a banner reading “Keep community in community college. Accessibility and affordability are non-negotiable.”
The evening before classes began, at an August 14 special board of trustees meeting, the trustees were discussing their priorities for CCSF moving forward.
The first recommendation in the accreditation board's report regards CCSF's mission statement.
“The team recommends that the college establish a prescribed process and timeline to regularly review the mission statement and revise it as necessary,” the text of the reccommendation reads. “The college should use the mission statement as the benchmark to determine institutional priorities and goals that support and improve academic programs, student support services and student learning effectively linked to a realistic assessment of resources”
In the wake of the accreditation crisis, the school set up 15 working groups to focus on different aspects of the process. The mission statement working group, tasked with evaluating the mission statement, and potentially, changing it, presented their work August 14-- a new mission statement for the board to consider.
The board approved the first version of the new mission statement, which will be revisted at an August 23 meeting.
The new version includes a few changes. The new mission statement lists four goals: “transfer to baccalaureate institutions; acheivement of Associate Degrees in Art and Science; Acquisition of certificates and career skills needed for success in the workplace;” and “Basic Skills, including learning English as a Second Language.”
The goals that have been cut out of the mission statement: “Active engagement in the civic and social fabric of the community, citizenship preparation; completion of requirements for the Adlt High School Diploma and GED; Promotion of economic development and job growth” and “lifelong leaning, life skills, and cultural enrichment.”
The mission statement already read “CCSF provides educational programs and services to meet the following needs of our diverse community”; the new version adds the phrasing “that promote succesful leaning and student achievement.” Another phrase was added: “the college offers other programs and services supplementrary to our mission, only as resources allow and whenever possible in collaboration with partnering agencies and community business organizations.”
The mission statement working group was one of the first to complete their initial work. As Chancellor Fisher explained in the board of trustees meeting, “We need to finish recommendation one as early as possible because it will affect out planning.”
The working group that wrote the mission statement was comprised of faculty, administrators, trustees, and community members. No students were involved, until two-- Associated Students president Shanell Williams and Student Senator Diamond Dave Whitaker-- were added to the working group last week. Today, the mission statement working group, with its two new additional members, meets to discuss the ongoing process of documenting CCSF's priorties. Their meeting is public and will take place 1:30-2:30pm at Batmale Hall.