The Fight for Fort Mason
By Elena Stuart
City College administration has not been transparent about the possible closure of the Fort Mason campus next term, but faculty and students are fighting to keep their unique learning environment and diverse campus community open.
Some 2000 individuals are enrolled at the campus according to the City College website which invites students to “register today” and “experience all that Fort Mason has to offer.”
“If this campus closes the majority of students here wouldn’t be taking classes at City College anymore,” said Fort Mason art instructor Claire Brees. “I haven’t heard a convincing reason to leave [the campus].”
The demand to keep the campus facility was addressed during a town hall meeting with City College Interim Chancellor Susan Lamb on March 13.
Ceramics instructor Olivero Quezada said the meeting was packed and students were spilling out into the hallway.
Figure drawing instructor Diane Olivier believes “students came out full force” that day and frustrated by “the seeming lack of commitment on the part of the administration” to be forthcoming with the Fort Mason community.
Quezada said the original information provided by the City College administration suggested the Fort Mason Foundation was going to raise the rent by 300 percent.
“No one has admitted where that figure came from,” Quezada said. “We have since learned that a Fort Mason representatives asked for a 25 percent rent increase and were expecting City College to renegotiate.”
Quezada thinks the administration is looking at the closure as a cost saving measure.
“What the administration was telling us is not what was actually happening and that, as a faculty member, is disturbing to me,” Olivier said. “It seems to me as an instructor that the push has been to shut down rather than to build up classes.”
Quezada infers the administration did not consider the impact losing the campus would have on faculty and students.
“A lot of people would lose their jobs,” Quezada said, “The college administration is just so far removed from what actually happens [at Fort Mason]. They don’t appreciate the passion and the emotion behind the students working here.”
Angela Vandeneeden, one of Quezada’s students agrees. “Fort Mason is really inspiring for a lot of the art students that go here especially with the iconic San Francisco imagery all around.”
Ceramics student Eleanor Webber does not take classes at other campuses and believes the closure doesn’t have to happen.
“It’s unfortunate that the administration somehow did not understand how much this campus is valued,” Webber said.
Students and faculty agree Fort Mason is a one of kind campus worth preserving.
“This is an amazing space,” continuing education student Tachina Rudman-Young said. “Taking classes here has changed my life.”
Sarah Sutro has been taking classes at Fort Mason for decades and was devastated.
“I think it’s a magnificent resource for the whole community,” Sutro said.
Olivier believes Fort Mason is heaven on earth for artists.
“The light, how it affects our paintings and our drawings, the kind of space we have to create situations for our subject matter is unlike any other place,” Olivier said. “It’s very different from Ocean campus.”
Instructors and students have not given up on the campus and remain hopeful. “We are on the schedule to teach here in the fall,” Olivier said, “I still haven’t received anything formal from the administration about the situation.”