By Casey Ticsay
Three days before the fall semester began, faculty and students marched in solidarity to Chancellor Mark Rocha’s office in protest of early class cuts.
Together they sang, “All we are saying is give students a chance.”
The college administration canceled over 230 class sections with an average enrollment of six students each, impacting more than 1,100 of City College’s 27,000 credited students this fall. As of Sept. 9, only 93 sections were added, according to schedule changes on the college website.
Administrators state that cutting classes early gives students time to enroll in alternative sections. But the protocol of using estimations to predict enrollment and prematurely cut classes casts a shadow over diverse student needs.
“From what I understand, [the chancellor] is going through spreadsheets with numbers and making evaluations without hearing narrative and without hearing information that supports a much bigger story,” said Michele Sieglitz, a professor of the Broadcast Electronic Media Arts department.
Sieglitz’s field video production course was canceled two days before the first class meeting. She did not receive any prior notice regarding the status of her class.
BCST 141, which feeds into many BEMA certificates, had no other sections scheduled. By the first day of class, 13 students were enrolled, and seven more planned to add. For Sieglitz, cutting the course meant crippling opportunities for students to achieve success in the program.
“In this case, canceling a single class means impacting our department by cutting it at the knees, essentially priming us for failure,” Sieglitz said.
Given little notice, she lost a significant portion of income as well as her eligibility for healthcare benefits since she no longer teaches the average number of units required of part-time instructors.
Still, she hopes to see the silver lining through it all and urges the administration to actively support the college community and its courses.
“I think education is so unbelievably powerful as a tool for change in a society,” she said. “We need to listen to each other, and we need to have our voices heard so that people’s real concerns, real issues, real needs are actually being addressed.”
Graduation at risk
The vast majority of students impacted by canceled classes were directed into available seats, and every student scheduled to graduate or transfer next May will be provided the courses they need, Media Relations Director Connie Chan stated.
While a press release noted that the college is offering 3,800 courses — 200 more classes than last fall — students like veteran Alfredo Leon Orea are still left in the lurch.
Orea has attended City College since 2014 and is pursuing a degree in Travel and Tourism. He needed TRTV 172 to graduate next spring, but it was dropped with 14 students enrolled.
There are no other sections provided, and it is only offered every three semesters. As a veteran, Orea has limited class options because his curriculum must be approved by the Department of Veteran Affairs, making premature cuts all the more problematic.
“We have international students, veterans, people that are moving out of state, people that are going to different universities,” Orea said. “So you cannot treat everybody equally because everybody has a different story.”
It’s not the policy, it’s the practice
The administration may wait until the end of the add/drop period or after two evening classes to drop a course, according to Article 18
of a bargaining agreement between the San Francisco Community College District and the American Federation of Teachers Local 2121.
While this gives the administration two weeks to monitor under-enrolled classes, the policy only applies to courses with evidence showing they will likely meet the requirement of 20 students.
“That’s how we can still serve the student population, still see the growth that we want and yet meet our fiscal responsibility to San Francisco and the state and meet our board goal of staying within our budget,” said Kristina Whalen, the associate vice chancellor for enrollment management.
But for Greg Keech, the English as a second language department chair, the problem is not policy but practice.
Students must complete a placement test to register for ESL classes, which will ensure that they are placed into courses suitable for their English proficiencies. Tests are given regularly from mid-October through January and mid-March through August, but the results take time to process.
“Our issue is give us the chance to number one: build the class with our incoming students who are taking the placement test,” Keech said. “Number two: if we’re going to close a class, [then] we want to go in and deal with each student individually.”
Thirteen ESL sections were dropped, 12 of which were canceled due to low enrollment before the semester began and before placement test results were available.
Reinstated but behind schedule
Amid students and faculty protesting class cuts, electronics student Marcos Cruz arrived at the board of trustees meeting on Aug. 30 with a statement in hand. He needed ELEC 104A to graduate next spring and like Orea, had no other sections to choose from. Forty minutes before public opinion began, his class was reinstated.
“What this tells me is that the administration was shooting first and asking questions later, which to me is irresponsible,” Cruz stated. “The administration should know exactly which classes they’re cutting and why before they start wreaking havoc in our educational plans.”
While Cruz is relieved to find his class reinstated, starting three weeks into the semester has added a denser workload. To make up for lost weeks, students and faculty agreed to extend his class an extra hour, making it five hours long.
“City College has been on this rampage of advertisement saying that it’s there and it’s there for us, the students and all the teachers alike,” Cruz said. “It doesn’t feel like that this semester. It doesn’t feel like that across the college. Teachers and students in CCSF make CCSF what it is, and we would like the administration to let us decide for ourselves.”