By Casey Ticsay
“Barriers Busted, Walls Torn Down, Obstacles Removed.”
These are the words printed across banners that hang along Phelan Avenue, each accompanied by portraits of students posing in iconic San Francisco locations. The message is prominent among advertisements placed throughout Muni buses and campus windows, one meant to attract you, the prospective student — the Free Speaker and Free Thinker, the academically underserved or unemployed, the curious lifelong learner.
The college spent $1.5 million on Underground Advertising, a San Francisco-based marketing firm, determined to promote the Free City program. The tone of each advertisement would look and feel like the city of San Francisco, keeping in mind student recruitment and remaining authentic to the diverse passions and interests among the college community. However, it’s not enough to simply state what alumni studied and show where they are now, or even to photograph a student with a cup of coffee in their hands.
Every day, City College students participate in more than 50 academic departments. Some conduct science experiments or practice judo, learn sign language and play the cello. Others write poetry or perform a new play, engage in debates and study different religions.
We should champion these experiences and the accomplishments of students who learn from and contribute to our beloved community. As classes are increasingly cut due to low enrollment, it becomes paramount that the college uses its distinguished platform to promote departments and under-enrolled classes.
It’s not a matter of what City College is doing wrong, in terms of marketing, but what it can do to better showcase its diverse student population and uphold the ideals of a historic institution that embodies the spirit of San Francisco. By capturing students actively engaged in their respective fields and disciplines, people will begin to realize the wide range of possibilities that the college has to offer.
Free City may be the driving force for thousands of students to enroll, but not for all. There may come a time when the administration can no longer rely on its revolutionary program to ensure student retention. In the end, what really matters are the educational pathways and resources that will assure students that City College is here for them and here to stay.