By Ava Cohen
At a board meeting from April 29, Trustees Aliya Chisti and Thea Shelby proposed a plan that would allow City College students to have the option to return to in person learning in the semester of Fall 2021.
This call to reopen is now on the table for debate, as Trustee John Rizzo and a few members of the faculty stood to express their reservations for the plan.
Although the American Federation of Teachers 2121 supports the goal of moving back to in person learning, “this feels like a copy and paste of the SFUSD plans,” says Mary Bravewoman, AFT 2121 Vice President. “It might have been a well intentioned but mal-informed decision.”
According to this plan, the Chancellor would allegedly be working with the City Mayor’s Office, City agencies, and City officials to “identify and align resources, leverage existing structures and identify funding gaps in how the City can assist CCSF with school reopening readiness.”
CCSF also pledged to allocate funding to mental health resources, counseling, and other student support, as well as working to create more educational and emotional support for marginalized communities of students such as but not limited to students with disabilities, homeless students, and Black, Indigenous, Latinx, Asian and Pacific Islander students.
However, this pledge doesn’t equate to action, as the administration has been considering cutting a considerable number of classes including Philippine Studies, Women and Gender Studies and part of the Disabled Students Programs and Services that the college receives state funding for, and therefore cutting this class would cost money for the school.
In addition, CCSF has been planning their schedule for remote learning all along, and so they are not fully prepared for the return to in person learning. Students have already had difficulty with attendance through online learning, as the pandemic has created a lot of housing, financial, mental health, and job instability, and many students have families they need to take care of who may be immunocompromised.
“We cannot jerk our students around to a point of saying yes, we’re going to do it in person, and then quickly change our minds,” said Bravewoman. “If we switch that up we’re going to lose those students and our enrollment will drop even further.”
Bravewoman said that there needs to be full consultation with everyone, and more accommodations and flexibility to correctly return to in person learning. Considering everyone means considering staff such as janitors, receptionists, everyone that will be on campus and therefore be put at risk.
Malaika Finkelstein, the AFT 2121 President, agreed that there needs to be more consultation. “The resolution needs to go through the PGC Committee,” said Finkelstein.
The PGC Committee, or Participatory Governance Committee is a committee with representatives for students, staff, faculty, and administration.
Both Finkelstein and Bravewoman feel that there needs to be more physical space accommodations to return safely. They said there needs to be better ventilation, smaller class sizes, more flexibility, and that it can’t be done all at once.
Part time faculty Richard Baum agrees that it’s better to take a precautionary approach too, and feels that there would need to be a guarantee that everyone is vaccinated upon return, except for cases where people have health concerns that would disallow them from receiving the vaccine.
“I don’t have the confidence that City College would be the safest and healthiest place right now,” said Baum.
There was an idea to have building monitors, which Finkelstein thought was a good idea until they proposed the idea of teachers having to maintain that role.
“If there’s a student who refuses to wear a mask,” said Finkelstein, “I cannot and will not be expected to address it. Faculty should not be expected to.”
This small interaction highlights the continuous disregard administration has had for faculty and staff, as AFT 2121 has been fighting for a resolution to the administration handing out pink slips to over 65% of faculty.
“We are being asked to make wage concessions,” said Finkelstein. While none of the faculty would consider this if it wasn’t necessary, “we need our college to survive,” she said.
“The administration budget they’ve given us has some holes in it, there’s more money available to spend than they’re saying,” said Finklestein. The AFT 2121 is going over the budget to propose a more efficient plan that would benefit everyone at CCSF.
“A one time fix is not enough,” said Bravewoman. AFT2121 is seeking a budget plan with a sustainable solution to budgeting problems, rather than a short lived solution, such as cutting classes.