By Tyler Breisacher
The Board of Trustees heard the anger and disappointment of the City College community Thursday night, as a group of students interrupted the meeting to protest the unexpected loss of hundreds of classes from the Spring 2020 schedule.
The interruption came after over two hours of passionate comments from faculty and students, arguing in favor of the classes they valued the most. The Older Adults classes were mentioned frequently. One speaker had a homemade sign reading, “Las personas mayores importan” (Older people matter) and said City College’s older adults classes helped to keep him out of the hospital.
A student in the Older Adults program told the trustees, “I need this to stay alive.” Echoing comments from others implying that the cuts were driven by ageism, the student encouraged the trustees to sign up for the ageism class offered at City College.
A few commenters led the crowd in chants such as “Age inclusion, not exclusion!” and “¡Sí se puede!”
Erika Gentry, chair of the Photography Department, said the cuts would affect certificate completion for photography students. She also reminded the trustees that photography students go on to important and well-paying jobs with a wide variety of employers.
A handful of speakers advocated for the removal of Chancellor Mark Rocha.
Shortly after 7 p.m., as the public comment section of the meeting came to a close, a group of students disrupted the meeting with chants of, “Enough is enough! No more cuts!” and “Whose side are you on?”
The protesters held a large poster. Written on it was a pledge that there would be no further class cuts in 2020. They offered pens to the trustees and asked them to sign the pledge.
Sociology major Mica J.S., one of the protesters, said none of the trustees signed it. “I think, going off of the direction that the trustees and the administration have been taking with the school, it’s not surprising that they won’t pledge to protect classes,” they said.
They added that removing Rocha from his position as chancellor, as a few members of the public suggested during the public comment section, “would be great.” However, they worried that if Rocha were the only administrator to be removed, then other administrators would “continue on the path that Rocha has taken the college on, and try to run it into the ground rather than seeking more funding to actually protect and expand the community college that we all love.”
After the disruption, the Board went into closed session. When they reconvened in open session again about an hour later, the majority of the crowd had left.
The trustees did not discuss the class cuts or address the outrage from commenters and protesters, with few exceptions.
Trustee Shanell Williams, in her trustee report at the end of the meeting, acknowledged that some faculty members were losing work due to course reductions.
In the report-back from the Budget and Audit Committee, the trustees held a discussion, primarily driven by Trustee Ivy Lee, about changes that could be made, to make drastic and sudden cuts less likely in the future. These included clearer budget controls for department chairs, and the passage of new funding sources, including the Community Higher Education Fund (CHEF) at the city level, and Schools and Communities First at the state level.
Official reports from City College leaders addressed the cuts more directly.
When Department Chairperson Council (DCC) President Darlene Alioto gave her report, several department chairs and other faculty members in the audience stood up. In an email, Alioto explained, “The DCC decided that my statement last night was more important than our usual report – and decided they wanted to stand in a show of support and unity for the remarks. Unexpectedly (and a pleasant surprise) some other faculty leaders joined them as well.”
In her statement, Alioto said the class cuts were made at the “eleventh hour” and without warning. She acknowledged that the administration has the right to determine the size of the college, but that they should have made that decision much earlier in the process. She also called for an independent budget analyst. This echoed an earlier statement from Alexis Litzky, president of the Academic Senate, who also called for an independent budget analyst.
Faculty union AFT 2121’s president Jennifer Worley read from her open letter to the trustees, which she said she had sent to the trustees prior to the meeting but received no response. The letter criticized Rocha for an email he sent to the mayor and the Board of Supervisors, saying that City College’s situation “is not an emergency” and that “with the full support of the CCSF Board of Trustees, we are handling this difficult situation directly here at the college.”
Worley decried what she called the “junior-college-ization” of City College, and closed her remarks by reading statements from Older Adults students, some of whom had taken classes which have existed at City College for 30 years.
Lee said that she would support the college receiving $2.7 million in emergency funding, as proposed by Supervisor Shamann Walton. Other trustees did not comment on the email, nor the proposed emergency funding.
City College spokesperson Evette Davis said in a statement that the college would not turn down the offer of $2.7 million in emergency funding, if it were provided. “The College and the Board of Trustees will evaluate any funding initiative from the BOS when it is received.”
The statement went on to say, “The preference of the College is to work towards long-term sustainable funding measures such as … CHEF, as proposed by Supervisor Gordon Mar, rather than one time funding measures that do not help the College overcome its structural budget issues.”