An open letter from the Department Chairperson Council
To the City College of San Francisco community—students, residents, college employees and trustees:
This is an open letter from the Department Chairperson Council (DCC) of City College of San Francisco. Concern has moved us to speak out for the continued life and success of our beloved institution.
Please read this letter with the future of City College in mind. We thank you for your support and engagement.
City College of San Francisco is embroiled in a fight for its life. After the threat of closure in July 2013 and the subsequent chaos and loss of enrollment, department chairs have endeavored to maintain the integrity of our programs.
The college is returning to more stable footing. Now is the time to work together to make that stability sustainable.
In this spirit of cooperation, the DCC feels it is imperative to focus the community’s attention on issues which we believe are vital to City College’s well-being.
As we plan for the Spring 2017 semester, we believe several new policies will negatively affect enrollment. Classes are being closed before chairs can fully look at department offerings from Spring 2016: We need to look at what worked, what didn’t work and what needs to change.
Instead, classes with “low performance” (i.e. had fewer than 15 students) are being deleted from the schedule planning document.
We then have to convince our deans to restore them in competition with other deans. This seems like an unnecessary, complicated way to plan a schedule.
Many departments face multiple cuts to their programs. Nevertheless, department chairs engage in good enrollment practices every semester, condensing and rearranging their program according to their own deep knowledge of its intricacies.
Before the beginning of spring, we can expect further cuts to programs. More classes might cut during the add-drop period.
Students who thought they could add a class during the add-drop period while they figure out their schedules may find their options limited. Given these limitations, it is ironic to envision the changes that Free City College could bring.
In July, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors passed a resolution that makes City College free to city residents, city workers and folks who work in San Francisco. The fiscal details still need to be worked out, but the college could be free as early as next spring.
There is a national trend to make community colleges free—San Francisco could lead the way. The DCC would like to see more visible preparation for Free City College, and are ready to do all we can to open doors for as many students as possible.
Furthermore, we recognize the incoming decline in funding, but we have some suggestions about ways the college can maintain or increase its enrollment in a fiscally responsible way.
One challenge to promoting enrollment is the college’s failure to prioritize marketing. Little marketing has been implemented, and has been somewhat tone-deaf to San Francisco’s diverse population.
The college needs a vibrant, locally-based marketing plan to let people know it’s here to stay.
Our website also needs to be addressed. Preset definitions are not inclusive of all students.
For example, when visiting the Future Students page on the City College website (http://www.ccsf.edu/en/future-students.html), credit classes are characterized as being designed for students whose goal is “to earn a college degree or transfer to a 4-year college or university.”
There are many prospective students in the Bay Area who would take a credit class for their own professional development, career advancement or an improved quality of life. Let’s welcome a greater diversity of student goals to City College.
Another challenge is that the website is difficult to use. Students and teachers alike get hung up with functions that simply do not work, inaccurate information such as false time conflicts and difficulty finding help when stuck.
Students’ experience on our website should be easy and seamless. We live at the center of the online technology industry—we can do better!
City College also needs to improve its customer service. Chairs regularly hear of students being sent all over campus—and indeed, all over town—to get what they need.
Students should get the help wherever they go. We all need to be cross-trained or at least have some idea whom to call to find the right help for a student with college navigation issues.
The above are systemic problems which challenge any large institution. We should work hard to correct them.
In an educational environment governed by fiscal considerations before pedagogical or programmatic concerns, department chairs have striven to heed students, support faculty and comply with administrative directives. We have been engaged in enrollment management for decades, having known our respective disciplines and programs intimately.
We stand at the front lines of maintaining the quality of instruction for which City College is known. Our quality of instruction has not been questioned during these last difficult years.
Chairs work closely with faculty to build and maintain the best programs possible within our areas of expertise. We are dedicated to making CCSF the best institution it can be, and we will always raise our voices to ensure students and the community understand what is at stake: our students’ success!
The Department Chairperson Council of City College of San Francisco
This letter was edited for length. To read the DCC’s comprehensive list of suggestions for improving student enrollment, visit theguardsman.com.