By Madeline Collins
Hundreds of students, faculty and community members marched to the Federal Department of Education’s office in downtown San Francisco July 9 to protest the recent decision to revoke City College’s accreditation.
People held signs that said “Save City College” and chanted “They say cut back, we say fight back” as the crowd of about 400 marched down Market Street from City College’s Downtown center to the Department of Education on Beale Street.
Assemblyman Tom Ammiano stressed that City College is a vital part of the community.
“I want every elected official to protect our family and not roll over,” he said. They [accreditation commission] are punishing the wrong people and who the fuck are they to punish anybody?”
The Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges announced on July 3 that City College would lose its accreditation on July 31, 2014. They stated that the administration only addressed two of the 14 changes that the accreditation commission recommended when the school was placed on “show cause” status in 2012.
California Board of Supervisors David Campos and Scott Wiener also spoke to the crowd, assuring them that they recognize how important City College is to the city of San Francisco.
“I can’t tell you how many people I know who are where they are because of City College,” Wiener said. “Why would anyone advocate revoking the accreditation of a college that educates so many throughout our community?”
Newly appointed Student Trustee Shanell Williams marched with the crowd, megaphone in hand shouting, “Save City College.” She later spoke to the crowd when they met outside the Department of Education offices.
“We are not here to mourn. We are here to fight,” Williams said. “We are here for the 90,000 students who rely on City College to meet their educational goal.”
Williams explained that City College has been cooperating and working hard to meet the demands of the accreditation commission in the last eight months, an amount of time she feels was simply not enough.
On July 8 the California Community College Board of Governors authorized Chancellor Brice Harris to appoint a special trustee, making the elected Board of Trustees votes advisory. This gives the special trustee all the decision making power. Harris appointed Robert Agrella to the job, who has been serving as special trustee since October, but with limited powers over governance.
Board of Trustees President John Rizzo called a special meeting to be held on July 9. He was told by Agrella that he could not call a meeting because only the special trustee has the power to do so. Instead of meeting as planned, Rizzo, Vice President Anita Grier, and Trustees Chris Jackson and Rafael Mandelman attended the march.
“I’m not here to be angry or sad. I’m here to be empowered,” Jackson said. “This is City College of San Francisco. We train the community to get to work here.”
Some speakers expressed frustration about the board being stripped of their power and having all the power places in Agrella’s hands.
“I cast my vote for the Board of Trustees and I’ll be damned if anyone but me takes their power away,” recent San Francisco State graduate and former City College writing tutor Terence Yancey said.
City College instructor Alan D’Souza was shocked with the decision of the accreditation commission.
“I can’t fathom what their logic was,” D’Souza said.
However, he was pleased with the turnout for the march.
“It’s not just students. It’s not just faculty,” he said. “This is an entire community coming together.”