New America Media hosted the debate, which escalated into personal attacks and outright accusations among the candidates, particularly between incumbents Chris Jackson, Steven Ngo and Natalie Berg.
When given the chance to question a fellow trustee, Ngo asked Berg why she had rescinded the salary cuts to top administrators, which he had introduced amid strong support from both the faculty and the public alike, noting that he “had been meaning to ask (her) this question for a while.”
Berg replied that the means by which Ngo had passed the measure were “undemocratic” and thereby had to be reversed.
Berg found herself in another scuffle when she accused Jackson of not supporting students paying for tuition.
Jackson denied the accusation, saying that he had simply said that going after students who had forewent tuition in the past would be more costly than to just let it go, and that he would be in favor of requiring students to pay tuition at the beginning of the semester, rather than allowing them to pay at the end, which is City College’s current policy.
That policy may soon change. The Board voted on Oct. 26 to find a more efficient way to collect fees from students, which could require fees to be paid at the time of registration.
The debate also highlighted different opinions about what constituted fiscal responsibility, a notable example being whether part time staff should receive full health benefits.
Jackson was strongly in favor of keeping the benefits, citing a personal history with the matter as his reason.
“My mother had a stroke a day after Mother’s Day and she was a retiree,” he said. “If she didn’t have health care, she would have had to foreclose on her house just to be able to pay for all the services for her stroke. God forbid a part time faculty member would actually have a medical issue, they would lose their house, they would lose a lot of other stuff.”
Challenger Amy Bacharach said that though a national single payer health care system would be ideal, full health benefits for part time employees were ultimately fiscally unsound.
“I don’t know of any institution where a part time person gets those kinds of benefits,” she said, and added that part time employees could take advantage of San Francisco’s Healthy SF option, which subsidizes certain uninsured individuals in an attempt to achieve universal health care within San Francisco.
Nanette Asimov, a reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle, asked why voters should re-elect incumbents, given that the school came close to bankruptcy under their watch.
After a bit of collective laughter, Rodrigo Santos—who was appointed by Mayor Lee to fill the remainder of the late Milton Marks’ term—said that he would do whatever is necessary, no matter how unpopular, to solve the crisis.
Also prominent was the question of what to do with lifelong learning classes, which include free and non-credit classes like English as Second Language and classes that teach people how to stave off dementia.
Also running are challengers Rafael Mandelman, Hanna Leung and current Student Trustee William Walker, who doesn’t have a vote. Candidates Nate Cruz and George Vazhappally declined to attend the debate.