By Tyler Breisacher
City College faculty’s frustrations related to class cuts and communication were evident at the Dec. 11 Academic Senate meeting, when Chancellor Mark Rocha gave a brief update and answered questions regarding City College’s finances, and recent class cuts.
Rocha, dressed casually in a City College Rams jacket, thanked the faculty for their hard work and acknowledged some of the positive developments happening at the college. Graduations and completion rates are rising, he said. An $845 million bond for upgrading college facilities and building new ones, Proposition A, is officially on the March 2020 ballot.
The conversation then quickly turned to less pleasant topics, particularly the sudden and unexpected removal of hundreds of classes from the Spring 2020 schedule, and the ways those cuts were communicated to faculty.
“I spend almost all my time in consultation with the leadership of the faculty,” Rocha said, but acknowledged the frustration that can result when important decisions and information aren’t effectively communicated to the entire faculty.
Transitional Studies faculty member Pablo Rodriguez said that communication with the part-time faculty was particularly lacking. He said just in the past week, two part-timers would have to leave the city as a result of the cuts, which he called “unnecessary, unjustified policies.”
Christina Yanuaria, an ESL faculty member, highlighted confusing and conflicting information she received about changes to flex days. She said a colleague had a presentation planned for flex day, which was cancelled without a clear explanation — only a vague email saying that flex day was being “revamped.”
Rosario Villasana, chair of the Child Development & Family Studies Department, said she wasn’t sure who decided which classes would be cut from her department, and that the cuts would impact students seeking certificates and degrees. She added that she tried to restore two of the classes using grant funds, so that the classes could be brought back without costing any money from the City College budget, but was denied.
“Well, that’s a claim,” Rocha replied. Many of the faculty in attendance laughed at his apparent denial of the person’s description of events, which was just one of a handful of outbursts from the faculty.
Another came when Rocha said the college’s mission is graduation and completion. “No it’s not!” someone called out. California’s new funding formula, called the Student-Centered Funding Formula, encourages community colleges to prioritize graduation and completion. However, City College’s official mission statement also emphasizes “providing an array of academic and student development services that support students’ success in attaining their academic, cultural, and civic achievements.”
Another topic of concern was an email that Rocha sent to the Mayor and Board of Supervisors, in which he acknowledged that many students and faculty were supporting a proposal by Supervisor Shamann Walton to transfer $2.7 million from San Francisco’s reserve fund to City College — enough to restore the classes that were cut in November.
“Please know that with the full support of the CCSF Board of Trustees, we are handling this difficult situation directly here at the college,” the email read. Thomas Kennedy, an ESL faculty member, took that as an indication that Rocha would not accept funding.
However, Rocha denied this interpretation. “I never said that I would not accept funding,” he said, “I am completely open to funding from wherever it may come.” He mentioned the CHEF (Community Higher Education Fund) proposal as a sustainable source of funding that could be passed by the Board of Supervisors in 2020.
Monica Bosson, a faculty member in the English Department, said it seemed like the college was spending money on frivolous things like new flat-screen TVs in the cafeteria — a project which was rumored to have cost about $400,000 — while cutting important classes from the schedule. Rocha assured her that facilities upgrades come from a different budget than the one used to fund classes, so it’s not the case that the money is being taken away from classes in order to do those upgrades. She said she was aware of the distinction but it was still disheartening to see money spent on things like that while classes were being cut.
Rocha defended the cuts by saying that the trustees wanted to ensure the college did not run at a deficit this year, and that he wanted to avoid another accreditation crisis like the one the college was drawn into around 2012. He said the college’s finances were now being run properly (drawing laughs from the crowd) and that the effort to save money by incentivizing some faculty to retire earlier this year was not as successful as the administration had hoped.