HEAT Press Conference Calls for Bridge Fund to Restore Classes

 

By Meyer Gorelick msggorelick@gmail.com

 

City College supporters gathered outside of San Francisco City Hall on Dec. 10 to hold a press conference in protest of what some have called “the midnight massacre” of 270 classes two days before Thanksgiving break. 

The press conference was organized by the Higher Education Action Team (HEAT), which consists of students and various college faculty. Several speakers referred to the elimination of  90% of the older adult courses, as they decried the cuts as racist and agist, and asked the college to serve the community and restore the classes via a bridge fund.

Administrators have insisted made the Spring 2020 cuts were made to help alleviate a $13 million deficit and maintain a 5% budgetary reserve. Even though the cuts appeared to be a last minute reaction to a budgetary crisis, Chancellor Rocha wrote in an email to Mayor London Breed and the Board of Supervisors that there is no emergency, and the class cuts are part “of a long-term restructuring plan.”

The press conference was held prior to the Board of Supervisors Meeting where Supervisor Shamann Walton introduced a $2.7 million dollar ordinance to restore the cut classes.

Most of the students at City College are people of color said part-time Political Science Professor Rick Baum.

“We are reproducing this form of structural racism,” he added.

Baum said that older adult students are losing courses like Principles of Balance, that have provided them with vital resources designed to help older adults avoid falling and other injuries. 

Former chair of the Older Adults Program Dr. Wood Massey voiced his concerns about what these cuts will do to the mental health of older adults.

“Isolation is a killer. These class cuts will kill older adults.”

Older adults courses are not the only classes being eliminated, as half of the offerings at Evans Campus have been diminished since 2016 said part-time automotive professor Stephen Brady.

A letter from an Administration of Justice department professor was read by engineering professor and vice president of the faculty union AFT2121 Wynd Kaufmyn. It discussed a fingerprinting class that was cut, a course which is required in the crime scene investigation certificate program and is preventing students from earning their certificates on time.

“Chancellor Rocha promised that there would be no classes that would be cut that would delay or prevent graduation or certificate completion. This shows that he was not telling the truth,” Kaufmyn said.

She referenced a report commissioned from the legislative analyst and budget team of the San Francisco City Council that showed how City College gives San Francisco a net benefit of $300 million per year in the form of services the school and its students provide to the community.

“City College is not a taker, it’s a giver,” Kaufmyn said.

AFT 2121 Student Organizer Marcos Cruz discussed what City College has provided for he and his family. His father immigrated from Guatemala and took English language classes at the college and received help with his citizenship application at the Mission Campus.

“My dad might have not been able to become a citizen of the United States if it wasn’t for City College, and he might not have been able to bring me and my sister to the United States if it wasn’t for City College,” Cruz said.

When Cruz came to San Francisco to join his father and finish high school, he was unable to secure a work permit, and was forced to find other means of survival.

“I had to wait and I found the place to wait at City College where I could study for cheap, I could study the things that I wanted to study, I could build community,” Cruz said. “And my story is not the only one like this. There are hundreds of thousands of people that go through City College that have the same story. They come from harsher backgrounds and more difficult situations than I have, and they get out of those situations because of City College.”

Several speakers voiced outrage against why they believe is administrators trying to turn City College into a junior college, where the purpose is graduating students and moving them into four-year schools instead of offering resources to a community of lifelong learners. 

Brenna Stroud, a HEAT supporter and automotive mechanic program student, discussed how the unavailability of night and weekend classes in her field has eliminated the opportunity for students with children and full-time jobs to take courses.

“All we’re asking for is $2.7 million from our city to staunch the bleeding and help us get back on track to grow, to be the college and institution that San Francisco loves and needs” Kaufmyn said.

Speakers questioned how San Francisco a “city of billionaires” cannot  afford to adequately fund City College.

Many members of the press conference attended the ordinance hearing and continued to voice support for the bridge fund in the time allotted for public comment.

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