City College student Becca Hoekstra, who works for Your Call as an intern, organized the event, which was split into two, one hour-long segments with separate panels. The first hour was sparsely attended, but the second hour was attended by a larger, more interactive crowd.
Rose Aguilar, the host of the show, began the first half of the forum with a discussion on how budget cuts, combined with the lasting effects of the recession, have cultivated a dismal job market and an ill-prepared workforce to tackle it.
“Ongoing budget cuts have led to higher tuition, the elimination of courses and services, and a freeze in enrollment,” Aguilar said.
From the audience, Robin Ryan, an aspiring library technician at City College, explained how budget cuts have personally affected her.
“The Bay Area is flooded with out-of-work librarians,” Ryan said. “Because of budget cuts, they had to cut the summer work study program,” and added that it is virtually impossible to find a job in her field without a series of internships.
Despite the weak job market, the panelists acknowledged that there is reason to be optimistic.
“The markets have improved quite a bit over the past few years, locally at least,” Alex Hochman, assistant director of career services at the University of San Francisco, said,
They also discussed the value of education outside of employment goals.
“I didn’t go to school to get a job,” Megan Corey, director of the paramedic program at City College, said, explaining that she, like her students, got into her field primarily to help people.
The first segment ended with an evocative story from former City College student, Ana Fisher, who emigrated from El Salvador when she was 28.
She took English as Second Language classes at City College and then transferred to San Francisco State University where she earned a master’s degree in childhood development.
Fisher now teaches child development at City College.
“(City College) benefits the low income minority groups,” she said. “We should be ashamed of these budget cuts.”
The forum’s second panel discussed the accreditation threat that City College faces.
The Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges demands that City College submit a plan by October 15 or risk losing its accreditation at the end of spring semester. The report was a surprise to students and faculty alike.
“There’s been no precedent for the commission to go straight from ‘you’re doing okay’ to ‘you are on ‘show cause.’ Probation is what usually comes before that,” Karen Saginor, academic senate president, said. Saginor added that she believes City College is well equipped to pass its accreditation evaluation.
“City College is not going away for sure,” Saginor said, earning her the audience’s first round of applause.
Saginor’s certainty was countered by San Francisco Chronicle education beat reporter Nanette Asimov.
“We don’t know (whether the college will close),” Asimov said and cited the example of Compton Community College, which lost its accreditation in 2006 and was absorbed into another district.
Student Trustee William Walker received the loudest and most sustained applause throughout the show, often rendering the latter part of his comments inaudible.
“I really wish the media would stop talking about the closure of City College of San Francisco,” Walker said. “We’re not going to close.”
Dora Palacios, a student and activist at City College, ended the segment on the media’s portrayal of the accreditation issue with a raised voice.
“You don’t know anything about what’s going on at City College,” Palacios said, directing her comments towards Asimov as the crowd burst into applause. “The students know what’s going on.”
“You say City College might close,” Palacios said. “I say no.”