By Charles Innis/The Guardsman
A crowd of 60 faculty members, staff, students and activists gathered at San Francisco City Hall March 14 for a rally and public hearing to voice their support for a resolution to restore City College’s democratically-elected Board of Trustees and remove Special Trustee Robert Agrella from power.
The resolution, authored by San Francisco County Supervisors David Campos and Eric Mar, urges California Community Colleges Chancellor Brice Harris to “restore the voice of San Francisco voters and bring democratic decision-making, transparency and public accountability back to City College of San Francisco by restoring the duly elected Board of Trustees.”
The attending board members unanimously voted to amend the resolution to demand Agrella’s immediate removal, rather than remove him by July 2014 as the resolution had previously stated.
“This resolution is an important step. It is only one step, and we’re not going anywhere until there is full restoration of democracy at City College,” Campos said.The supervisor’s neighborhood services and safety committee passed the resolution on to the full board.
Eight out of 11 members of the Board of Supervisors already support the resolution.
The resolution will be voted on by the full Board of Supervisors at the next public meeting on March 25.
Although the board has no formal say on the matter, Harris can take action regarding Agrella’s position with City College.
Protesters rallied on the steps of City Hall a half hour before a public hearing on the City College resolution. Banners and signs read “Agrella We Want Our College Back” and “No More One-Man Rule,” while onlookers chanted and passing cars blasted their horns.
Speakers at the rally included representatives of the former City College Board of Trustees, American Federation of Teachers Local 2121, the Chinese Progressive Association and other public figures.
Students who participated in the protest and overnight sit-in of Conlan Hall on March 13 were also present at the rally.
Student Edian Blair Gapit spoke at the rally about his experience occupying Conlan Hall.
“I just couldn’t tolerate the injustice and oppression that’s basically happening in our institution and I had to do something,” Gapit said. “I had to push my way through, sleep my night there in the cold, sleeping on the floor, singing songs and building community at the same time.”
Protesters migrated into City Hall after the rally, with some attending the public hearing while others congregated in the lobby and outside the building.
The hearing’s events included short address from Supervisors Campos, Mar and Norman Yee. After introducing the resolution, 40 people spoke during a public comment period.
City College students, faculty, staff and San Francisco residents spoke of their concerns about City College’s recent digression from the democratic process.
“In a time of crisis for City College, it’s more important now than ever to actually have more community input, because were at such a critical juncture,” attendee Emily Lee said.
Dimitrios Phillou, a student activist that was pepper-sprayed by police during the protest at Conlan Hall March 13, also spoke at the hearing.
“Yesterday a group of passionate students protested peacefully requesting dialogue with the super trustee who seems to have the power of invincibility,” Phillou said. “And I was detained by the City College police for trespassing into the same public building I walked into as a nervous freshman.”
The Board of Supervisors concluded the meeting by expressing their support to reinstate the Board of Trustees.
“I’m really encouraged by the young people that have taken action, occupation action, takeover action and sleepover action, to take back education for themselves,” Mar said.