Student groups such as the CCSF Collective, the Black Student Union (BSU), and the Equity for Older Students organized a protest at San Francisco’s Fort Mason Center to express their discontent with the direction City College was heading.
On June 22, more than 50 City College students and faculty stood in solidarity to vocalize their concerns over the college’s decision to close its Fort Mason campus. The campus was known to house some of the college’s art facilities, including the largest ceramics kiln in San Francisco.
Voices from the crowds demanded more attention be made towards the needs of its older adult learning classes, its Black students, and the English as a Second Language (ESL) department.
In 2019 the board cut 90% of the older adult education classes and fired 60% of the college’s ESL faculty in attempts to maintain its yearly budget. Protesters accused the board of agist practices due to the divestment in the colleges’ older adult community.
Marilee Hearn, student and member of the Equity for Older Students group, asked why the state’s older population is not a priority at the college.
“We aren’t going along with it,” Heam said. “These people are supposed to be our representatives, we pay their salaries, and they are chipping away and chipping away until we have nothing.”
In addition, BSU called for a heartier investment by the college to its African American Studies department that currently has no unified space or any full time faculty members. BSU posted to their Instagram account demanding for the college to hire a full-time department chair.
Student leaders from the CCSF Collective, BSU, and the Equity of Older Students are seeking to pressure campus officials and San Francisco City Hall into meeting student needs.
CCSF Collective group organizer, Jess Ngyuen, said it’s imperative students know it’s the board’s job to meet their demands. “We hope to educate students about the changes that affect their lives. The board of trustees are making decisions that they may not know about, so we listen to the student demands and we bring them to the trustees and to the City Supervisors to be met.”
Speakers at the protest featured art faculty laid off by the cuts, older adult students, Black Lives Matter organizers, and two candidates running for positions on the board of trustees in the upcoming Nov. election.
The groups rallied behind two candidates, Aliyah Chisti and Anita Martinez, who they hope will help shift the changes happening at the college.
“We need to re-envision how we do education. I’m determined to get the word out so more people are aware of what’s available to them with Free City,” Chisti said.
Chisti is a San Francisco native and helped pioneer the SF Free City program. Chisti’s mother learned English through City College ESL classes and she’s determined to keep City College as a community space.
Protesters booed at the board’s mismanaged budgeting which led to the massive cuts despite large investments the college have made into private consultants.
One of the final speakers, Steve Zeltzer, demanded that public education be protected.
“San Francisco is home to 75 billionaires and you’re telling me we can’t come up with the money to save our community college?,” Zeltzer said. “San Francisco is one of the richest and most liberal cities in the world, if we can’t get access to good community public education here, then where can we?“