By Otto Pippenger
The sudden temporary closure of the Civic Center Campus days before the start of the Spring semester sparked a protest by some 100 demonstrators on Jan. 16 who gathered in front of the Eddy Street campus before marching to City Hall.
Civic Center Campus, which mostly serves English as a Second Language (ESL) students, was ordered to close on Jan. 9 when college officials decided to act on an August 2014 architectural report that the building needed to be earthquake-proofed. TBP Architecture reportedly found numerous building and safety code violations in the building and recommended a renovation plan to bring the building into compliance with city codes at a cost nearing $13 million.
Problems with the 100 year old building included earthquake risks surrounding the brick facade, a lack of a functioning water heater, asbestos usage, lead paint, and an outdated electrical system. These renovations were not expected to begin until 2016 at the earliest, with the proposal being marked for the 2016-2017 budget.
Students and teachers were not the only ones surprised by the closure. A Jan. 13 email from the Division of the State Architect (DSA) discussing the closure requested information, asking “Is it an emergency or something CCSF has planned for a while? For all structural safety work, DSA involvement is required.”
Chancellor Dr. Arthur Tyler announced the closure after reportedly reaching the decision with other administration members on Jan. 5. The timing of the announcement left little time to prepare, so most students learned of the closure when they arrived for school on Jan. 12.
Demonstrators questioned the timing of the decision and the necessity of the closure, which only became public knowledge on Jan. 9 before classes were scheduled to start. Classes will be moved roughly a mile away to the City College Administration Building at 33 Gough Street and are expected to begin on Feb. 2.
During the march to City Hall, protesters chanted “Chancellor Tyler told us to move, we ask why?” and “Let us teach.”
The college’s teachers union, AFT 2121, organized the demonstration. Union organizer Athena Waid described the union’s position as “pressing for immediate reopening of the campus, barring evidence of immediate, life threatening safety issues” that would justify moving the renovations more than a year ahead of schedule.
Engineering instructor and speaker Wendy Kaufmyn echoed this position. “The report indicates no emergency,” she said.
Speakers included former state legislator Tom Ammiono, who formerly taught ESL at the campus, District 9 Supervisor David Campos, and AFT 2121 President Timothy Killikelly.
Citing the need for input from faculty on such important matter as the closure of a campus that affects many, Campos said, “We are protesting the lack of any other input on this huge decision.”
Civic Center teacher Venette Cook also expressed concern over the accessibility of the change in location for the students residing in the Tenderloin, citing numerous local programs, including youth leadership courses and night LGBT history courses whose future is uncertain.
“Gough Street is quite a ways away for many of our students, who cannot easily change their work or childcare schedules” Venette said. “The people who live here have a real need for access and many must walk. I don’t think the decision was made with consideration of the students we serve.”