Walkout!

City College student Jahaira Morales leads students in a walkout demonstration around Ocean Campus on Wednesday, May 6. (Photo by Natasha Dangond)
City College student Jahaira Morales leads students in a walkout demonstration around Ocean Campus on Wednesday, May 6. (Photo by Natasha Dangond)

 

Otto Pippenger

Defend Diversity Collaborative and Save City College Occupy Conlan

The Save City College Coalition occupied the administrative building, Conlan Hall, for the third year in a row on May 6.

More than 20 activists formed a circle in the building’s lobby and attempted to peacefully occupy the building overnight but dispersed under threat of arrest.

At 12:30 p.m, a crowd of nearly 200 students and teachers had gathered at Ram Plaza for what fliers called a “Walkout To Save City College.”

The mood was festive as a variety of speakers repeated the three demands the group has consistently pushed for: Special Trustee With Extraordinary Powers be eliminated as an individual and position, elimination of new stricter student loan policy, and that the cancellation of courses, particularly ethnic studies be halted and reversed.

Demonstrators alleged that Diversity Studies in particular are being closed at a disproportionate rate. The 25 percent budget cuts to various resource centers at the beginning of this semester was a particular point of contention.

Downsizing of City College

African American Studies Department Chair Professor Tariq Farrar compared the City College’s circumstance to that of recently closed Heald College. Heald was a for-profit college in San Francisco closed when their owner, Corinthian Colleges, Inc. was fined 30 million dollars by the Department of Education this April for misleading students and loan agencies about job prospects for graduates.

“In 2012, Heald was fully accredited by the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC,) while City College was put on Show Cause” Farrar said. “Thousands were ripped off by Heald’s for profit method, but we’re being punished for not having a profit driven plan.”

Farrar stressed the importance of student organization against private or downsized education, “The plan they have for you doesn’t include schools, or healthcare, or jobs, or a post office. What they want is a lot of prisons and cops with guns. The youths they don’t put in the grave, they’ll put in prison. That’s their vision for the world.” Farrar said.

American Federation of Teachers Local 2121 President Timothy Killikelly stressed the importance of rebuilding the student population, calling for an end to “push out policies when the school needs more not less students… of teachers being laid off… of administrators giving themselves raises but saying no one else deserves one.”

Killikelly concluded by calling for an investigation into Heald, and said ACCJC President Barbara Beno had claimed in print to have avoided accrediting Heald due to their recent buy out by Corinthian Colleges, Inc.

PAC Coalition Rallies

Several spoke from the campaign to build the Performing Arts Education Center (PAEC), raising the question of how the development of the Balboa Reservoir would affect both the PAEC, and the availability of the campus for all students.

The protesters were given lyric sheets to the tune of “Mack the Knife” with lyrics changed to protest the mayor’s upcoming pilot housing development of the Balboa Reservoir.

“Will they take away our college, when they need some housing there? They will do it if we let them, but we’re standing for what’s fair.”

New Debt Policies

During the accreditation crisis, City College changed the student debt payment policy to comply with state laws. The current system, according to organizers , requires 3-5 payment deadlines be met throughout the semester under threat of late fees, with failure resulting in automatic cancellation of courses.

Student organizers say automatic dropping and late fees are not necessary to comply with state law.

Student organizer, Lalo Gonzalez, said it was inaccurate to blame student debt for financial insolvency at the school, when the college receives more than four thousand a year from the state for each enrolled student. Gonzalez said that the principal effect of this policy is to exclude undocumented immigrants who do not qualify for Board of Governors Fee Waivers, and who cannot afford the fees.

“We’re being disenfranchised here…what are the consequences of kicking out predominantly working class students of color? More gentrification, more poverty, less jobs, less of us living here,” Gonzalez said, “The fight for City College is the fight for San Francisco.”

After leaving the school, protesters reconvened at City Hall for a meeting with the Special Trustee With Extraordinary Powers Guy Lease, which he failed to attend.

 

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