By Renée Bartlett-Webber
“Class cuts” is a common term during the beginning of the semester because there are often cuts due to low enrollment each semester. But this spring, “class cuts” has a much more biting connotation. In the wake of the layoffs of 38 teachers as well as the consolidation of the English as a Second Language (ESL) program last year, the term “cut” stings deeply at City College.
Canceled classes can prevent students from reaching their academic goals. For some, it could discourage them from continuing their education at all, either at City College or any other institution. This in turn could have an impact on the administration because the college is dependent on enrollment for funding and maintaining accreditation. City College is currently under “enhanced monitoring” by the accrediting organization primarily due to financial deficits and a 38% decline of full-time equivalent students (FTES.)
During this year’s Flex Day, Chancellor David Martin shared that there were 154 fewer credit classes between fall 2021 and fall 2022. Overall, the school gained more part-time students but there are still material losses in the number of classes that students are engaging in. This has resulted in a decrease of 567 FTES, the metric California Community Colleges uses to grant funds to schools. There are many factors that affect enrollment, so further analysis needs to be done. However the college has not provided the requested data before the deadline of this publication. As a result, information on cut or consolidated classes is primarily anecdotal.
Layoffs Wreak Havoc
The layoffs in May 2022 have drastically impacted 14 departments who in turn have had to make cuts to their own class offerings and even to change the requirements to graduate. Faculty member Steven Brown described it as “an atom bomb in the college” during the last board meeting.
Dana Jae Labrecque, chair of the broadcast electronic media arts department, addressed the board on Jan. 26, explaining why she thinks her program will not last another year. “Unfortunately, now that we are dripping one intermediate course out at a time, it’s impossible for students to even finish in two years.”
In addition to class cuts due to layoffs, many students are struggling to recover from the elimination of ESL classes at the John Adams Campus. After City College announced this change in December 2022, demonstrators filled the Mission Campus in protest. The school is still fielding outrage from students as the first semester without any ESL offerings on the west side of San Francisco begins.
“The concern that I have is that by eliminating ESL classes from the John Adams Campus, it will prevent some students from ever attending,” new trustee Susan Solomon told The Guardsman. “Students who live on that side of town may not drive, if they have a car, or take a bus ride across town to take a class and then get back home and somehow take care of their families.”
Fanny Law, an ESL instructor, told a reporter that of the almost 200 students who were at John Adams in the fall, only one-fourth returned this semester. She went on to say that the administration “did not use any data to give us any rationale as to why the consolidations were made official. And so far, the classrooms at the Mission Campus are not ready for teaching. I try to come up with some reasons. Honestly, I’m not able to.”
It is still unclear exactly why the ESL program was consolidated. Faculty have said that the administration made these decisions unilaterally. There is some talk that the John Adams Campus will be used as a specialized campus, but currently the classrooms that were used for ESL sit empty. The chancellor has not responded to any of The Guardsman’s requests for comments.
Whatever the reason for any class cut or consolidation, it raises serious questions about how City College can stay true to their vision to “provide a sustainable and accessible environment [to] support and encourage student possibilities by building on the vibrancy of San Francisco.”
The new faces on the board, Solomon, Anita Martinez and Vick Chung, ran on a platform calling for the roll back of layoffs and program cuts. “I want to see the viability of reversing the decisions that have been made,” Solomon said. City College waits in suspense to see if and how the board will respond to the faculty and student demands to bring back the classes and resources that have been cut.