By Skylar and JohnTaylor Wildfeuer
Understanding entirely even a single issue City College faces is a daunting, time-consuming process.
Its complexity is a large part of its beauty: as a college uniquely intertwined with metropolitan politics, one which serves a constantly changing, but consistently diverse, demography, in a constantly shifting, but consistently demanding economy.
The college’s detractors, some of whom appear to be on its payroll, may view this enormous learning curve as a nearly insurmountable peak, that their role is merely to establish a base camp for the next attempt, seemingly oblivious to the avalanche of problems that arise when approaching an audacious task with incrementalism and self-protective caution.
The building of a new Performing Arts Education Center, which once housed the college’s theater, music, and dance programs and has been funded by Bay Area voters three times, and is set to recollect the Diego Rivera Pan American Unity mural, currently on loan to the SFMoMA, in 2023, at which time one would expect the theater meant to house it to be completed.
Harry Bernstein, a professor who teaches on the fundamentals of music and has of late been a vocal and prolific public commenter at meetings of the Board of Trustees said, “Yet, one leader after another does things that prevent it from moving forward.”
Interim Chancellor Vurdien fired part of the construction team, claiming this would have no significant impact on the timeline, and then a few months later said it would be impossible to complete the building project until 2026. Of the delay Bernstein said, “That’s not what I call a minimal impact on the timeline.”
Even arriving at this point of understanding has taken time and effort: combing through disparate reporting, reading minutes, agendas, and presentation supplements from committee meetings, and scanning through at least the last two years of meetings of the Board of Trustees, with particular attention to presentations by the Board Facilities Master Plan and Oversight Committee.
And what a great deal of questions are still left unanswered, some unanswerable mixed in with the attainable!
What is the official timeline now that TEF Design has been chosen for the project, with Programming and Collaboration the only “Next Step” with a concrete date (2022)? What will happen to the Unity mural if it is returned to the college with nowhere yet to go? What will that cost? How accessible will the facility, whose current budget is $105,217,229, be to all students, and to the Bay Area public? How many students will be using it regularly for instruction? Is it really 3%? Is relying on that number a strawman argument which lacks a broader understanding for the needs of the Bay Area, whose voters were the ones to thrice approve its construction?
This is one small piece of City College’s four-dimensional Rubick’s cube of its solvency and sustainability puzzle, and it is itself a complex formation shrouded in fog, but we are City College, and our collective brainpower, if tapped, is surely up to the task. And we are no strangers to fog.