By Samya Brohmi
After one year of the COVID-19 pandemic, and 10 years of financial insecurity, students and faculty at City College are not unaccustomed to seeing their certificate programs flourish and falter, or sometimes hang in suspense, their futures uncertain.
On April 26, Interim Chancellor Rajen Vurdien announced that City College received formal notification from the California State Fire Marshal and State Board of Fire Services that the school’s Firefighter 1 Academy was accredited as a regional training program.
Jim Connors, department chair of administration of justice and fire science technology, said the notification of the program allows for five years of accreditation and for instructors to continue training 50 students a year to state standards.
Graduates of the academy will receive the Firefighter 1 “Educational” Certificate, granting them eligibility to work as fire professionals in California. Connors also shared that the academy will be moving from City College’s Airport Campus to the John Adams Center once construction of the new training grounds finishes. “The move will allow us a lot of stability. We’re very lucky, very fortunate,” he explained.
The academy currently shares its space with the Aeronautics and Aircraft Maintenance Technology Program, whose lease at the San Francisco International Airport expired at the end of 2020 with only 75 students enrolled. “Eight years ago, Aeronautics was on the verge of being shut down. It’s a real shame,” Connors recalled when asked how the neighboring program was faring.
In March of 2020, City College announced that the program would be moved to the Evans Campus. The decision was protested by faculty and their representatives, who insisted that the campus would not be able to accommodate the program’s needs and would compromise its eligibility for certification from the Federal Aviation Administration.
Now the program is at risk of being cut completely, months after the relocation to the Evans campus was indefinitely postponed. Students are left with no guarantee of whether they will be able to complete the certificate program or transfer to a four-year university.
In February, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors President Shamann Walton co-hosted a “Save the CCSF Airport Campus” public forum with the San Francisco Labor Council and City College Associated Students.
In attendance was Supervisor Gordon Mar who proposed that he and the Board of Supervisors could follow up with the airport to “try to find space for this important program” and promised allyship with City College students in overcoming issues with City College’s administration.
Despite attendees’ calls to Chancellor Vurdien and other administrators to attend and answer their critical questions about saving the program, no administrators attended the forum. The administration instead sent Director of Media Rosie Zepeda to share a prepared statement on their behalf. Zepeda was unable to answer questions or stay for the entirety of the session.
In an interview with the San Francisco Examiner, Zepeda expanded on her statement to the forum’s attendees and shared that the administration had initiated a formal process called the “program revitalization, suspension and discontinuation” process. Zepeda explained the process aims to root itself in policy, specifically concerning the Aeronautics and Aircraft Maintenance Technology Program.
A committee of faculty, administrators, and students has been formed to plan the program’s future. After review, the plan will be passed on to the Academic Senate for recommendations, who will in turn pass it on to the chancellor.
A final decision may be made by the Board of Trustees depending on the previous parties’ recommendations. Zepeda added that the college is still looking at the possibility of relocating the program to the Evans Campus as a stable long-term location.