City College unaffected by lawsuits

By Greg Zeman

Lawsuits against City College not only carry a hefty price tag, but also cause changes that aren’t felt in the school’s checkbook.

Where does the money come from if and when City College needs to settle a lawsuit? For example, the more than $60,000 paid to Jews for Jesus.

According to Board of Trustees President Milton Marks III, “It depends. The college has a couple insurance policies it relies on. Sometimes some of it is covered by our deductible.”

Peter Goldstein, vice chancellor of finance and administration, said the college plans for lawsuits.

“As a large institution, we are sued on a fairly regular basis and we have a fund set aside for that purpose, [but] the Jews for Jesus settlement is being paid out of the operating budget,” Goldstein said. “It has not caused us to cut any programs or services.”

“I don’t recall if in the operating budget there’s a certain amount budgeted for settlements, but if there’s not, either something has to go or some things won’t get built as fast,” Marks said.

Such was the case when a settlement was reached in Cherry v. City College of San Francisco. The class action lawsuit was brought forth under the Americans with Disabilities Act and claimed City College was not accessible to physically disabled students. The judgment that both parties agreed to states, “Defendant [City College] shall expend no less than a minimum of $7.5 million, the minimum sum to be expended to improve disability access.”

“The ADA case forced the college to spend significantly more money on ADA improvements than planned,” Goldstein said. “That was money we had hoped to spend on a variety of small remodeling projects that will now have to wait.”

The impact these settlements have on City College is not strictly financial. The outcome of Jews for Jesus v. City College changed the policies concerning outside groups on campus. Groups have to check in at the Office of Student Activities and pick up a copy of the regulations, including a layout of the areas available and the rules for each area. Some examples of the new rules are, no sound amplification on Cloud Science Mall — the plaza between Cloud Hall and Science Hall —  and no soliciting of donations anywhere on Ocean campus.

“The reason why these colleges set up these free speech zones is to help with the function of the college. If groups exercise free speech outside of a building with a lot of windows where there’s a lot of classes, it’s extremely disruptive to the college environment,”  officer Christian Smith of the City College police department said.

“We always get a permit so they know we’re here,” Jehovah’s Witness minister Norman Leiva said. “We’ve been coming for about ten years,” she said. “Even though we go door-to-door, some of these students are at school. This is our one opportunity to share with them.”

The reaction among students aware of the change has been positive. Victor Vargas, a Culinary Arts student at City College, said he thought the new policy was a good idea.

“It gives other people a chance to hear what message they [outside groups] have to express. As long as they don’t hassle me like I’m on a used car lot or something, I’m for it,” Vargas said.

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