Is CCSF downsizing diversity?

Students and faculty rallied at the Ram Plaza against proposed austerities that would consolidate the diversity department on Thursday, Nov. 15. Photo by Shane Menez/The Guardsman

By Madeline Collins

Hundreds of enthusiastic students and faculty members waved signs of objection and spoke out during an impassioned rally protesting the consolidation of the diversity departments at City College.

Outside Ocean campus’ Ram Plaza on Thurs. Nov. 15, the sun seemed to be the only one beaming on disgruntled protestors and speakers who were chanting “The people united will never be divided,” led by Associated Student Council President Shanell Williams.

The Board of Trustees voted to umbrella the nine diversity departments into a single “school” led by one administrator instead of nine.

Consolidating these departments will save $3,000 to $19,000 a year in stipends that each department chair received for taking on administrative duties, according to estimates made by the trustees.

“We are here to defend the diversity departments at City College,” Williams said to the crowd as they cheered in support, waving banners stating “Roll Back Debt, Free Public Education” and “Roll Back Fee Hikes, Reverse Austerity.”

Protesters argued that melting the departments into one would not enforce individualism or diversity, and losing each individual chair would diminish the meaning of each department.

“San Francisco is diverse and stands out among other cities. Being exposed to all kinds of people inspires you to get involved,” student Ellohe Seyoum said.  Seyoum explained that diversity programs are what helped her decide to run to be a senator for the Associated Students Council.

African American Studies Chair Tarik Farrar took to the podium and spoke to the students.

“The attack on the diversity departments is the first step. Make the administration have a moral argument when they tell you they are cutting back,” Farrar said. “Make them have that argument and you will win.”

Students from San Francisco State University, UC Davis and UC Berkeley also participated in the rally. Protesters held signs saying “SFSU Stands in Solidarity with CCSF” and “You Can’t Consolidate Diversity.”

State Proposition 30 and local Proposition A are tax measures that recently passed and will increase the revenue for public education systems at the national and local level. Budgets are still so lacking in funds, however, that some schools continue to make cuts.

“The administration has signaled they plan to continue with cuts. They are attacking the diversity department and aren’t going to pay anyone to run them,” Labor and Community Studies Chair Bill Shields said.

Melanie Ortanez, City College student and Associated Student Council vice president of communications, emphasized the importance of diversity programs to her.

“Student diversity means everything to me. It is how we get politically involved as students,” Ortanez said.

City College has the first Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Studies Department in America as a part of the diversity department.

LGBT Studies Department Chair Ardel Thomas addressed the crowd, telling them how important it is that City College students stand together.

“Three transgender people are murdered every month,” Ronnie Appleseed a transgender male and head of a student run department said in reflection of the Nov. 20 Transgender Day of Remembrance.  He paused briefly, and, with difficulty said “We are here on campus, we are successful, and we are important.”

The Civil Rights, Chicano and Women’s Liberation movements have all contributed to the presence of diversity programs at City College.

San Francisco State University became the first university to offer a Black Studies program in 1968 during the fight against school segregation. Hundreds of colleges began to offer women’s studies courses by the 1970s, after over 100 years of women’s movements in the United States.

These movements and others like them fought discrimination based on race or gender and encouraged that equal access to education should be the core of public education.

“Student diversity should be represented at all levels of education,” UC Berkeley student Caroline McKusick said.

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