CCSF students denounce class cuts that leave some short of graduation requirements

When the design firm that Steven Kirchner worked at went out of business last year, he decided to give City College of San Francisco a shot.

“I decided to join CCSF and make something better of myself. I managed to complete 33 credits in that year with a 3.5 GPA,” said Kirchner, adding that up until the start of the 2018-19 school year on August 20, he thought he was “cruising toward graduation.”

On Thursday, Kirchner was among some two dozen students and faculty members who expressed outrage and frustration over the college administration’s decision to cancel 177 classes, a majority of which were due to low-enrollment, at the college’s Board of Trustees hearing.

The cuts affected 822 students. While college leaders contend that classes were restructured and many more added than cancelled, a number of CCSF students who addressed the college’s leadership on Thursday said the cancellations could impact their ability to graduate on time.

“I was told my electronics 104A class was canceled before class started. I need that for graduation it’s only offered once a year,” said Kirchner. He was on track to receive a machining certificate this fall and graduate with an associates degree in the spring.

“My welding class I’m told will also be cut, and I need that for my machining certificate,” he said.

The cancellations left some students contemplating legal action against the college.

“There are some classes that have more than 25 students and the administration is unwilling to reinstate the classes,” said CCSF student Alfredo Leon. “Some of us won’t be able to graduate on time… Our only recourse is to pursue with a lawsuit against the school.”

The cancellations come as the college prepares for a soft launch of its online college in October.

CCSF spokesperson Connie Chan told the San Francisco Examiner that prior to the first day of instruction, the college added a total of 83 classes across various subjects.

“We are offering more than 3,800 classes this fall, 200 classes more than the previous Fall,” Chan said. “However, it is true that we are realigning some of the classes so some are not being offered any longer due to low enrollment.”

On Thursday, students and faculty members denounced the administration’s decision to cancel courses ahead of the first day of instruction and to enforce a recent policy change that establishes a minimum class size of 20 students.

Wynd Kaufmyn, the vice president of the CCSF faculty union AFT 2121, said it was “upsetting for a lot of faculty and students to return to what was perceived as draconian class cuts.”

“The past practices that we were expecting were not adhered to, specifically the class size of 20 in the contract,” said Kaufmyn, adding that language around this minimum was established in recent contract negotiations between AFT 2121 and the college’s administration but that “it has never been enforced and we were surprised that it is being enforced now.”

“Fifteen has always been the acceptable [minimum] for most classes,” she said.

Kaufmyn added she was surprised to see classes with “a history of adds” cancelled prematurely, adding that a class she was set to teach this semester and believed “would have made the enrollment target” by the first day of instruction, was cancelled before the class met.

“The 822 students who are directly affected are presumably only the numbers we see that registered. There are tons of people who would have added on the first day who would have allowed classes to go forward and those people aren’t even counted,” said CCSF student Peter Taylor.

Associate Vice Chancellor Kristina Whalen confirmed that the language around minimum class enrollment “was revised over the summer and the process posted on the website.” Updates about the changes were sent to “deans and chairs and administrative staff at beginning of August,” she said.

“Before the beginning of the class, classes below 20 would be reviewed for their enrollment history. Those not falling into [a category of] exceptions and those not showing a past history of enrollment growth over the drop/add period would be canceled,” said Whalen, adding that this process “would allow student to be contacted and it would give them time to rearrange their schedules.”

Whalen said additional counselors have been implemented to place students in alternative courses.

The cancellations come as the college prepares for a soft launch of its online college in October.

lwaxmann@sfexaminer.com

Laura Waxmann
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