Throughout the crises of the past several years, from the recession to our accreditation crisis, City College of San Francisco has remained steadfast in serving tens of thousands of students working toward their educational goals and better prospects in life.
AFT 2121, the college faculty union, is going on a one-day strike to defend this vital role that City College plays. When the administration decides to cut classes without understanding student needs, and bargains in bad faith with faculty on issues affecting the future of this college, we can no longer take their actions sitting down.
We are in a broader fight for our students, and for working- and middle-class families in San Francisco. Many are first generation attending college, low-income students, immigrants, veterans, displaced workers and career changers. Our English as a second language program serves 30,000 in San Francisco each year, giving immigrants the language skills they need in the job market.
These are among The City’s most vulnerable populations, and would be terribly affected by the 26 percent cut in classes proposed by the administration to the college over the next five years.
Recently, AFT 2121 discovered that the administration has been listening to the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC) about negotiations; the accreditor, already disgraced in its improper actions toward many of California’s community colleges, has no business putting its hands into bargaining. Why is CCSF administration continuing to listen to an organization that “no longer meets the needs of California,” according to the state Community College Board of Governors?
Faculty have been languishing at wages that are actually below what they were nearly ten years ago, making it hard to rebuild our ranks as we lose faculty to retirement. Faculty need not only a restoration of the 3.5 percent cut but also a raise that allows us to keep living and serving our students in one of the most expensive cities in the U.S.
Where are the administration’s priorities? While they give lip service to the idea of rebuilding the college, their actions speak louder than words. This spring, they have already begun implementing the 26 percent cuts. In some cases, students have enrolled in classes, paid for books, and begun studying, only to have their classes canceled several weeks into the semester. In others, administration cut classes that were vital to student goals such as the associate degree or transfer to a four-year university before the semester started, even when the enrollment numbers were viable.
One wonders why they have continued adding to the administrator ranks and paying the top brass six figures in the midst of class and program reductions. Faculty and student leaders fought and won three years of stabilization funding to make sure we could survive the accreditation crisis.
Instead of using this money in the classroom, this administration has squandered this precious opportunity to rebuild by sequestering tens of millions of dollars in reserve funds. When the chancellor says that we can’t touch the reserves, she fails to mention that nearly $60 million (out of a $200 million budget) are accumulated because of systematic underspending on teaching and student programs. These austerity measures don’t serve our students or the community.
City College students deserve the best education possible. The faculty will not accept a downsized school that doesn’t protect educational quality, or a contract that doesn’t allow faculty to live in the community in which they work. It is time for the administration to align their priorities to the real needs and desires of this community.
Jessica Buchsbaum is an English as a second language instructor, and Li Lovett is an academic counselor at City College of San Francisco.