Nearly 200 City College of San Francisco faculty and administrators are facing layoffs due to massive budget cuts across 39 departments and services, which could result in City College students losing access to essential programs, students and teachers said Friday.
“These cuts will devastate not only our faculty members and their families, but tens of thousands of students who rely on City College as a vital lifeline,” said Mary Bravewoman, vice president of the American Federation of Teachers 2121. “Our students need more opportunities, not fewer.”
The City College Board of Trustees approved layoff notices Feb. 25 across 39 departments and services that could be reduced or, in some cases, eliminated completely due to a $33 million budget shortfall for 2021-22. City College issued preliminary layoff notices to 163 faculty members and 34 administrators March 3.
“We stand in solidarity with our college community that the funding model for community colleges must change,” the City College administration said in a statement this week. “We are deeply committed to meeting our student needs while making the changes needed to balance our budget and maintain our accreditation. We call on our labor partners, our elected representatives, and the San Francisco community to work with City College through this financially difficult time.”
City supervisors including Supervisors Hillary Ronen and Connie Chan attended Friday’s events, which included a protest at City College and an art action outside City Hall,and expressed solidarity with the group.
“After the roughest year I think most of us have ever experienced, City College time and time again stepped up during this pandemic, as it always does … when we needed you most, you were there and stepped up for us,” Ronen said. “And it’s the faculty, it’s the students, it’s the institution as a whole… So I am here to say that it is not OK to, at the time when we need City College most, to be laying off faculty, even [those] that have fully enrolled classes. This doesn’t make sense.”
Several faculty, including some who received pink slip notices, spoke about the importance of the diverse programs offered by City College, many of which are facing cuts. Emphasis was put on the English as a Second Language or ESL program, which is one of these programs.
Fanny Law, an ESL faculty member and one of those who received a pink slip, talked about the importance of the program in a city where 20% of San Franciscans report that they have limited English proficiency.
“Like many San Franciscans, I am an immigrant and English is my second language,” Law said. “I know what it’s like to come to a country without knowing the language or feeling welcomed. The ESL program at City College is critical for new immigrants who need our support acquiring language skills that lead them to vocational programs, jobs and transfer programs. Without a strong ESL program, immigrants will have nowhere to begin their journey to success in San Francisco.”
Law added that the program was already cut down by 20% last year, and will be cut down a further 25% if the proposed layoffs and cuts are implemented.
Students and graduates of City College also shared their experiences at the school, and the ways that some of the programs facing cuts changed their lives.
“When I experienced domestic violence, [Disabled Student Programs and Services], which may get cut by 40%, helped me with my anxiety,” said City College student Eira Kien. “And when I was afraid to go home, I turned to the Women’s Resource Center and Project Survive for help. To find out that crucial faculty and the Women’s and Gender Studies Department got pink slips means the safety nets that they helped build will crudely be swept away from them.”
City College student Jose Castaneda said that he moved from Arizona to San Francisco after hearing about City College programs, and now studies early childhood education there in the hopes of becoming a preschool teacher. He said he hopes to eventually transfer to San Francisco State or UC Berkeley, but with the proposed cuts he isn’t sure if it’s possible anymore.
“City College offers so many resources and so many programs for students like me, like free City offers EOPS, the DREAM Act, and so many other opportunities and programs for AB 540 students just like me,” Castaneda said. “And they give us a chance to obtain higher earning, high income positions if we want them. Disadvantaged students like me who see the struggle, who live the daily life of adversity, need and deserve a chance to succeed. CCSF gives us that chance, and allows us to feel valued and important in a community where we don’t really see that anymore.”
A petition to express a vote of no confidence in the leadership of the City College administration circulated in the Zoom chat, which has over 800 signatures.
Following the meeting, leaders urged attendees to call supervisors and local and state government officials to ask them to save City College from these massive cuts.
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to include the corrected spelling of Mary Bravewoman’s name and the correct name for a program that was mislabeled.