City College of San Francisco has once again begun cutting fall classes with low enrollment, prompting an outcry from students who say numbers have have been artificially suppressed by coronavirus and changes in the enrollment process.
Department heads were ordered this week to cut classes with fewer than 10 students enrolled, according to City College faculty union AFT 2121.
While City College spokesperson Rachel Howard said the number of cut classes won’t be available until next week, AFT 2121 said at least 30 classes have been cut so far in the physical education and dance department alone.
“Low-enrolled sections and courses are being removed from the schedule in order to make room to add more courses and sections in areas of high demand,” Howard said. “We’d like to remind the community that it is common practice in every community college to conduct an enrollment audit prior to the start of each semester and adjust the schedule based on student enrollment demand. City College has been doing this for years, and it should not come as a surprise to anyone.”
City College remains committed to offering 1,200 FTES classes, Howard said.
Students and faculty countered that registration has been particularly fraught in the face of coronavirus and that the cuts further decrease the low number of 1,200 classes budgeted for full-time equivalent faculty (FTES).
“Administration is sabotaging education of vulnerable students,” said AFT 2121 President Malaika Finkelstein. “They budgeted for a certain level of classes, so the money is there. But now they’re cutting below that level. They want to save a few bucks by denying education to students and throwing teachers off medical insurance during a global pandemic.”
The sudden cutting of classes has angered students and faculty in the past. Last November, the college suddenly cut 288 spring classes in response to a budget deficit, wiping out nearly all that service older adults and adults with disabilities.
But in the time of coronavirus, registering has become an additional hurdle that may be muddying enrollment numbers. Student and faculty say the system is hard to navigate even for the digitally savvy, and the removal of the in-person option has made it nearly impossible for English learners, digitally unconnected, and those with disabilities.
“They’re cutting classes before the semester begins in the time of COVID when students are racing around to figure out their schedules with their kids, their jobs, [etc]” said Leslie Simon, a part-time instructor. “You’ve got to give people a chance — a lot of students have been disproportionately hurt by the pandemic and they need to figure out their lives. You can’t expect them to know what to do.”
Like Simon, student Ladan Khoddam-Khorasani also emphasized that in-person registration centers, with safety precautions, are needed to help vulnerable students enroll.
She also feels City College has put forward a muddled message about just what is being cut.
Khoddam-Khorasani was told this week that a Latinx diaspora class she signed up for was officially eliminated, but it still showed up on the schedule.
“As a student, I’m disappointed to see how the administration is so far removed from the daily lives of CCSF students, faculty, and staff,” said Khoddam-Khorasani, who also goes by Ladi. “We are living in a pandemic, and administration is cutting/threatening to cut classes — it’s unclear if classes have actually been cut at this point — administration is not being clear with us.”
Board of Trustees member Tom Temprano said he is seeking clarity on how classes are being expanded in the face of eliminating others. Cutting physical education classes that require in-person instruction is understandable, but those resources should be redirected to classes high in demand and with waitlists, he said.
“I share the concern,” said Temprano, saying he thought City College should be offering in-person registration support. “We’re already at such a low level of course offerings, so it’s important that we maintain the classes we have.”