More than 100 part-time instructors at City College of San Francisco have been been laid off or lost their health benefits after abrupt cuts made by the college’s administration last week to balance an anticipated $13 million budget deficit.
A total of 288 classes were slashed from the spring schedule to avoid the shortfall on the evening before registration opened on Nov. 20, the San Francisco Examiner reported previously. The number of faculty affected is expected to go up, a City College spokesperson said Monday.
The cuts decimated certain programs offered at the college, particularly the arts and a program for older adults known as OLAD. Those classes were largely taught by part-time instructors, many of whom have either been laid off or lost their health benefits after their assignments were reduced, the Examiner has learned.
Part-time faculty must have a load of at least 50 percent of a full-timer’s load to get health benefits, according to City College spokesperson Evette Davis. The college currently employs 844 part-time instructors, 792 of whom have assignments for the spring semester, she said.
It is unclear exactly how many instructors have lost their benefits and how many have been laid off. While stating that so far 107 instructors have been impacted, Davis confirmed the layoffs by stating, “It is possible some part-time faculty will not have additional assignments as a result of the schedule changes.”
Those impacted said that losing just one class disqualifies a part-time instructor from receiving benefits.
Davis said the City College district “makes the same employer contribution to a part-time faculty’s health benefits as they do a full-timer’s,” contributing to the “college’s structural budget issue.”
At a Nov. 14 Board of Trustees hearing, City College administrators announced the projected deficit, which they attributed to spending on salaries and benefits, and said immediate as well as structural changes were necessary to keep the budget out of the red.
Part-time instructors’ salaries and benefits cost the college $18.1 million in the 2019-20 fiscal year. Administrators, of which City College currently employs 56, cost roughly $6.4 million.
Davis noted that the college employed 73 administrators in the prior year.
Last week’s cuts were announced after the college already reduced its offerings by 12 percent over the past year, parted with more than 100 instructors — and attempted to raise 55 administrators’ salaries in September.
Opposition to the proposed raises, which for one dean would have meant a 90 percent pay hike, by City College’s faculty union resulted in a deal that would raise administrators’ salaries by just 10 percent across the board but hold off on larger raises pending a budget audit.
Faculty members who were laid off or lost their benefits last week said the cuts came at the “eleventh hour” and did not give them time to prepare.
“Our [department] chair had no warning — she just woke up in the morning [on Wednesday] and saw that 15 of her classes had been removed. Then she had to go and start calling faculty [to tell them] that they were laid off,” said Deirdre White, a part-time painting and drawing instructor who has taught at the college for 15 years. “I got the call [and was told] that I would be losing my benefits. It was really hard.”
“Everyone was getting on email with each other and saying things like, ‘It’s been great working with you for the last [few] years.’ Goodbye, basically,” added White.
White described the cuts as a “massacre,” and said that an entire program — metal arts — was “wiped out,” and that a third of the college’s ceramics’ classes were removed.
In the college’s OLAD program, 50 of 55 classes were removed, confirmed Davis. In the Engineering Department, 23 of 61 classes were cut. Cuts were also made in physical education and dance.
Davis reiterated City College has “reluctantly modified its schedule” to balance its budget.
“Given the changes in state funding, it must place its focus on credit classes that allow students to transfer, obtain a degree or certificate, or graduate,” she said.
Anita Toney, who has taught in the Art Department since the 1980s, said her classes, which include printmaking, had consistently high enrollment. She estimates she is one of at least nine part-time instructors in her department who lost their jobs, and five others lost their benefits.
Toney takes issue with the manner in which the cuts were decided, without input of department chairs or faculty, a move she called “unprecedented.”
“Never in my 40 years [at City College] has anything like this happened, where at the last minute the administration just decides which classes have to be cut, and cuts them,” said Toney. “The proper manner is to negotiate with the chairs… and when registration starts, classes that don’t get [adequate] enrollment are cut. That’s how are usually done.”
Toney shared concerns that the recent round of cuts could jeopardize the longevity of City College’s Fort Mason campus, where she taught a Saturday printmaking class. Toney said Fort Mason lost over one-third of its art classes.
City College has 11 campuses, including one that has operated out of the former U.S. Army post at Fort Mason for more than four decades. When a 2014 rental agreement with its nonprofit landlord, the Fort Mason Center for Arts and Culture, expired in the spring 2017 semester, administrators initially indicated that they were moving toward a shutdown, the Examiner reported previously.
For the past several years, while lease negotiations with the Fort Mason foundation proceeded, faculty were told to “build up the enrollment” in order to keep City College at Fort Mason, Toney explained.
“We worked on that and achieved steady enrollment” said Toney, but despite that six out of 16 credit classes offered at Fort Mason have been cut.
“[If]there aren’t enough classes, they will use it as an excuse to shut down the campus,” she said.
Davis confirmed that six credit classes and three non credit classes were cut at Fort Mason, leaving the campus with 14 credit and zero non credit classes.
In response to concerns about Fort Mason’s future, Davis said it is “no secret that the college is reviewing all of its real estate arrangements, but there is no information beyond that at this time.”
Since 2017, the college has offered free tuition to San Francisco residents, but instructors fear that enrollment will take a hit in light of the recent cuts.
“I am heartbroken,” said Toney. “It’s terrible for me, but it’s also terrible for the students. San Franciscans have free tuition at City College now, but what good is free tuition if the students can’t get the class they want?”