OPINION Last year the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges harshly sanctioned City College of San Francisco and gave us just nine months to shape up or face the consequences. This was pushed on the community even though the quality of education provided at City College was never in question.
Since then, CCSF has changed student assessment metrics and addressed the governance, institutional planning, and enrollment management issues cited. We have done so even as we have also documented disquieting information about the ACCJC’s damaging role at CCSF and at community colleges throughout California.
Our research into ACCJC found that the commission failed to respect the law and public policy of the state and violated federal common-law due process and California common-law fair procedure. Further, at CCSF and in districts around the state, the ACCJC often acts arbitrarily, capriciously, unfairly, and inconsistently in evaluating colleges, thereby harming the schools and their communities.
San Francisco has shown valiant support for City College despite the drumbeat of negative publicity around our accreditation status.
Recently, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted unanimously in support of preserving the quality and diversity of education at City College of San Francisco, of tackling the achievement gap and ensuring equitable opportunities for students, and of utilizing Proposition A funds as intended.
In the age of the 24-7 corporate news cycle, educators and unions are too often portrayed as the opposition in attempts to push austerity, undermine the public sector, and efface the important educational work we do for students. We will not apologize for resisting the downsizing of our students’ educations, for saving jobs, and for protecting educational programs that benefit our students—particularly our most vulnerable students. We will not apologize for attempting to sustain employees’ health, working conditions, and well-being.
When San Franciscans passed Proposition A overwhelmingly last November, it was a ray of light for those of us who have devoted our lives to City College and its students. Providing $15.2 million, the tax was designed to reverse the cuts to classes and employees in our starved public educational system, helping sustain our college for San Franciscans. Now the administration is diverting millions of these dollars and pumping additional money into consultants, lawyers, computers, and maintenance. Under the administration plan, next year less than a third of that money will go toward the educational purposes voters were promised.
Meanwhile, the race to downsize continues. At the negotiating table and in the press, the administration uses the need to retain the college’s accreditation—something all of us agree is crucial—as reason, excuse, and threat. It has shirked its duties at the bargaining table, imposing pay cuts and implementing premature and damaging layoffs of staff and faculty.
We face a host of other dramatic changes that cut into our ability to serve student needs, including a reorganization that pushes faculty expertise and voices further into the background and a shocking lack of substantive dialogue or transparent processes. Our trustees now preside over meetings that squelch public speech, restricting access to a too-small meeting room with the windows literally papered over so that no one can see in or out.
Thankfully, we are not alone in this fight. In Chicago, in Seattle, and in communities around the country afflicted with disingenuous “reforms” and diminished access, we are gathering strength and allies and standing up for the principles that inform our work as educators, responsible for defending and improving quality, accessible public education for the public good.
To join the fight to save our City College, email firstname.lastname@example.org
Alisa Messer is an English instructor at City College of San Francisco and president of AFT Local 2121, which represents instructors, counselors, and librarians at the college.