Bob Price stood in front of the hundreds of people who crowded into an auditorium at City College’s Mission Campus Wednesday night. “Whose college?” he yelled.
“Our college!” the crowd responded.
The huge group of staff, faculty, students and community members gathered Wednesday to launch the Save City College Coalition, an alliance of the campus and the community in the fight to save City College from closure.
“We are going against the agenda of very powerful groups and we need the community to succeed,” said Price, a chemistry teacher at the college. “If you want to do that, you need a movement.”
In a July report, the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges said that City College is in danger of losing its accreditation due to poor finances and governance. It has until March 15 to make the changes requested by the commission or face closure.
Two interim chancellors from outside City College and a state-appointed special trustee have since been brought in to fix the deficiencies outlined by the commission. But their actions – which have included the elimination of department chairs, pay cuts for faculty and layoffs – have left many faculty, staff and students concerned that their school is being dismantled.
“They are destroying City College as we know it without the input or consent of the faculty, students or community,” Price said.
Faculty, staff and students have been particularly concerned about the administration’s proposals to spend Proposition A money on actions outlined in the accreditation report. The proposition, an eight-year, $79-per-parcel tax that passed with 73 percent of the vote this November, stated that the $16 million per year in new revenue would be used to prevent layoffs, offset budget cuts and maintain classes at the financially struggling school.
“If we continue to maintain accreditation, we stay open,” Larry Kamer, a consultant and acting City College spokesman, told Mission Local in December. “If we don’t, we cease to exist.”
But at the meeting, faculty was outraged that Prop. A’s passage hasn’t prevented continued severe cuts.
“San Francisco gave this gift of a parcel tax to City College and it should have alleviated these drastic cuts,” said engineering teacher Wendy Kaufmyn.
Wisconsin State Senator Spencer Coggs, who was at City College to give a lecture, compared the movement at City College to the movement against Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s proposal to limit collective bargaining rights for unions.
Before Coggs left, he led the room in a chant: “The people, united, will never be defeated.”
“I am here in solidarity for your cause,” Coggs said. “You in California supported us in Wisconsin. We in Wisconsin support you in California.”
The Save City College Coalition is planning future actions, including a rally at City Hall on March 14.
“We envision a mass mobilization at City Hall to demand that elected officials help us in this struggle,” Kaufmyn said.
At least one elected official is on their side already. Kimberly Alvarenga, district director for San Francisco State Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, told the group on Wednesday that Ammiano has met with the State Chancellor’s Office and hopes to continue to work on this issue.
“I wouldn’t be here without City College,” said Alvarenga, a former student. “Tom wants me to stop by and say we are in solidarity with you.”
Among the Coalition’s demands are that City College remain an affordable, accessible and democratic school; that the administration use Prop. A money as explicitly outlined in the measure; that City College and all public education be funded by increasing taxes on the rich and corporations; that the accreditation process be more transparent and democratic; that union-busting be stopped; and that the administration rescind faculty layoffs.