The union representing City College of San Francisco instructors and Supervisor Hillary Ronen held a virtual rally Friday to protest budget cuts to the school and potential layoffs of almost 200 faculty members.
More than 500 educators, leaders, students, and other community members tuned into an hourlong Zoom press conference during which speakers condemned layoffs that would potentially gut nearly one-third of the college’s current full-time faculty and nearly 75 percent of its current administrators.
The college started handing out pink slips to 163 full-time faculty and 34 administrators from departments like nursing, aircraft maintenance, English as a Second Language, and Philippines Studies on March 3.
“If our college is dismantled, where are educational opportunities for San Francisco’s most vulnerable?” said Mary Bravewoman, vice president of American Federation of Teachers Local 2121 union, and a mathematics professor and a former student at City College. “This will affect tens of thousands of students who rely on City College as a lifeline.”
Bravewoman said that the individuals who received pink-slips included about a dozen counselors who serve thousands of students and faculty members who “represent 20 to 40 students per class that won’t be served.”
In response, City College officials referred Mission Local to a statement the school made on March 9. It said City College began issuing certain faculty “preliminary layoff notices” which started on March 3 and would do so until March 15. Final layoff notices will come May 15.
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The move comes as the City College of San Francisco Board of Trustees aim to trim the school’s budget, which “called for a reduction in employee salary costs and other expenditures,” a statement from the college said.
The college faces a $33 million shortfall for the 2021-22 fiscal year, which partially arose from retiree health care liability costs that cost nearly $11 million, other employee welfare costs, and “deficit spending for at least 10 years.” The statement said the college already withdrew $21 million from a trust reserved for retirees to pay off costs in the 2019-20 and 2020-21 school year.
“These reductions, while painful, are necessary to ensure the long-term stability of the College, not just for the current generation of students, but for generations to come,” the statement said. About 4,500 class sections will be offered next year.
Already, City College has endured a myriad of issues during the past decade, including serious underfunding and threats to lose official accreditation. Problems worsened in 2020, when the college, like others, fell short of its ideal enrollment goals, the college said. More than 800 classes were slashed from the 2020-21 year, and the Board of Trustees also voted to shut down the college’s Fort Mason campus, which provided a multitude of arts classes up until last fall, the SF Examiner reported.
This was alarming news for students, community members, and city officials alike, who described City College as an indispensable institution that educates thousands of marginalized San Francisco residents. According to City College demographic data, at least 73 percent are ethnic minorities. Many low-income students flock to it as well for the free tuition; others come for the noncredit classes, which are populated mostly by Latinx and Asian adults over 40.
Honey Mahogany, a legislative aide to District 6 Supervisor Matt Haney, said this diversity needs to be upheld.
“These numbers show us how essential City College is to this city. That is a good thing. And it is something that we all have to work hard to maintain and defend,” she said.
Supervisor Hillary Ronen added that City College has made itself and its campus available to the entire city countless times before, especially in times of need. She pointed out that it was the first location designated to disseminate mass vaccinations.
For this reason, Ronen, who had called for the conference along with the teachers’ union, said she would work “hand in hand” with the community to save the college.
“It is not okay at the time when we need City College most [to] be laying off faculty, even [those] that have fully enrolled classes,” Ronen said. “This does not make sense. We cannot let this stand.”
Eira Kien, a low-income City College of San Francisco student, agreed. “CCSF emboldened me and made me believe in myself,” Kien said. “I call on CCSF trustees to do the work with us. City College can change people’s lives. It needs to be expanded, not dismantled.”