people with computers in room with chairs
The full CCSF Board of Trustees and Chancellor David Martin, far right. Photo by Griffin Jones, March 14, 2023

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The board of the City College of San Francisco announced at a hastily called Tuesday evening meeting that  $2.6 million has been approved to speed up the repair of boilers at the Mission, John Adams and Ocean campuses.

Ideally, said Board President Alan Wong, these repairs will be complete by this summer. Several people noted in public comment that by then it will be warmer out, and heat won’t be as necessary.

Earlier, bundled-up students, teachers and trustees filtered into chilly Room 109 at the Mission campus for the emergency heat meeting to address bitter temperatures in City College buildings.

Wong ordered the meeting on the heels of last week’s article in Mission Local, calling attention to the issue of classrooms that measured as low as 42 degrees Fahrenheit — a problem students and faculty have been objecting to for years.

“It’s a step forward,” said Alan D’Souza, vice president of the American Federation of Teachers Local 2121, after the meeting. “We’re all pleased this is happening, but — why so long?”

The $2.6 million will be reallocated from the school’s general fund.

Almost all trustees expressed alarm at the conditions students have been forced to endure. Most everyone in the room kept their winter gear on throughout the meeting.

Many of the 20-odd instructors in attendance voiced anger at the inaction they’ve encountered trying to remedy freezing classrooms that have ranged from 55 to as low as 42 degrees.

“I get underfunding; I don’t get incompetence,” said Fred Glass from CCSF’s ​​Labor and Community Studies Department.

Wong, elected board president in January, vowed last week to hold the board and administration accountable. “As long as students are not getting heat, the heat is on us,” said Wong.

In the coming weeks, contractors and bids will have to be approved and equipment bought — which could depend on a fickle supply chain, said Interim-Associate Vice Chancellor of Construction and Planning Alberto Vasquez. 

“Each building is different. The best solution is the plan to replace the boilers in the buildings,” said Vasquez. But that process will take months. 

Until then? Relocating classrooms is the only agreed-on short-term solution. That, and “exploring” generators to run all the space heaters. However, this could come up against environmental rules that public institutions can’t breach.

Class relocation has been an ongoing request from instructors, but these requests have gone ignored until today, said Malaika Finkelstein, who works in the Disabled Students Programs and Services.

“Why are we here? Why was this not done a year ago, two years ago?”

Until a sudden sense of urgency prompted Tuesday’s meeting, the quick fixes the administration offered people were hand warmers and space heaters. These decisions were made without the input of faculty. 

Space heaters often blow fuses or take hours to warm a room, and hand warmers last “about 10 seconds. You get two, so that’s 20 seconds.”

During public comment, Carolyn Cox, an ESL instructor, walked up to the trustees and handed over a packet of Hothands hand warmers to pass around. “There, problem solved,” she said.

CCSF trustees pass around Hothands hand warmers brought by ESL instructor Carolyn Cox to show them what she was given as a solution to 50 degree temps. Photo by Griffin Jones, March 14, 2023.

Diane Wallace, an ESL instructor since 1992, quoted a colleague who went unnamed: “The lack of heat has been the most disruptive factor … the problems we are here to discuss are all the outcomes of poor decision-making by David Martin.” Martin is the chancellor of City College.

Wallace went on to say that the chancellor’s actions have resulted in a “lack of opportunities for ESL on the west side of the city.

“With this chancellor, we seem to come last.”

Several administrators cited budget cuts, 2022 layoffs and staff turnover for ongoing issues in buildings — certainly big problems. But this still doesn’t explain why complaints over the heating have been ignored for so many years.

“Looking backward won’t do any good,” said Martin, who was appointed in November, 2021. 

“The heat is back on and repaired at Batmale Hall, as well as the Student Union,” with “some improvement” at Rosenberg, the library at Ocean campus, said Martin.

“It’s great that there’s heat in Batmale Hall, but those classrooms aren’t being used,” said Mary Bravewoman, president of AFT 2121. Some speculated that moving classes to Batmale would be a workable solution until heat is restored elsewhere.

In 2020, voters approved an $845 million bond measure, specifically to construct and repair facilities. But none of the funds were set aside for heating CCSF buildings.

“That money has already been allocated,” Wong told Mission Local. Indeed, it has been — most of it to constructing additional facilities, like the STEAM (Science, Technology Engineering, Arts and Mathematics) building and a new performing arts theater. 

“Why does it have to come to the point where people have to essentially take to the streets to get leaders to pay attention?” said Bravewoman. “I’m not convinced that this whole thing didn’t just come out because of the press that we got.”

Board member Aliya Chisti noted that the board finds itself in a “reactive mode and not in a proactive mode” too often. Communication needs to change, she said.

“When we get to this point, there has been a breakdown. We have to get to the root of the breakdown. We should not be here.”

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Reporter/Intern. Griffin Jones is a writer born and raised in San Francisco.

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  1. On first thought, the headline here — stating that frigid classrooms will be heated by summer — is The Onion-esque. On further consideration, it truly can be dang chilly in the summer here, even if the Mark Twain quote is apocryphal. And if repairs are done, and things don’t break again, things should be better next winter. Sad neglect of infrastructure essentials here. Kudos to Mission Local for reporting on this previously, and updating us now.