SAN FRANCISCO — For over a decade, the City College of San Francisco and its faculty union, American Federation of Teachers Local 2121, has been under attack from many quarters, particularly the ACCJC (the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges). AFT 2121 had a long court battle to overturn the ACCJC verdict that CCSF was rated the lowest level. AFT 2121 in 2013 won that battle in court—the ACCJC verdict was overturned. It also led to a restructuring of the organization.
Last Friday, AFT 2121 faced a much formidable foe—the shortfall of the CCSF budget which results in the layoffs of 163 instructors, the elimination of all programs, and many services to students such as counseling, which is also impacted by the layoffs.
500 people (and an additional 150 in a face-to-face protest at City Hall) met in a virtual press conference where the speakers decried the actions of the CCSF administration with their decision to layoff faculty and eliminate programs and services. The first to speak was Hillary Ronen, the SF Supervisor that represents the area where CCSF is located. She spoke about the value that the institution is to working-class San Franciscans, and she would do what she could for CCSF. Ronen did not say specifically what she would do.
Eira Kien, who arrived in the US without knowing how to speak English, spoke of how the CCSF ESL department was the key to acquiring English fluency. She also spoke of the value of CCSF to the non-English-speaking immigrant community. Her brother went to CCSF to gain EMT skills. Kien’s brother went on to become a firefighter with the San Francisco Fire Department.
Vick Chung of the CCSF Board of Trustees’ Student Trustee also spoke out.
Chung argued that “CCSF is vital to the SF community health—not just physical health, though CCSF provided help with COVID screening and vaccinations. These cuts and layoffs put these at risk.” Chung also connected white supremacy to the CCSF administration. Since students of color make up the majority of students, Chung is critical of the largely white administration in charge of the decision-making process. The California Federation of Teachers (CFT) President, Jeff Freitas spoke next.
Freitas connected the struggle for Prop A that would help fund CCSF, and the assaults from the ACCJC which AFT 2121 came away victorious with help from CFT. The assault from the CCSF administration proves to be more formidable since the shortfall in the CCSF budget cannot be ignored. Freitas stated that $28.5 million could be used by CCSF to cover the shortfall. This would come from $1.8 trillion dollars from the American Rescue Plan just signed into law by President Biden. Whether or not it will be allocated to that is an open question; the CCSF Board of Trustees has not decided what to do with the money.
Adriane Rivera, an academic counselor, spoke in Spanish about the devastating impacts on CCSF students and the SF community-at-large. In her remarks, which she repeated in English, Rivera emphasized how students of color, Latino and Black American students would lose access to higher education with these cuts.
Other students, faculty, community members, and politicians among the 500 participants weighed on the CCSF administration’s draconian budget cuts and layoffs. It remains to be seen what the CCSF administration and Board of Trustees will decide on: proceed with the cuts and layoffs or use federal dollars to avoid the consequences of these actions.
Photo by Umi Hagitani