Activism is in the air at SF State, as a group of students gathered in the Ethnic Studies Hall earlier this evening to brainstorm ways to save their sister school, City College of San Francisco.
City College was recently put on sanction by the Accrediting Commission of Junior and Community Colleges. City College must fix a set of 14 “problem areas” with its finances and governance structure by March 15. If not, the ACCJC will yank City College’s accreditation, which is necessary for the school to receive government funding, and for its degrees to be recognized.
The Save CCSF group turned out students for numerous rallies at City College, but now its setting its sights on SF State. The purpose of the meeting was to think of ways to motivate SF State students to care about the future of City College. There were many concerns.
“A lot of the Latinos here on campus aren’t from here, they’re from SoCal,” SF State student Ryan Alizaga said. “There has to be an outreach to say ‘it could happen in LA next.’”
Notably, the San Francisco Labor Council agrees with that sentiment. They voted yesterday to support teacher unions in their fight against the administration of City College to resist some of the changes being made to the school in the name of accreditation, notably, faculty layoffs. More than 50 faculty at City College have already lost their jobs — and classes have swelled as a result.
That’s the same message the organizers of Save CCSF expressed to the small crowd of fifteen SF State students.
“(The accreditation commission) is funded by a right-wing think tank, called the Lumina Foundation, which has a specific goal of profit making in the education industry,” organizer and City College student Micheal Madden, said. “We’re seeing this force that is completely pro-privatization moving in through the accreditation commission.”
Though difficult to weave any agenda for such a large funding body, there are studies, like those in the national education publication “Inside Higher Ed,” that demonstrate how the Lumina Foundation funds a vast majority of higher education research bodies that exist in the United States.
Notably, Brice Harris, state chancellor of the 112 California community colleges, recently addressed City College’s board of trustees to warn them against being divisive, and cautioning them to unite to meet the goals of the accreditation commission.
“No community college in the state is in the same peril as City College,” Harris told the City College board, refuting the many critiques of the accreditation commission. “I urge you to treat this situation as if the future of the college hinges on it, because it does.”
Some SF State students were skeptical of the claims Save CCSF organizers made, particularly one about replacing 60 department chairs with a smaller number of permanent deans at City College as a way to eliminate ethnic studies programs.
“Having deans isn’t anything unusual,” Elsa Cheung, an SF State student in the professional and technical writing department, said. “Do you have any evidence they’re trying to eliminate these classes?”
Organizers answered that the low enrolled classes were often ethnic studies classes, as well as political classes like labor studies.
But far-reaching views of the rally organizers aside, the students from SF State had their eyes on the more concrete matter of what they could do next.
The students started assembling lists of foundations at SF State they could contact, from the Labor Studies department to the L@tinos Unidos Coalition, and the Educational Opportunity Program. The students gathered said that they had a long road ahead.
Figuring out how to motivate the often southern California-born SF State students to protest on behalf of City College was a key concern of the group, and Alizaga put the disconnect in more personal terms.
“I went to city, that’s why I’m here,” he said. “The majority of other people, it’s gonna take a lot.”
Save CCSF plans to meet in the Ethnic Studies Building Room 102 at SF State, Feb. 12 at 7 p.m. A larger rally is planned for Feb. 21 at City College’s Ocean campus, at 12:30 p.m. For more information visit Facebook.com/saveccsf