Administration document reveals vision for smaller institution — and assumes that the school can’t recover

After all the protests and all the battles, are we now going to say the ACCJC has won?
After all the protests and all the battles, are we now going to say the ACCJC has won?

By Tim Redmond

OCTOBER 20, 2015 – City College plans to cut 356 faculty positions and eliminate more than a quarter of its classes over the next six years, a document provided to the teachers’ union shows.

The document, presented by management as part of the ongoing contract talks, presents a budget scenario based on the idea that full-time teachers would get a 3.7 percent pay increase – which barely brings them back to pre-recession levels – and just 1 percent a year cost-of-living increases through 2021.

This in a city where housing costs are increasing by more than double digits every few months.

The union, AFT Local 2121, is trying to get its members above zero – that is, to restore the cuts made during the recession and begin bringing salaries into line with the expenses of living in the city.

The union notes that the current budget calls for reserves of between 15 and 20 percent, far above the 5 to 9 percent recommended by the board. The state recommends a reserve of 5 percent.

But the most shocking part of the document is the assumption that the school will shrink radically over the next few years.

There’s no question that the brutal assault on City College by a now-discredited accrediting agency, which may not survive, has damaged the school. Enrollment has dropped; the school is still under the arm of a state Special Trustee, and deans have been forced to eliminate classes with fewer than 15 students.

(When I was in college, schools bragged about a low faculty-student ratio. Some classes are impossible to teach with 20 or more students. But never mind ….)

But what the document says is depressing. It just assumes that things will never get better, that City College will continue as a fraction of its former self, that its vision and future need to be seriously downsized.

I’d hate to think that there’s no other alternative.

City College is going to win the accreditation battle. The political part is almost over – the ACCJC is pretty much done as an institution. The school will gain back full accreditation, and the rogue institution that so badly screwed things up will fold and new, more accountable agency that aims to improve education instead of destroying it will take the ACCJC’s place.

And to me, that means the school ought to be devoting time and resources to rebuilding for the long haul, not to accepting a much-reduced role.

The union has asked that, as part of the contract talks, administration discuss plans to increase enrollment. The faculty want to help. That, however, is off the table right now.

Instead, the document that I have says that by 2020 there will be 365 fewer teachers and 1,836 fewer classes. That’s a 26 percent reduction. But it also assumes revenue will be relatively stable (after the special stability funding expires in 2017).

So there will be 26 percent fewer classes and the same number of students? I don’t get it.

I get that labor negotiations are complicated, and that City College has a lot of difficult choices ahead. But just assuming that the ACCJC has won – that the school will be much smaller and never recover – seems like surrender.

The  union will hold a rally Tuesday morning to call attention to the proposed cuts. Local 2121 says in a statement that it

will not stand by while Special Trustee Guy Lease enacts a death spiral of austerity that eliminates classes, costs the jobs of over a quarter of current faculty, and reduces access to a quality college education for the people of San Francisco.

This ought to be a discussion and decision for the elected board, which is only now taking back its power over the school’s finances. A lot more than one labor contract is at stake – the school’s future is on the line.