Faculty, students march to protest cuts and the slow pace of contract talks
By Sara Bloomberg
Armed with megaphones and hand-written signs, more than 200 members of the City College community rallied on Nov. 12 at its downtown campus at 4th and Mission streets and then marched to its relocated Civic Center campus, now at United Nations Plaza.
Faculty and staff say they feel betrayed by the school’s administration, which has indicated that it intends to reduce class offerings by as much as 26 percent and cut more than 300 faculty positions over the next six years, despite the availability of increased funding.
“We know the money is there,” Supervisor David Campos said to the crowd.
It’s a confusing predicament. In 2012, state and local voters approved two tax measures that promised to increase education funding after years of devastating cuts.
Locally, San Francisco passed Measure A, a parcel tax that was expected to bring in $16 million annually just to City College for eight years.
Proposition 30 promised funding for education at all levels statewide. City College was projected to receive $20.7 million from this fund for the 2013-2014 school year, according to data from the state controller’s office.
On top of that, State Senator Mark Leno introduced legislation in 2014 to help stabilize City College’s funding for four years in the aftermath of the accreditation crisis, which caused enrollment — and the associated state reimbursements — to plummet.
And yet, despite all of this promised funding, which was supposed to help save classes and jobs, faculty recently learned that more cuts were being planned for the long term.
“We’re not standing for this,” said Tim Killikelly, president of the faculty union AFT 2121. “There’s gonna be lower enrollment, we understand that. But 26 percent of classes cut? They’re trying to scare us into accepting their austerity program.”
Faculty are currently in negotiations for a new contract and announced during the rally that the union was calling for a one-day strike vote; the union also filed an Unfair Labor Practices complaint on Nov. 5 against the college district.
The complaint alleges bad faith bargaining practices and illegal surveillance of union activities.
It also seems odd that the district is planning on padding its reserves three to four times beyond the state’s recommended threshold.
The administration insists that these measures reflect consistent drops in enrollment since the 2008-2009 school year and that budgeting projections are in place to keep the college fiscally sustainable while it’s still under “restoration” status and attempting to affirm its accreditation.
“We have proposed a gradual schedule reduction over a number of years, combined with an increase in funds for marketing and a focus on areas where we can grow. We are committed to increasing enrollment (and) addressing compensation issues, while also providing for the long-term financial health of the college,” the college’s director of external affairs, Jeff Hamilton, told 48 Hills via email.
Regarding Proposition 30, Measure A and the state’s stabilization fund, Hamilton added that the college is “incredibly fortunate to have them” but “they either run out soon or they are not guaranteed to continue.”
This is little consolation to the continuing and new students who do enroll in the college, only to face sudden class cuts at the beginning of each semester.
“These cuts are really scary for non-credit and ESL students. But it’s also affecting credit courses, which are becoming overcrowded as they consolidate sections, particularly in the diversity department,” former student trustee Shanell Williams said.
Williams currently splits her time between City College and the University of California, Berkeley, where she is pursuing a degree in urban studies.
“I feel betrayed. Students feel betrayed. There’s a lot of misinformation out there, and frustration, fear, confusion. A lot of people don’t even know the college is open,” Williams said. “Students want to learn. It feels like the administration doesn’t have the right priorities.”