The City College our students deserve

The unbalanced news coverage has been an incessant topic of conversation in our college community of late. CCSF has been deemed newsworthy as a “broken” institution on the “brink” of financial disaster, but very little is said about the quality teaching and learning that continue – sometimes heroically – throughout the college. Education is only news when somebody comes along and says, “You’re doing it wrong.”  This destabilizing and demoralizing narrative speaks firmly to mixed-up priorities—as does our state’s willingness to continue tax loopholes to corporations rather than restore funding for education, or San Francisco City Hall’s willingness to charge our financially strapped college unnecessary fees even as the city subsidizes the America’s Cup for as much as $20 million.

Now that the March 15th “show cause” report has gone in to the ACCJC, we should all take a moment to breathe. Since July, hundreds of CCSF employees have spent thousands of hours to make significant improvements to the college and address the ACCJC’s recommendations. Smart, transparent changes will help us make more efficient use of resources and have less damaging impacts on students and the workers who serve them. Monumental work has been done in an impossibly short time frame, and though there are few on campus who agree with all of the changes represented in the report, its completion and submission is a major milestone. Let’s remind each other and our friends in the community to exhale and to keep breathing; the College is not expected to hear a verdict from the Accrediting Commission until summer.

State Chancellor Brice Harris cautioned the college’s supporters against thinking that City College is “too big to fail,” but the real issue is that City College is too important to lose.

Is this an accreditation crisis? Yes—and no. City College’s accreditation process should be used to improve the quality of education, not to diminish educational choices for students, impose austerity, or undermine collective bargaining. It has become eminently clear that there is much more at stake than whether or not we retain our accreditation. Don’t take that the wrong way, however: retaining our accreditation is critical. There are additional costs to consider about the path our current administration has chosen: the costs to the quality of education we offer, the costs to students who rely on CCSF but stand to lose the access and support they need to meet their educational goals, and the costs to those of us who do the work to make City College happen.

We believe San Francisco deserves a comprehensive community college with room for all. San Franciscans depend on City College. Many students, particularly our most marginalized populations who benefit greatly from higher education, have no other viable options. Our college is for part-time students, older students, first-generation and re-entry students, veterans, English language learners—everyone.

AFT 2121 believes that the college will retain accreditation and be improved by an authentic decision-making process that includes the voices of students, faculty and other workers, and the San Francisco community. In our commitment to this college, our own work, and the education our students deserve on many levels, we will continue defending CCSF legislatively and legally, through the collective bargaining process, with arms linked in the community and on the streets. (amesser@aft2121.org)

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Address: 311 Miramar Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94112