Ahead of a final vote to approve layoffs, City College of San Francisco faculty pitched tents in front of a campus building entrance on Tuesday and prepared to hunker down for the night.
Calling themselves “Camp Conlan,” about a dozen planned to camp outside Conlan Hall at CCSF’s Ocean campus in Ingleside, according to Malaika Finkelstein, president of the faculty members’ union, American Federation of Teachers 2121.
The union has been protesting impending layoffs that the Board of Trustees will finalize at a special meeting on Friday. The unhappy campers were also part of a larger protest earlier in the day. According to Mary Bravewoman, vice president of AFT 2121 and one of those planning to spend the night, that protest was attended by about 50 faculty and students.
In February, the board approved preliminary cuts to 50 full-time-equivalent positions. The counseling, English as a Second Language and business departments were hit hard. AFT 2121 disputed the number of notices ultimately sent out and said the impact is larger than indicated when factoring in part-time faculty who are likely to be pushed out.
“They are considering whether or not to dismantle this college,” Finkelstein said. “We can’t let this happen. The stakes are incredibly high. We don’t have money to burn but we are solvent.”
CCSF projects a deficit of about $1 million for the current academic year and a $446,000 deficit for the upcoming fiscal year. A $3.3 million surplus is anticipated in 2023-2024 before rising to a $5.8 million deficit in 2025-2026, according to a draft scenario report in April. CCSF took more than $20 million out of a trust for health care benefits and pensions for retired staffers, known as Other Post Employment Benefits, that leadership says needs to be restored.
The college is also under pressure to demonstrate fiscal stewardship as it embarks on a special accreditation process, the last of which led to an existential battle beginning in 2012.
Despite efforts to attract students with free tuition covered by the city, enrollment never recovered from lack of faith stirred by the accreditation crisis and took further hits due to the pandemic as part of a larger trend in education. CCSF has 17,842 for-credit students this spring, compared to 22,682 in Spring 2020.
In October, the Accreditation Commission for Community and Western Colleges placed CCSF under “enhanced monitoring.” The state Fiscal Crisis Management Assistance Team also warned in April 2021 that “insolvency is certain” without further budget changes.
“I can’t justify deficit spending in our current environment,” said Shanell Williams a member of the Board of Trustees. “There’s no force in the sky that’s trying to say, ‘Let’s get rid of the programs.’ It’s about all these challenges we’ve had over these years and how we rebuild.”
The Chancellor’s Office did not immediately return a request for comment.
College leadership is talking to the Mayor’s Office about a potential revenue measure this year, though its shape is unknown. And it’s unclear to Williams how CCSF will benefit from proposed changes to educational funding formulas but, in any case, additional funds wouldn’t arrive in time for the upcoming academic year. San Francisco Unified School District is facing a similar conundrum—attempting to dodge further state intervention, proposing layoffs and anticipating a brighter fiscal outlook down the road.
Malinalli Villalobos, who works alongside Williams as a student trustee on the CCSF board, said he is against the cuts.
“We want to show the campus community that making these decisions affects whole community,” Villalobos, who also planned to spend the night, said. “We’re here to stay.”
CCSF faculty took a temporary pay cut in 2021 to prevent the layoffs of 163 faculty and 34 administrators. Now, they point to the unfairness of facing layoffs despite the sacrifice.
“The college has the money and is in the process of dismantling a large segment of the college by cutting faculty,” said Tim Killikelly, CCSF political science instructor. “We’re going to stay as long as we need until the Board of Trustees hears what we have to say about all this.”
Correction: This story has been updated to reflect that Shanell Williams is a member of the Board of Trustees.
Julie Zigoris contributed to this story.