City College of San Francisco officials approved layoffs equating to 38 full-time staff on Friday evening, in a move faculty warned would be catastrophic. The virtual meeting drew close to 400 attendees and over 100 public comments—all of them decrying the decision.
Still, in the end, the Board of Trustees voted 5-1 to finalize layoffs, which they said was necessary in order to prevent a deficit, currently at about $1 million for the current year and $446,000 for the upcoming fiscal year, according to CCSF projections.
Over 375 individuals attended the May 6 special meeting called by the Board of Trustees to finalize the layoffs. Time for public comment was extended twice to accommodate the 118 speakers—mostly students and faculty—all of whom spoke against the proposed cuts.
“We are cannibalizing ourselves,” said Health Education Chair Beth Freedman. “Don’t believe the administration when they say there is no other way—that is a lack of imagination.”
“I know my legacy, Board of Trustees, do you know yours?” asked Theatre Arts Instructor Patricial Miller. Miller received tenure and a pink slip in the same month and is responsible for teaching the entirety of the acting curriculum. “I cannot teach her classes,” Department Chair Patrick Toebe confirmed, noting the department produced one Oscar and multiple Tonys and Emmys.
During the public comment some questioned the legality of laying off tenured faculty, and floated suspicions of violations of the Brown Act and the educational code. “We are in accordance with all laws and the Brown Act,” Chancellor David Martin responded.
Counseling, business, and English departments are some of the hardest hit departments. Layoffs are in order of seniority, but some faculty who joined the college as far back as 2011 are out of jobs. Trustees approved 50 notices in February but 12 faculty retirements accounted for the ultimate number of layoffs.
Twenty-one AFT 2121 members have camped outside Conlan Hall at CCSF’s Ocean Campus since Tuesday night to call attention to the impact of the proposed layoffs. San Francisco police officers arrested 10 faculty members on Thursday evening, KQED reported.
Faculty took temporary pay cuts in 2021 to undo the layoffs of 163 faculty and 34 administrators. At the time, officials said it would allow time to boost long-term revenue. Labor and college officials began discussions with the Mayor’s Office earlier this year but it’s unclear how much it would yield, if placed on the ballot.
Enrollment has continued to decline at CCSF, as with other public school systems.
The Accreditation Commission for Community and Junior Colleges placed CCSF under “enhanced monitoring” in October, nearly a decade after it attempted to revoke the college’s accreditation. In April of last year, the state Fiscal Crisis Management Assistance Team warned that “insolvency is certain” if the budget was not addressed.
Chancellor Martin noted that the college’s enrollment had dropped more than 50% over the past several years. Given the school’s at-risk assessment for the past two years, maintaining cash reserves is necessary, according to Martin.
“It’s not about downsizing,” said Trustee Shanell Williams of the cuts. “There is a very real crisis in higher education and these are a series of difficult decisions.”
Martin said two factors were used to determine which departments were cut: A high level of full-time faculty compared to students, and programs that do not generate high amounts of income.
“This recommendation does not come without a heavy heart,” Martin said. The motion to finalize the layoffs carried with five ayes and one nay by Trustee Alan Wong.
“It’s a very difficult day,” said Board of Trustees President Brigitte Davila. “All of us love City College and want it to be here for a long time.”
The Board of Trustees is hopeful that as the budget situation improves the positions will be filled again, with Martin noting there is an established process for bringing back full-time faculty.
“There are ways for us to grow,” said Williams. The college plans to rehire faculty as the budget situation improves. “We are committed to a growth model, and we do believe we will get there,” Martin said.Contributor: Ida Mojadad.