Saving City College - Page 2

Disparate groups are coming together to help rescue the threatened institution. What are they up against?

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Students and faculty engage with passersby in front of CCSF Mission campus during Sunday Streets Aug. 5 event.
PHOTO BY ARA BLOOMBERG

A final, preliminary report based on the findings of the dozen workgroups is expected to be completed before the accrediting commission's October 15 deadline. With everything on the table, from staff layoffs to campus closures, CCSF is an anxious institution facing an uncertain future.

THE GHOST OF COMPTON'S PAST

In Compton, faculty and staff lived in constant fear of losing their jobs between 2002 and 2006, while the school was at risk of losing accreditation. Its path offers some lessons for CCSF.

"From three or four years prior to the accreditation being revoked, every March everybody got a pink slip and then you found out, you know, whether or not you actually had a job to come back to the next year," Ann Garten, the community relations director of El Camino Community College District, told the Guardian in a phone interview.

El Camino swooped in to save Compton from total closure when its accreditation was revoked in 2006. The fate of employees at City College is a mystery for now, but based on Compton's experience, part-time faculty are most at risk.

During spring semester, City College had nearly 1,700 instructors, approximately half of which were part-timers, according to college payroll documents. The school's faculty are represented by the American Federation of Teachers Local 2121.

Classified workers — those who perform services such as administrative support, technology services, and grounds maintenance — could also be at risk. Their numbers exceeded 800 during the last fiscal year, according to the school's assistant director of research, Steve Spurling.

They are represented by the Service Employees International Union Local 1021, a large and active union that also represents most city workers. In recent years, both unions have already taken pay cuts and freezes on raises and accepted furlough days to help plug the college's fiscal holes.

If a special trustee were to take over, these workers would become even more vulnerable. But even without a special trustee, will there be layoffs?

Though there is no definitive answer yet, "everything needs to be on the table," Trustee Steve Ngo told us. Yet most indications are that part-timers are at the most risk.

"I'm not convinced [full time faculty] pay cuts are what is called for. Our part time is the highest paid in the country," CCSF Chancellor Pamila Fisher told the Associated Student Presidents, made up of elected leaders from CCSF's eight main campuses. "We pay them health care. That's unheard of" and could be re-evaluated, she said.

Yet it's also possible that more creative and aggressive fundraising could save the part-timers and other college functions. Alisa Messer, president of AFT local 2121, said statewide categorical funds exist expressly to help fund part time faculty health care costs, she said, although not all colleges follow through.

"AFT 2121 has been a leader in this state, and in fact in the nation, on increasing parity for part-time/contingent faculty," Messer said. "We will not allow this crisis to be an excuse to roll back significant progress that has been made on the rights of our most vulnerable faculty."

The commission's June report dinged the school for spending higher than average levels on salaries and benefits, 92 percent of their funds to be exact, while other community colleges in the Bay Area have figures in the low to mid 80s.

Yet many of CCSF's defenders say that comparison isn't fair or accurate, noting San Francisco's higher cost of living and the fact that the district provides health coverage to part-time faculty, which most other community colleges in the state do not provide.

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