- This Week
Disparate groups are coming together to help rescue the threatened institution. What are they up against?
Students and faculty engage with passersby in front of CCSF Mission campus during Sunday Streets Aug. 5 event.PHOTO BY ARA BLOOMBERG
As the college unites, many conflicts that remain boil down to the question of open access. CCSF currently operates with what it sees as a true community college ethos, where the varied needs of a diverse student population are balanced.
Recent high school graduates preparing for transfer mingle with adult students continuing their education, while English as Second Language (ESL) learners work towards proficiency and others seek new technical skills or transition to a new career.
Many students also take so-called "personal enrichment" courses — one time classes in the arts or languages, for example — that state government has de-prioritized as the budget hole has gotten deeper.
"I think we have to spend money better," Ngo said, concerning "non-credit" courses, which are primarily classes for adult learners. He pointed to the fact that ESL classes are a full semester long, despite a unique "hop in, hop out" structure to the lessons, which gives students flexibility in their attendance over the course of the semester.
Reducing the number of weeks in a semester that those classes meet could be one possible strategy for saving money, he said. He emphasized that the college needs to work with hard data, and that calculations from what could be saved by such moves aren't finished.
The number of campuses within the district is also being re-evaluated. "Yes, one of things we're looking at is whether we should have nine sites. Centers may be combined. We don't know if that will pay out yet," Chancellor Fisher told the student presidents, referring to complex funding formulas that could actually prevent CCSF from saving money by closing campuses.
Fisher said officials are researching the possibility of combining campuses in close proximity, which drew a mixed reaction from the presidents. Bouchra Simmons, the Downtown Campus student president, said that combining the Civic Center and Downtown campuses would be disastrous.
"[Downtown Campus] is already pushed to capacity in terms of class size," Simmons said. And the reverse, moving Downtown Campus students into Civic Center, would make it difficult for her to drop her daughter off at child care and still be able to make it to school on time.
Emanuel Andreas, Southeast Campus president, disagreed when it came to his constituents. "We understand what is happening, and everything needs to be on the table," he said.
The threat of campus closures and a reduction in non-credit classes are all part of the attack on open access, as some students have said. To combat that, they've formed a new student group aimed at educating the city about what they stand to lose.
Project Unity is comprised of Occupy CCSF students, former student trustee Jeffrey Fang, student body President Shanell Williams, and other students, led by the newly elected student Trustee William Walker. They've rallied for their school at City Hall, where Supervisors Eric Mar and John Avalos have sponsored a resolution to support City College.
Project Unity met at the Mission Campus shortly after supporting the resolution, and started to plan a grassroots campaign to educate the city and its residents about open access.
Bob Gorringe, a member of Occupy San Francisco, was on hand to help the fledgling group strategize. "[Trustee] Anita Grier came out to the Occupy action council, and she was very open," Gorringe told the group on July 31, referring to the longtime board member who is not exactly known for her radical tendencies.
Students taking such a vested interest in their college should come as no surprise, considering what happened to Compton before it folded into El Camino.
Although Compton never actually closed, it hemorrhaged students as public fears of the college closing grew larger, and the student body dropped to around 2,000 when El Camino took over, Garten told the Guardian.
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