by Jacqueline Puliatti
On Sunday, April 11, student organizers in the CCSF Student Coalition led a “March to Save CCSF” in the Mission District in San Francisco with over 150 people in response to the recently approved layoffs of over 600 professors at City College of San Francisco (CCSF).
On the steps of Mission High School, students, faculty, union leaders and community members spoke out against the cuts which are yet another blow in a series of attacks against the city’s only higher learning institution that is truly accessible to all.
On Feb. 26, 2021, CCSF’s Board of Trustees approved preliminary layoffs of 163 full-time faculty members and 447 part-time faculty across departments that range from African American and Women’s and Gender Studies to Nursing and Biological Sciences. These cuts constitute 81 percent of all part-time faculty and 30 percent of all full-time faculty – 65 percent of faculty generally. This will directly impact at least 30,000 students, 73.3 percent of whom are people of color.
Eira Kien, a lead organizer for the march, shared: “What made me feel compelled to organize is the belief education is a right we must protect … I also recognize the institutional racism these cuts have in taking away resources from fellow BIPOC peers. I’m sick of the harm.”
City College of San Francisco was founded in 1935, during the depth of the Great Depression. In the midst of a similar economic crisis caused by the COVID-19, City College is a critically important resource for the Bay Area, which is still recovering.
The CCSF Student Coalition formed in 2020 in response to continued efforts to apply unjust racialized and classed austerity measures, connecting them to years of defunding and downsizing of CCSF. The CCSF Student Coalition consists of members from We Are PHST (Philippine Studies), African American Studies Department, Anakbayan SF, PUSO CCSF, CCSF Collective, Defund SFPD Now, students from DSPS, Dance, Working Adult Degree Program, Arts, Ethnic Studies and Interdisciplinary Studies.
Starting at 24th Street BART station, the in-person march began with a performance by Danzantes Aztecas and speakers decrying the unjust cuts approved at the end of February, standing in solidarity with City College students and faculty most affected by this injustice.
The group of protesters were joined by the Brass Liberation Orchestra, who energized the crowd as they marched towards Mission High School, where a speaker series was held. Multiple stops were made along the march, including outside the CCSF Valencia Campus and the Women’s Building, which partners with Project SURVIVE to highlight the physical manifestations of City College in the community and what is at stake.
Before the start of the in-person march, a virtual protest was held via Zoom, in which students and professors from African American Studies, Philippine Studies, Women’s and Gender Studies and Music Departments told their stories and demanded an end to the administration’s mishandling of CCSF.
Dr. Ramona Coates, interim department chair for African American Studies (AFAM), in the virtual component of the event called out CCSF as having become “an anti-Black environment.” AFAM is facing a 33 percent cut in funding, and while there are 35 African American full-time faculty, 50 percent of them have received pink slips.
While full-time faculty received termination notices, often referred to as “pink slips,” this is not required for part-time faculty. Instead, their department chairs must inform them of the potential to their loss of livelihood without any formal notice.
CCSF’s hiring practices contribute to a national trend known as “adjunctification,” in which colleges increasingly rely on adjunct or part-time professors, who receive far fewer job protections than their full-time counterparts – including zero health benefits.
Diego Gomez, an adjunct professor of fashion who faces unemployment along with so many other educators, is concerned with entering an overrun, underperforming unemployment system and asks, “Where will the CCSF students learn with hundreds of our classes cut?”
These layoffs, which disproportionately impact faculty of color, explicitly disenfranchise students who are not pursuing certificates or degrees, most of whom are already marginalized. They represent a defunding of classes which educate lifelong learners.
Xianna Rodriguez, a CCSF student and beneficiary of Disabled Students Programs and Services, told the crowd that “40 percent of classes offered through DSPS are being cut … yet are required by law. DSPS receives separate funding from the college’s general fund. Cutting funding from DSPS would not save the college money.”
The Philippine Studies Department Chair and the department’s only full-time faculty member Dr. Lily Ann Villaraza received a pink slip. Without a full-time position, the Philippine Studies Department, which was established 50 years ago and is the only Philippine Studies Department in the country, will lose its stewardship and will be threatened with closure.
Dr. Villaraza asks, “How can we expect the leadership to change if the leadership hasn’t changed?” This question is echoed by protesters who call for a change in administrative leadership.
At the event, the CCSF Student Coalition read of their demands:
- STOP the 600+ layoffs!
- USE the COVID funds now! Rebuild City College through the use of HEERF (Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund)
- SECURE long-term funding in at least $30 million in FY 21-22, and $40 million in FY 22-23 through the WERF (Workforce Enrichment Recovery Fund)
- FIRE the administrators pushing austerity measures
Nube Brown, interim editor of the SF Bay View, read from a letter written by Bay View reporter Malik Washington in which he called for the immediate firing of Torrance Bynum, the dean of Evans and Southeast campuses, both located in Bayview Hunters Point.
The Evans campus is the proposed new location of the Aircraft Maintenance and Technology (AMT) Program following its closure of the SFO Airport Campus, which was established 50 years ago and closed this spring.
Relocation of the program threatens to displace other programs already serving students. Following a pattern of defunding classes and programs at CCSF, Bynum has paved the way for this unjust relocation of AMT which will inflict greater environmental damage on Bayview Hunters Point, already disproportionately experiencing increased exposure to hazardous environmental conditions.
Sebastian Escobar, a student from the Department of Aeronautics who spoke at the virtual rally, has been “left in limbo,” waiting along with around 80 students to see whether their program will be cut and their campus will be closed.
Stephanie MacAller, adjunct faculty and organizer with Rebuild City College, asserts that the administration is not being held accountable for enrollment numbers while simultaneously systematically downsizing the college, when increasing enrollment is the most sustainable way to balance the college’s budget.
At the Chancellor’s Budget Forum on April 13, Dr. John ali-Amin and Trustee Tom Temprano repeatedly dodged questions about how the faculty cuts would affect the future of student enrollment at the school and whether efforts were being made to increase enrollment rather than relying on cuts to fill the budget shortfalls.
The fight continues as the CCSF Student Coalition continues to organize alongside AFT 2121, Rebuild City College and Defund SFPD, among others.
Call to action: Find out how to get involved by visiting https://linktr.ee/ccsfstudentcoalition, https://linktr.ee/ccsfcuts, https://linktr.ee/justice4sean. Be sure to attend the next CCSF Board of Trustees meeting on Thursday, April 29, along with the trustees’ vote on pink slips Monday, May 10, and sign the Monterrosa sisters’ petition to tell Rob Bonta to review Sean’s case!
Jacqueline “Jax” Puliatti is an artist and environmentalist born and raised in San Francisco. She has been a CCSF student and CCSF Collective member for over two years and identifies as a lifelong learner. Reach out to Jax by email email@example.com.