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Days before spring registration, City College of San Francisco teachers discovered their classes vanishing from the online schedule. By Thursday morning, 289 classes had disappeared.

Officials at the college, which served nearly 63,000 Bay Area students this year, announced this month a projected $13.1 million deficit for the 2019-2020 academic year. To balance the budget, officials surprised students and faculty last week by slashing classes already approved for the upcoming semester. 

More than 200 credit classes were axed, with the Art, Music, Dance and Physical Education departments taking the heaviest blows.

Chancellor Dr. Mark Rocha called the move “absolutely essential,” but students like Jewel Ross are struggling to cope:

“Everyone is living in a constant place of fear, even if the cuts haven’t come to their department yet.”

Ross, a third-year social justice student, winced as they recalled seeing a teacher nearly cry while sharing the news. It’s painful, they said, and worrisome.

Ross said:

“It’s a stressful time to be a student or faculty member. Morale is low.”

Among the 63 non-credit subject areas canceled, classes for older adults were most impacted. Officials at the Older Arts Department reported 52 out of 58 class sections were purged.

According to a statement from the Chancellor’s Office, the cuts were aimed at reducing non-credit and historically under-enrolled classes. Courses considered as non-career education, non-general education credit and programs with low completion rates were also targeted.

But faculty members like Kelvin Young are puzzled by which courses were ultimately abandoned. Young, the OLAD chair, said classes were scrapped without consultation from the faculty.

Young said:

“The classes selected for cancellation appear to be random without basis on any logical criteria, as they don’t appear to correlate to class productivity, instructor seniority, class location, history or other relevant considerations.”

In fact, he added, a majority of OLAD’s most popular classes with the highest attendance were dropped.

Meanwhile, in the music department, piano instructor Madeline Mueller wondered if losing more of her long-term, award-winning colleagues was really justified.

Mueller, who’s served as department chair for more than 40 years, has seen City College’s music sections shrink from 100 to just 38 in the last few years.

Mueller said:

“Music courses are not under-enrolled nor are they low enrolled.”

She explained while some classes are small, it’s designed to be that way, saying:

“Some are courses that by their nature have limited numbers. For example, piano class is capped at 24 because there are 24 pianos in the room. (…However, music) classes are usually 95 to 100 percent enrolled.”

As news spread across Ocean campus last week, classmates in canceled classes greeted each other with looks of defeat. One instructor confessed he couldn’t find the words to tell his students, or his wife.

The recent round of cuts carve deeper into an already whittled down course schedule. Earlier this year, City College officials pulled 863 classes — approximately 12 percent of its offerings — in order to close a $32 million budget deficit.

Students told SFBay feeling “under siege” is now the new norm at City College. It’s hard to concentrate or even retain new information.

Architecture major Gerardo Espinosa spent the first few weeks of the fall semester wondering if one of his classes would suddenly be dropped.

Espinosa said:

“There’s a feeling of uncertainty. You want people to feel secure and stable…it’s basic!”

As students and teachers grapple with last week’s announcement, protests aimed at CCSF’s administration are already in the works. This is not the first time, even this semester, students and faculty are demanding answers from Chancellor Rocha and the Board of Trustees.

In September, City College administrators were admonished by students and faculty for proposing up to 100 percent salary raises for executives, amid budgets cuts, layoffs and class cuts. 

A massive pushback, organized by students and the teachers union AFT 2121, managed to pump the brakes on salary increases. 

But Deirdre White, adjunct instructor of drawing, painting and design, said recent class cuts can’t help but feel like retaliation over the “Salarygate” scandal.

White, who lost one of her classes last week, said the administration’s cuts to the most robust and vital parts of the art department feel vindictive and cruel. According to the instructor, all jewelry/metal arts classes were nixed, and popular classes like ceramics and 3D design were also cut.

White said:

“And who suffers? Not just part-time faculty, but thousands of students, and ultimately thousands of San Franciscans.”

On Monday afternoon, members of the CCSF Student Assembly, a coalition of student groups, met at the Ocean campus library to make signs for the next day’s rally.

Surrounded by fluorescent poster boards, Sharpies and glue, student Win-Mon Kyi used her fingers to dab glitter on a sign that read: CLASSES FOR THE MASSES.

Victoria Nguyen Students at City College of San Francisco prepare signs for a rally scheduled for Tuesday, November 26, 2019 to protest the school’s cutting of nearly 300 classes for the spring semester.

The rally, organized by the Student Assembly and AFT2121 faculty union, will be one of the first protests over the class cuts. 

Kyi, an Asian American Studies major, said the rally will also be an opportunity to focus on legislative solutions, like the “Community Higher Education Fund,” which will bridge the gap between state funding and San Francisco’s higher education needs.

Kyi said:

“Class cuts aren’t the answer, or even a Band-Aid. They’re just deepening the wounds.”

Over the next 90 minutes, student volunteers came and went to make signs between classes. Curious bystanders peered from behind computer stations.

Kyi, a native San Franciscan, said even though City College is a commuter school, there’s a real community that exists. Though the cuts have been stressful, she would advise fellow students not to be demoralized.

She said:

“Please reach out. Reach out to faculty; to your peers. Look for the next action — chances are there’s more unrest than you think.”

The “Speak Out and Sign On: Fully Fund CCSF” rally takes place Tuesday at City College of San Francisco, 50 Phelan Ave., outside Conlan Hall and at CCSF campuses citywide from noon to 12:30 p.m.


Victoria Nguyen is a former SFBay editor and current part-time CCSF student.

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