Concern spread throughout San Francisco after news broke that the City College of San Francisco’s (CCSF) accrediting agency, the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, ordered the school to begin making preparations for closure.
Despite WASC stating that CCSF was at “a financial breaking point” because the school used 92% of its budget on salaries and benefits, much of the community reaction to the news of the impending closure has been to advocate for increases in state education funding. In an editorial for the San Francisco Bay Guardian CCSF Trustee Chris Jackson argued that the real problem is “the state’s defunding of public education and its disinvestment in our community-college system.” In 2011 California reduced state aid to community colleges by $1 billion which cut $17 million from City College’s budget alone.
CCSF spokesman Larry Kamer addressed the issues raised in Jackson’s essay and said “like all of our trustees Mr. Jackson speaks for himself.” He then stated that the college suffers from “structural, managerial, and governance issues that would still exist even if funding is restored.”
One of the ways that the college is seeking to restore funding is by putting a $79 parcel tax before San Francisco voters. If the resolution passes it is expected to raise roughly $18 million for CCSF, or increase the school’s budget by approximately 10%. In addition to CCSF’s proposed tax, California voters will be going to the polls to decide on Governor Jerry Brown’s tax plan which, if passed, would provide the school with another $11 million.
However, Kamer acknowledges that funding increases won’t solve all of the school’s problems. One of the persistent problems that WASC identified in its report was CCSF’s expansive shared governance model, a model that significantly reduces the amount of administrators.
Despite being the second largest college in the country, with a student body of 90,000 and more than 2,700 faculty and staff members, CCSF only has 39 administrators. Jackson states that the relatively low number of administrators represents the embodiment of the San Francisco value of “chopping from the top,” or cutting administrators before teachers.
Kamer explained that the shared governance model is reflective of CCSF’s cultural commitment to “be more democratic,” and places much of the institution’s authority in the hands of senior faculty and department heads.
“Many of the senior faculty members have authority that would normally reside with administrators,” Kamer said. He explained that one of Fisher’s top priorities is reforming the share governance model, but that the very nature of the governance model “slows things down.”
“It’s hard to move quickly when the faculty aren’t around,” Kamer said. Despite the pressure of WASC’s looming March 15 deadline, it may be impossible for a school that has three governance systems, 46 various committees and subcommittees, and involves more than 400 administrators, faculty, staff, and students in the decision making process to move quickly.
The shared governance model, which, in addition to the board of trustees and the chancellor, gives 20 people—five administrators, four staff, seven faculty members and four students—veto power over budget proposals, may make it hard for CCSF to make the budget cuts necessary for the school to survive.
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