In addition to facing a loss of accreditation, City College of San Francisco may be on the verge of insolvency. Jack Scott, chancellor of the California community college system, told the San Francisco Chronicle on Tuesday that, after reviewing CCSF’s financials, the troubled school has “significant deficiencies that could actually lead to bankruptcy.”
Scott’s statement came after previewing the Fiscal Crisis and Management Assistance Team’s report, which will be released on Sept. 18. Additionally, CCSF’s accrediting agency, the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC), is expected to release its own assessment of the school’s financials very soon.
City College has also taken the controversial, but not unexpected, step of voting to ask the state to appoint a special trustee. Scott had previously warned the school that if it did not request a special trustee his office would have imposed one and the college’s elected board would have lost its decision-making power.
The San Francisco Examiner reported that because the trustee was voluntarily requested, he or she will offer guidance to the board, but the ultimate decision making power will still reside with CCSF’s elected trustees. However, the San Francisco Bay Guardian reported that the trustee will have the power to overrule board decisions. Some CCSF students found any encroachment on the school’s autonomy to be too much of a compromise.
The vote to request the trustee was met with opposition from faculty and students, many of whom demanded that the school reject any and all austerity measures. According to a Huffington Post report, students also cited fears that the school would be privatized, a move which could result in cost increases. Protestors interrupted the board of trustees’ meeting with chants of “no cuts, no fees, education should be free” and “we don’t want austerity, no to the special trustee,” the Examiner reported.
Shanell Williams, president of the Associated Students of City College, told the board of trustees that the student government wants the school “to remain democratic,” the Chronicle reported. “If they can do this to us, they can do it across America,” she said.
Williams was one of approximately 40 student and community activists who disrupted the meeting with an Occupy Wall Street-style “Mic Check” and attempted to march around the room chanting and waiving a banner that demanded an end to all student debt and proclaimed education a right. After the police removed the protestors, some returned and surrounded the seated trustees. When several of the trustees walked out, the students commandeered the meeting table and declared themselves the “people’s board of trustees.”
The Bay Guardian reported that the “people’s board of trustees” passed a resolution declaring that the students had appointed themselves, along with CCSF’s faculty and staff, the special trustee and that they “oppose any other kind of special trustee” and that they “stand in solidarity with the teachers’ strike in Chicago.”
When the trustees reentered the room the students voluntarily relinquished the table, but remained standing and attempted to drown out the trustees votes by shouting “shame on you,” “resign now,” and “show us the money.” Although the activists failed to stop the appointment of the trustee and the passage of the austerity budget, they still considered it a victory.
A CCSF student writing for the Socialist Organizer under the pseudonym ‘Rico Blanc,’ or Rich White, described the protest as an integral step in the process of “saving CCSF.” Blanc wrote that maintaining CCSF’s status as an accessible and affordable community college “requires exposing and rejecting the accreditation imposition and calling on the government—on all levels—to immediately bail out the school, just liked they bailed out the banks.”
Budgetary relief for CCSF has become a topic of conversation amongst the CCSF student body, with some activists demanding that the San Francisco Board of Supervisors waive all power and water costs for all of the school’s nine campuses for one year as well as release the school from rent obligations on the school’s Southeast Campus.
It is doubtful that a year-long reduction in CCSF’s operating costs would solve the school’s problems. The show-cause order WASC sent to the school in July described CCSF as being at a “financial breaking point” because 92% of the college’s budget was used for salaries and benefits. Despite the fiscal difficulty many in the community have advocated for increasing higher education funding.
One of the voices advocated for more state funds has been CCSF Trustee Chris Jackson, who also was the only trustee to vote against the special trustee. In a Bay Guardian editorial, published in July, Jackson argued that state needed to restore the $17 million that the California legislature cut from CCSF’s budget.
In a July interview, CCSF spokesperson Larry Kamer addressed the school’s budgetary problems by saying that the school suffered from “structural, managerial, and governance issues that would still exist even if funding is restored.”
Follow Alex Wukman on Twitter @AlexWukmanCMN