Protesters Occupy City College of San Francisco
By Alex Emslie
A group of exhausted City College students ended a nightlong sit-in this morning after being assured that the beleaguered school’s chancellor would meet with them Monday and hold a series of town hall forums about the looming loss of accreditation threatening the school with closure.
A crowd of about 100, many of whom are members of the Save CCSF Coalition, marched into the school’s administration building Thursday intending to deliver four demands to interim Chancellor Thelma Scott-Skillman. Instead, the group was met by several police officers on the stairs to the chancellor’s office and told that Scott-Skillman was not there.
“It’s really disappointing because I think there was an opportunity for her to really engage with students and show some good faith that we can work together,” Ocean Campus Associated Students President and City College student Shanell Williams said Thursday. “Students have solutions too.”
City College’s accreditation crisis became public in July, when the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges put the school on “show cause” status – the worst position a school can be in short of losing accreditation. The commission identified 14 areas of deficiency in City College’s management, and administrators are scrambling to address all the recommendations before a looming March 15 deadline. If they fail to convince the commission that the school has adjusted its mission and operations to reduced funding, City College will lose its accreditation and could close.
In addition to the town hall forums, Williams and other students want to halt class cuts and ensure that San Francisco Proposition A and California Proposition 30 funds are used to save classes instead of meeting the ACCJC requirements.
Finally, the Save CCSF Coalition charges that the commission unfairly put City College on the most serious status short of losing accreditation, called “show cause,” without any prior sanction or warning. Coalition members want the U.S. Department of Education to investigate the ACCJC’s use of accreditation, which they said is a masked attempt to replace California’s affordable 2-year colleges with for-profit schools.
“If you put sanctions on the community colleges, the students are going to have to go to University of Phoenix, ITT, pay a lot of money and take out loans,” SF State student and City College writing tutor Terence Yancey said.
Representatives of the ACCJC were unavailable for comment Friday.
Vice Chancellor of Administration and Finance Peter Goldstein told the crowd of students and teachers Thursday that the college’s downgrading last July directly to “show cause” status was very harsh, but if the school doesn’t meet the requirements, there won’t be a City College to save.
“Without our accreditation, this college will not be able to exist in its current form,” he said. “No matter how much we think the accreditation people might be wrong, they have the ability to make that happen.”
As school administrators are taking the accreditation commission’s requirements as a given, protesters want to challenge the commission’s authority to force changes at their school.
“We’re not going to change the mission of the college,” said Roger Scott, a City College instructor since 1972. “We’re determined to do whatever is necessary through nonviolent civil disobedience to stop it.”
The Save CCSF Coalition plans to update the public on its meeting with Scott-Skillman on Monday afternoon. Another action is scheduled for Feb. 28 at City College’s Ocean campus, and the coalition intends to lobby the San Francisco Board of Supervisors for support on March 14, the day before City College’s show cause report is due.