Education

Faculty Union Contract Tension Strains CCSF Trustee Meeting

Tensions over ongoing contract negotiations rose at the March 24 meeting of City College of San Francisco’s Board of Trustees.

“I don’t see you fighting for City College and its students,” professor Susan Englander told the trustees. “I don’t see you fighting for increased enrollment.”

Overcrowded conditions at the Chinatown campus, cuts to full classes and a lack of plans to increase enrollment were top concerns.

“Do you see any faculty members in this room that are less than 40 years old? No. What does that tell you?” asked Kathryn Frei, an ESL instructor.

Frei suggested that the lack of new instructors—a result, she said, of the college’s low wages—will shrink the college as active and invested longtime faculty retire. There are not enough teachers to teach classes at the Chinatown campus, where rooms are often filled to over-capacity.

“Our new part-time teachers are accepting full-time jobs elsewhere,” fellow ESL instructor Debra Wilensky added.

American Federation of Teachers 2121 Vice President Alan D’Souza requested a special meeting to talk about enrollment growth.

Board of Trustees President Rafael Mandelmen said a study session for the topic is scheduled in April.

“I’m not seeing CCSF doing something about the problems,” librarian Karen Saginore said, citing a lack of ads for the school and no public report to the participatory governance counsel on how the subject would be addressed.

A three-year growth program for distance education, or online learning, working with partners at the San Francisco Unified School District, re-engaging with partners at police and fire department are all ongoing enrollment strategies, Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Anna Davies said.

Faculty urged the trustees to come to the campus and see just how busy the classrooms were at the Chinatown campus, especially in non-credit ESL classes, and questioned why cuts were due for next semester, even in classes with full enrollment.

Physics professor Karl Westerberg spoke about the college’s cost-saving strategy to convert conference classes to larger lectures with increased numbers of units.

“It continues to force us to choose between our students and our paychecks,” Westerberg said. “Math and computer science have already announced plans to convert conferences to lectures to avoid the pay cut. This alone would eliminate most of the STEM measures.”

Trustees can respond to public comments, but must save longer talking points for the agenda. Many addressed the trustees directly and their frustration was evident. One suggested that the trustees were trying to do away with lifelong learners and another criticized their lack of eye contact.

“I’ve been hearing so much disturbing news from the faculty,” Student Trustee Bouchra Simmons said. “I’m completely opposed to the cuts happening next semester.”

“I don’t think there’s a single person up here who is trying to get rid of our lifelong learners,” Mandelman said.

While the college’s administration said they were on target for completion of the self-evaluation needed for accreditation, interim Vice Chancellor Samuel Santos said the team working on the issue has not made as much progress as they would like to.

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