Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Open Letter Urging SF Mayor to Defend City College: Be There August 20th

When: August 20, 4pm
Where: SF Civic Center
An Open Letter to Mayor Ed Lee:

As students, staff, faculty and community members of San Francisco, we share the sentiment you expressed at the July 9, 2013 Board of Supervisors meeting that allowing City College of San Francisco to close would be “devastating.” Indeed, as the largest working class institution in San Francisco, a school of immigrants, workers, adult learners, the formerly incarcerated, and others who depend on it for personal transformation, City College must not close. But neither can we allow its transformation into an elite, undemocratic school serving the needs of the few.

At the July 9th meeting, you said that we are in a hurry, and that we must act swiftly and decisively to meet the accrediting commission’s demands. But we ask that you pause for a moment to consider why an institution that has been educating San Francisco residents for seventy-seven years is, in the span of one short year, in danger of being dismantled. We ask that you consider why the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges, an institution that should want us to succeed at the tasks it outlines, imposed such a severe timetable on meeting those tasks and then administered the disaccreditation death sentence.

In a San Francisco Chronicle piece you wrote recently with California Community College Chancellor Brice Harris, you said: “What’s needed now is a stronger hand, a single individual with the experience, trustworthiness, and focus to turn City College around.” As a mayor elected by democratic vote, we are alarmed that you would advocate such a wholly undemocratic solution to CCSF’s present ‘crisis.’ The City College Board of Trustees was democratically elected by the residents of San Francisco; the macabre sounding “Super Trustee with Extraordinary Powers” Robert Agrella has never been approved by San Franciscans and has now been granted absolute power to dictate the futures of the college and its beneficiaries – the people of San Francisco.

In a foreboding display of secrecy and authoritarianism, within two weeks of his appointment Super Trustee Agrella kicked CCSF Student Trustee Shanell Williams off the chancellor search committee. When the democratically elected Williams attempted to attend a meeting she had been directed to, campus police barred her from entering. This silencing of student voices cannot be tolerated.

The rapid transformations occurring in San Francisco since you were elected in 2011 - a booming tech sector, massive land development, and a devastating housing crisis – have not gone unnoticed by members of our community; certainly not by those who would be shut out by the transformation of City College from a working class institution to a two-year junior college. When asked about the increasing number of evictions, rising homelessness and sky-high rents in our city, you recently said that you “didn’t realize we had a housing crisis.” Perhaps, then, you have also not considered the history of the ACCJC – its lack of transparency, violation of federal, state and even its own laws, and its relationship to a national push to privatize public education. We urge you to visit www.saveccsf.org, where much research and work has already been compiled.

Perhaps you heard the voices of those concerned San Franciscans who marched to the U.S. Department of Education on July 9th: “Where’s Ed Lee?” they asked. This is because the community members, students, staff and faculty who care deeply about City College were hoping that you, their top elected city official, would stand with them in support of the college, in defense of the attacks and threats of the ACCJC. When many elected officials, including Assemblyman Tom Ammiano and Supervisors Avalos and Campos, have already taken a stand with us against the ACCJC’s attacks on our city, we ask that you join our defense of City College by making a public statement in support of the following points:

  • City College of San Francisco must remain an open, accessible, affordable and democratic public institution serving the diverse needs of all San Francisco residents.

  • Call on Chancellor Bryce Harris and the California Community College Board of Governors to immediately reinstate the democratically elected Board of Trustees and remove the position of the undemocratic so-called “Super Trustee with Extraordinary Powers” Robert Agrella.

  • Call on the ACCJC to immediately remove City College from sanction status.

  • Support an investigation of the ACCJC in regard to conflicts of interest, lack of transparency, violations of federal and state laws, and violations of its own formal policies and procedures.

  • Do not close campuses. Full and immediate reporting of steps that have already been taken to sell off City College property to private real estate interests. Public accountability for City College common property, which belongs to the past generations who paid for it through their taxes and to future generations in perpetuity.

  • Democratic community participation in the creation of the CCSF Road Map.

  • Full and open participation in the hiring of the CCSF Chancellor and Vice Chancellor.

  • Release Prop A funds as promised and voted on by San Francisco residents.

City College of San Francisco reflects the values that have made San Francisco a refuge for so many people – one of opportunity, not just for the wealthy and successful, but for those who have struggled to turn their lives around. Individuals with little and few places to go come to City College as an opportunity to transform themselves, to better their own lives and those of their communities. We see this in grave danger of being undone, not only if City College is closed – which would be devastating – but also if the college capitulates to the devastating demands of the ACCJC.

We urge you to stand with us in defense of City College. We are sure that you will.

Students, Staff, Faculty and Community Members of the Save CCSF Coalition