City College of San Francisco in Jeopardy?

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Will City College of San Francisco be shut down? That's the worry after the president of the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges granted the school eight months to make tough financial and leadership decisions or lose its accreditation, and subsequently its public funding. What's ahead for the largest college in San Francisco and its 90,000 students?

Interview Highlights

CORRECTION: The transcript originally attributed two quotes from Nanette Asimov to Dr. Pamila Fisher. We regret the error. The below transcript has been updated and is correct.

Nanette Asimov, Education Reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle, on how City College needs to improve:

"City College was praised in this report for being very student-centered. And that is really what every person at City College will tell you that they kind of want to do what is great for students and what they’ve done is let go of a lot of administrators, they've chopped from the top, as students sometimes say, they've been very instructor-centered. They try to do what is best for students and in so doing, they seem to have lost their way, in terms of running the school, keeping it as small as it should be, given the drastic reduction of millions of dollars in state resources. They just haven't wanted to, apparently, face reality."


Pamila Fisher, interim chancellor of City College of San Francisco

Nanette Asimov, higher education reporter for The San Francisco Chronicle

John Rizzo, president of the Board of Trustees of City College of San Francisco

Hal Huntsman, Math teacher at City College of San Francisco and former Academic Senate president (2008-2010)

Lena Carew, Attended City College from 2006 to 2011 before transferring to UC Berkeley. Founder, Students Making a Change

Alisa Messer, English teacher at City College and President of the American Federation of Teachers, Local 2121


"They try to give everybody a voice in decision-making and when everybody's got a voice, really, nobody's got a voice. So, it takes them months, if not, years to do simple decision making —- whether to cut something, or change a program, or hold someone accountable. It just takes them so long and that was one of the major problems for getting any of these other things done."

"They have until October 15th to come up with an action plan to fix something that they haven't been able to fix in, really, more than six years. Six years ago was when the problems were first identified officially, but they had been years in the making. So now, they've got to do it in a very short timeframe and the question is, how will they get that done? Now they're going to bring in, this month, a fiscal crisis assistance team from the state that might be -- you can imagine them ordering City College people around and them having to make a lot of cuts."

Dr. Pamela Fisher, Interim Chancellor of San Francisco City College, on next steps for the school:

"Ninety-two percent of our costs are in personnel and that is much larger than the state average with respect to personnel costs. So we're going to have to address personnel costs. The number of people we have, the compensation, the way people are compensated for certain kinds of work, the reassigned times -- there are a lot of issues there that relate to or contribute to that 92 percent."

"The state has redefined the mission of community colleges. We are doing our darn best to still be all things to all people and the state has essentially said, 'You can't do that anymore.' So that means our Board of Trustees and our campus leadership are going to have to make some priority decisions about what programmatic things are most critical to the city of San Francisco, and do more of some and less of others."
John Rizzo, President of the Board of Trustees of City College of San Francisco, on the school's ability to recover:
"We've done this before. To say we are at the brink of losing accreditation, really, is a wild exaggeration. It's not what the report says. It's kind of as if you're wheeled into a hospital with a broken leg and your bone is sticking out. Can you die from that? Yeah, you can die from that, but it's not going to happen because the doctor will be responsible, and that's where we are. You know, before this report came out, we started to take action."
Bill Shields, who called into the show, on what City College's situation says about education funding:
I just think it needs to be emphasized that we have been tightening our belts. We’ve turned away 10,000 students. Twice recently the teachers' union who has voted to take a paycut. We've cut everywhere we can. We haven't replaced people who have retired, and I do think it speaks to something that Alisa [Messer] has said that I think this is a signature moment, a bellwether moment in our society: will we fund public education adequately? For instance, we're going to be coming to the voters of San Francisco in the fall, asking for them to vote for a parcel tax to help us, and statewide for Jerry Brown's tax.
John Rizzo, President of the Board of Trustees of City College of San Francisco, on the idea of raising student fees:
"We have no control over the fees -- over student fees. That's totally controlled by the state Legislature. The local boards have no control over it. It's unfortunate."