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'Gut-Wrenching': City College of San Francisco Lays Off 38 Faculty, but More Cuts May Be on the Way

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SFPD officer holds megaphone pointing down to three protesters sitting cross legged in the street as police and other protesters look on
A group of demonstrators including faculty and students sit on Frida Kahlo Way at the entrance to the main campus of the City College of San Francisco to protest layoffs at the school, on May 5, 2022.  (Beth LaBerge/KQED)

Updated 11 a.m. Saturday

City College of San Francisco's Board of Trustees finalized 38 faculty layoffs to address a looming budget deficit during a special meeting Friday night. Another 12 faculty are retiring and won't be replaced.

But that may not be the full count of teachers dropped by the school: At least 150 part-timers may not be hired back to the college as part of a state mechanism that mandates part-timers not take the place of laid-off full-time faculty, the teachers' union says.

And while those aren't technically layoffs, those teachers will be out of a job all the same. Many have worked at the college for years — for some, decades.

A tent sits next to demonstrators listening to speakers at a rally outside a large administrative building
Faculty and students gather outside Conlan Hall at CCSF to protest layoffs at the school, on May 5, 2022. Faculty have been camping there to protest layoffs since Tuesday. (Beth LaBerge/KQED)

All week, faculty and student supporters tried to hold back the tidal wave of layoffs: On Sunday, City College of San Francisco faculty marched for May Day; on Tuesday they camped in tents in front of their administration's offices; and on Thursday, 10 protesters were arrested after blocking a street.

By Friday night, the tsunami of cuts washed over them, all the same.

More than 360 faculty tuned in to the virtual City College of San Francisco Board of Trustees meeting Friday afternoon, including Denise Selleck, who has taught English as a second language classes at the college since 1991. Those classes primarily serve San Francisco's many immigrant communities.

"Your decision today not only affects the 38 tenured instructors who will lose their jobs, it also affects the dozens of part-timers who you will make unemployed," Selleck said, during public comment. "And it will affect the thousands of students who will not be able to get the classes that they want and need."

English teacher Monica Bosson put the cuts in simpler terms to the Board of Trustees.

"It's absolutely gut-wrenching," Bosson said.

Five trustees voted to approve the cuts, with trustee Alan Wong casting a nay vote. A student trustee also cast a nay vote, though student trustee votes are only advisory. Board trustee Shanell Williams disagreed with criticism from the hundreds of faculty attending the virtual meeting that night.

“This is not the decimation of our college. There are mechanisms for rehiring and there are pathways for growth,” Williams said.

At Friday's meeting, Chancellor David Martin called the layoffs a "very difficult situation."

But, "this is the best path to move forward in allowing us to spend our resources in a way that best meets the students' needs into the future," he said. "We do need to readjust our financial structure, not only by increasing our reserves in excess of 5%, but we also have funding needs such as scheduled maintenance."

Martin told those in attendance that the college also has to balance paying basic needs like fixing boilers or renewing computers, and that layoffs were the only way to get there.

Mary Bravewoman, president-elect of AFT 2121, the City College of San Francisco teachers' union, told KQED that the trustees' vote shook the faith of college faculty, who had been working with the city of San Francisco to raise new revenues to stave off cuts.

With four of the trustee seats open for election this November, AFT 2121 says they're now seeking to replace the trustees.

"My message all week long has been loud and clear: Your 'yes' vote on these layoffs is our 'no' vote in November," she said.

The layoffs follow various faculty rallies over the last week, including the arrest of 10 faculty members at City College of San Francisco Thursday evening by San Francisco police during a protest against the layoffs at CCSF's Ocean campus, according to AFT Local 2121, the union that represents CCSF faculty.

An SFPD spokesperson said officers arrested and cited 11 protesters for failing to obey a peace officer and for being pedestrians outside of a crosswalk.

demonstrator wearing a mask stands and is handcuffed by police holding zip ties as other demonstrators remain seated in foreground
SFPD officers arrest a demonstrator who had been sitting on Frida Kahlo Way at the entrance to City College of San Francisco's main campus to protest layoffs at the school, on May 5, 2022. (Beth LaBerge/KQED)

It also isn't the first time City College of San Francisco has warned layoffs were on the way. Last year, the college voted to suspend layoffs of some 160 faculty, but the Board of Trustees warned that new funding would need to be identified to stem future cuts.

"This is a one-year deal. And City College will continue to have a structural budget deficit and funding gap," City College Board Trustee Alan Wong told KQED in May last year. "Immediately after approving this tentative agreement, we must turn our attention to long-term funding."

City College's woes began during its 2013 accreditation crisis — which infamously threatened its closure — and sent its enrollment into a spiral from which it never fully recovered, teachers say.

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Fewer students means fewer dollars to pay for teachers, and the college is now facing a $5.8 million deficit in its 2025-2026 fiscal year, according to The SF Standard.

Despite the start of new programs like Free City College, which offers free tuition to San Francisco residents, other factors soon compounded the existing drop in student population, including a statewide community college enrollment plunge during the pandemic. A CalMatters analysis found that, at 42 out of 116 California community colleges, more students left in the fall of 2021 than in the fall of 2020. That comprised a statewide loss of more than 300,000 students, which California tried to correct by spending an extra $120 million.

A coalition of unions has tried to pitch tax proposals to stem the gap, including Service Employees International Union 1021, which also represents City College of San Francisco workers and met with Mayor London Breed in February to propose new tax mechanisms to raise dollars for CCSF.

Bravewoman said those efforts are ongoing. Right now, it looks like the funding mechanism may be a parcel tax that's shaped to affect new home buyers, as opposed to existing homeowners, that may raise as much as $45 million a year. Polling shows strong support for the measure, she said. The unions will soon begin the signature-gathering effort.

"We're confident we'll be successful at the polls," she said.

In the meantime, the recent cuts are striking departments of all sorts, affecting everything from workforce training courses like aircraft maintenance and auto mechanics, to classes needed to transfer to four-year schools, like chemistry and English.

Pink slips — layoff notices — already have been mailed.

Protesters hold large yellow banner sign reading 'board of trustees meet students needs'
CCSF teachers and students block Frida Kahlo Way at the entrance to CCSF's main campus to protest layoffs at the school, on May 5, 2022. (Beth LaBerge/KQED)

At the May Day rally and march in San Francisco on Sunday, City College faculty who'd been served with pink slips spoke out.

Golnar Afshar, a full-time biotechnology teacher, told KQED she got her pink slip in February. Afshar is one of only three faculty in the biotechnology program. Now those students will have fewer classes available to complete their learning.

Most of Afshar's students are older and changing their careers. They have bachelor's degrees but need to fulfill hands-on training experience to get laboratory jobs — a highly sought-after career path in the Bay Area, which Afshar called "the Mecca of biotechnology in the world." Now those students may have a tougher path.

"I have no idea what's going to happen," she said. "If the classes are canceled, the students will not be able to finish up."

And for Afshar, who is 55 and was looking toward retirement in the next decade, "I'm just going to have to start looking for a job."

woman wearing black union shirt speaks into megaphone while supporters on either side of her raise fists in support
Kathe Burick, a former dance instructor at CCSF, speaks outside Conlan Hall to protest layoffs at the school, on May 5, 2022. Burick was one of 10 faculty members arrested by SFPD at the protest. (Beth LaBerge/KQED)
two women and a young girl stand in front of a CCSF sign holding a drum and their own protest sign reading 'from CCSF to OUSD, stop school cuts and closures'
From left: Arlene Bugayong, Ella Rose, 6, and Sarah June Harris protest layoffs at CCSF, on May 5, 2022. Bugayong is a counselor at the school and received a pink slip, or layoff notice, earlier this week. (Beth LaBerge/KQED)

KQED's Annelise Finney, Haley Gray and David Marks contributed to this report.

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