via El Tecolote by Laura Waxmann
Students and faculty members who rallied at City College of San Francisco’s Ocean campus on Nov. 15 against the consolidation of diversity studies programs, demonstrated that the college’s struggle is not only one of accreditation and funding, but is also playing out on the borders of civil rights.
A crowd of about 200 students and faculty members showed their support for the continuation of the school’s diversity departments through song, chants and dance. The day of action also included a march by students attending San Francisco State University to CCSF’s RAM Plaza—an act of solidarity between the two schools.
“There is no academic basis for these consolidations to happen,” said Kitty Liu, a CCSF student involved in organizing the rally, who likened the pooling of diversity classes at CCSF to Arizona’s 2010 curbing of ethnic studies classes in public schools. “The situation is comparable because we believe that there is a concerted effort to use the economic crisis to attack and get rid of ethnic studies.”
In order to comply with demands set forth by the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges to be more cost effective, the CCSF Board of Trustees voted last month to consolidate groups of departments while reorganizing the long-standing administrative structure and traditional roles of the department chairs and deans.
In July, the Accrediting Commission released a report citing 14 violations that the college is required to correct by March 15, 2013 in order to stay accredited.
“The plan is to eliminate almost all of the department chairs and instead have a system in which there will be many departments under one chair or dean—they want to go from about 52 chairs to seven,” said Elisabeth Arruda, Women’s Studies department chair. “For me, it’s not about losing my job—it’s so important to have a faculty member who knows the discipline, the students and can articulate the faculty’s needs.”
Currently, the Diversity Studies program consists of nine departments, each headed by its own department chair: African American Studies, Latino/a Studies, Asian Studies, Asian American Studies, Interdisciplinary Studies, Labor and Community Studies, LGBT Studies, Philippine Studies and Women’s Studies.
Both students and faculty fear that if the administration goes forward with the consolidation, classes serving the needs of the Bay Area’s diverse communities will be cut drastically—and that some departments will disappear entirely.
“The rhetoric that we had at the last board meeting is that diversity departments will stay intact, but the reality is that if they are not funded, they will disappear,” said Edgar Torres, chair of Latin American and Latino/Latina Studies.
Many students at the rally voiced a disconnect between the campus community and the administration.
“We don’t get a lot of support from the administration—I think they are actually quite fearful of what we are trying to do,” said Liu.
While the passage of two measures providing increased funding for public education on the last November ballot is seen by many as a step out of the accreditation crisis, students and teachers agreed that part of the battle is addressing an agenda of privatization that has befallen public education throughout the nation.
“We are connecting the dots and asking who our administration is listening to now,” said Shanell Williams, student body president at the CCSF Ocean campus. “It’s clear that there is some vision that [the students] don’t share—there are other interests tugging at our school.”
Williams heads the Save City College Coalition, a group of concerned students formed in response to last July’s accreditation report that works to provide student input in the college’s struggle to keep its accreditation.
“Most things move from the bottom up, and ultimately the students have the most amount of power,” said Torres, who plans to engage and communicate with students in his classes to ensure that they will make informed decisions about their futures. “I am totally confident that our students will correct the things we’ve done.”