City College is an enormous multi-campus community college (100,000 students in the past, 60,000 now) that is slated to lose its accreditation about four months from now. Its essentially sitting on academic death row, yet unlike a convicted murderer, it continues to function, holding classes, serving lunch in the cafeteria, revising its on-line classes, holding interminable meetings, teaching English, math and science, as well as auto mechanics, swimming and queer studies.
Teachers like me are always planning, looking ahead at the next week and month, till the end of the semester, and looking backwards and assessing yesterday’s lesson, and grading last week’s essay. I’m in a composition level committee trying to implement a new curriculum of intensive 6-unit classes. I attend other department and committee meetings that are proposing new programs to build “pathways” for student development to encourage them to define goals, and go through a more coherent curriculum and minimize the “attrition” (students that drop out) that community colleges are famous for. So we go on working, planning, arguing, deciding to go this way or that, and it feels natural, feels right.
But somewhere in the middle of a discussion of the professional development workshops that we’ll have to do to implement the intensive classes, folks begin to debate whether we should do workshops mid-semester or pre-semester, or summer, so-and-so is saying that the professional development funds should be released soon. New money is floating around California; schools with equity programs can compete for new state funds….
I ask myself, what school will exist to do these things in six months?
Everyone says (even I say) that City College will not close. The new, not really “permanent” chancellor says it. The Super-Trustee appointed by the local Board of Trustees before the state pulled the plug on them says CCSF will endure. Activists chant it, and call for the ouster of the Super-Trustee. Congresswoman Jackie Speer, and finally Nancy Pelosi say CCSF cannot die. My union, AFT 2121 has run a remarkable campaign of local and statewide public good will and solidarity to save CCSF. The California State Community College Chancellor says City College will stay open no matter what. In January, the San Francisco City Attorney’s office filed asked a judge to issue an injunction against the Accrediting Commission (known by its acronym ACCJC) claiming that they broke rules of fairness and due process. This case will come to trial in the next few months.
Only one party says City College will close: the ACCJC, which has the power in the situation. As the public outrage reaches an ever higher decibel level, ACCJC seems to digging in behind its private fortifications, refusing to acknowledge its errors, the bad publicity, political pressure, and judicial review. ACCJC President Barbara Beno said we are getting the death penalty in July.
Behind the ACCJC and CCSF is the state community college system. If CCSF loses its accreditation, only the state has the money and the muscle to step in. But what new order do they want?
So at City College, we scribble our lesson plans and fiddle with our reforms, but we know nothing of the “man behind the curtain” who’ll be running the show in a few months, or whether the show will have a new name on the marquee of a new theater.
Not to criticize. I work the same way each day, going through the motions, planning for the next day, proposing reforms, telling my daughter she’s going to college.
by Jeff Goldthorpe