The California Community Colleges Board of Governors will consider a plan to reinstate City College of San Francisco's board of trustees at its meeting today. The plan outlines a process that will take 12 to 18 months to fully restore the trustees' powers. CCSF supporters will be there to demand the trustees' immediate return.
In light of testimony that came out in the recent trial (City Attorney Dennis Herrera v. the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges), it is nothing short of an outrage that the Board of Governors doesn't immediately reinstate CCSF's democratically elected board.
State Chancellor Brice Harris testified under oath that he had gleaned from conversations with ACCJC President Barbara Beno that the only way to save City College was to remove its elected trustees and replace them with a special trustee with extraordinary powers. Harris expedited this despite the fact that it required two emergency resolutions on the part of the Board of Governors.
The first was to change its own regulations by adding the criterion "in jeopardy of losing accreditation" to the original sole criterion of inadequate fiscal management. Since the board of trustees had just passed an eight-year fiscal stability plan, CCSF would not have met the criteria for a state takeover without this emergency change to the regulations.
"We were suspended two weeks after we passed a budget with a surplus and a fully funded reserve of 5 percent," said John Rizzo, the board's president.
The second emergency resolution was to install the special trustee, thereby removing all vestiges of democracy at the college.
Harris further testified that if he knew now what he had known then, he would not have followed Beno's suggestion to remove the elected board of trustees.
Robert Agrella was appointed as special trustee in order to regain CCSF's accreditation. Yet, ACCJC commissioners testified that they voted to terminate CCSF's accreditation largely due to Agrella's presentation to them. So he has failed at the very thing he was brought in to do -- retain CCSF's accreditation. His remark to the ACCJC that CCSF was "in disarray" and would take years to correct, demonstrated a stupendous lack of judgment, not to mention inaccuracy.
The suggestion that CCSF's elected trustees need such a long transition before assuming their duly elected roles disenfranchises voters and is an affront to local democracy. The Board of Governors should act immediately to reinstate CCSF board of trustees.
Wendy Kaufmyn is an engineering instructor at City College of San Francisco who is on the executive council of the Academic Senate and a member of the American Federation of Teachers Local 2121 executive board.