The interim chancellor at City College of San Francisco fully believes the struggling institution can survive, but administrators will have to make tough decisions to do so.
During a candid discussion Wednesday morning between interim Chancellor Pamila Fisher and members of SPUR, a nonprofit urban research association, she said she wasn’t aware of the magnitude of CCSF’s problems until she received the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges’ scathing report.
“I knew the college was facing a huge fiscal crisis, but I hadn’t even heard the word ‘accreditation’ until I received that package in the mail,” Fisher said. “So we went to work on that immediately.”
Fisher was hired in May following the abrupt departure of Chancellor Don Griffin, who retired for health reasons. Fisher agreed to stay for six months, and that ends Oct. 31. Thelma Scott-Skillman will take her place in November.
In July, CCSF received the worst sanction possible from the accrediting commission and must prove why it should continue to operate the 90,000-student school. CCSF was faulted for its handling of governance, student services and outcomes, and technology.
The college submitted a progress report to the commission Friday. Fisher said it explains how CCSF will address and correct the problems. She said at least half the recommendations have been addressed.
A report to prove why CCSF should remain accredited is due in March, and Fisher said officials began working on it Monday.
Fisher said CCSF also is facing other issues, such as a financial crisis that could get worse depending on the outcome of the November election. If a statewide tax measure and local parcel tax fail, CCSF could be forced to cut an additional $26 million from its budget.
“If we have to make those cuts, we’ll be left with a college you won’t recognize,” Fisher said.
But to prepare for the worst, Fisher said, CCSF is making tough decisions now, which include agreements with its unions to reduce wages or implement layoffs. The college governing board will discuss restructuring its administration and department chairs at its Oct. 25 meeting, along with the possible closure of campuses.
In order to succeed, most importantly, Fisher said CCSF needs to step out of its own bubble and begin looking to other colleges for help and interaction.
“I think we’re a sleeping giant,” she said. “There is so much more we can do.”