Proposed reorganization central to plans to save City College of San Francisco 

click to enlarge City College of San Francisco is trying to get its funds and faculty in order and keep its accreditation. If the school was to lose its accreditation, it would likely have to stop operating entirely. - S.F. EXAMINER FILE PHOTO
  • S.F. Examiner File Photo
  • City College of San Francisco is trying to get its funds and faculty in order and keep its accreditation. If the school was to lose its accreditation, it would likely have to stop operating entirely.

As it embraces reforms to avoid losing its accreditation, City College of San Francisco is getting a more clearly defined administrative structure aimed at eliminating redundant jobs and saving money.

Starting in July, the school’s 61 departments will be grouped together under eight schools, each supervised by a single dean. Meanwhile, an unspecified number of faculty members will lose their titles as department chairs.

The changes are expected to save the college roughly $2 million a year through a reduction in administrative overhead, part-time faculty and savings on the stipends that department chairs receive — which range from $3,400 to $21,000.

But faculty and department chairs are resisting the changes, which they say will negatively affect student outcomes.

These reforms are but one of the 14 recommendations CCSF received from the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges after a visit last spring that identified numerous institutional deficiencies. CCSF must convince the commission that it’s abiding by its recommendations in order to retain its academic accreditation. A report to the commission detailing the changes at the college is due in March.

Without accreditation, CCSF would lose access to federal funding, grants and federal student aid, likely causing it to close. As a precaution, it must prepare a plan to ensure that students who remain enrolled there can transfer to other institutions in the event of its closure.

The commission’s decision is expected by June.

CCSF’s diffuse governance structure also was called out in a September report from the state’s Fiscal Crisis and Management Assistance Team, which performed an independent review of the school’s finances. That report said CCSF’s administrative structure makes managing programs and class schedules difficult because there is little accountability.

“This has led to a weakened and ineffective management role in the administration of the instructional program,” the report stated.

The agency recommended specific changes to eliminate redundancy and strengthen the roles of deans.

Interim Chancellor Thelma Scott-Skillman said the forthcoming changes will do just that by giving deans a greater role in managing classes, schedules and support services for students.

“This is a revision of what currently exists,” Scott-Skillman said. “To ensure as comprehensive of a curriculum as possible for the entire institution, there’s a great deal of cohesion that has to take place.”

The changes will be made by the 2013-14 fiscal year beginning in July. Positions for deans will be advertised soon, and qualifying applicants within the college are welcome to apply. The deans, in turn, will report to a new associate vice chancellor of enrollment.

Most departments in the new structure will keep their chairs, Scott-Skillman said, but those with one or no full-time faculty members will be re-evaluated.

“Depending on a variety of different elements, we will determine whether a department will have a chair assigned to them,” she said. “Some departments will have chairs and some will not. All departments will be reporting directly to the dean.”

The school’s board of trustees approved a new structure in September. In October, a draft plan was released and discussed, but met with mounting opposition.

Darlene Alioto, president of the Department Chairperson Council and longtime chairwoman of the Social Sciences Department, said the changes will compromise the integrity of each department.

“If you don’t know my subject matter, you can’t do my job,” Alioto said. “There’s no one out there that can supervise many different departments and do everything associated with it: scheduling classes, day-to-day meeting with students, facilitating student-faculty compatibilities, going to the community as liaison and fundraiser.”

Department chairs are also important because they follow the pulse of what’s going on, she said.

“We have one foot in the classroom,” Alioto said. “We’re a supervisory unit, but not administration.”
CCSF currently employs 61 department chairs. The final number of those who will remain after these reforms is still unknown.

But in the meantime, the changes have mobilized many faculty members. Dozens of chairs and faculty members have organized protests and testified in front of the board of trustees.

Math Department Chairman Dennis Piontkowski told the board in October that his peers understand the need for change, but did not agree with the way the proposal was presented.

“The proposal being put forward will be unnecessarily harmful to student success and leave instructors and programs with almost no guidance support,” he said.

Karen Saginor, president of the Academic Senate, said the changes should have been discussed first with the people they affect most.

“Our concern is, if you’re going to do this, who will continue with all those things that made CCSF programs such a success?” Saginor asked. “It really is about making sure we can help students succeed by continuing to have a strong, robust program that interconnects to the community. It’s really about serving community and students.”

Saginor said the new plan has no benefit other than clarifying responsibilities. She said the chairs have come up with their own way to save costs “without demolishing the whole system.” That plan, though, has not been shared.

But Scott-Skillman said the college has no time to waste with its very life on the line.

“We have three months,” she said. “There are a heck of a lot of people out here working their butts off so this college can address the accreditation standards, and there are camps of individuals making it difficult, but not insurmountable.”

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