Student vigil takes aim at CCSF administration in wake of protest 

click to enlarge Otto Pippenger
  • jonah owen lamb/the s.f. examiner
  • Student Otto Pippenger suffered a black eye in last week’s protest at CCSF.

The tone at beleaguered City College of San Francisco on Thursday contrasted markedly with events on campus a week earlier when a clash between protesters and police ended in arrests and injuries.

Instead, students held a vigil Thursday and the school’s chancellor addressed some of their questions after announcing several steps to probe the causes of last week’s violence.

Fallout from the March 13 protest -- which was a rally asking for the school's special trustee to resign, reinstatement of the elected board and anger over new fee rules -- has included a call for pacifism on all sides, but questions remain about how events spiraled into violence.

What is clear is that the protest ended at CCSF’s administrative center, Conlan Hall, where campus police — and later reinforcements from the Police Department — tried to block students from entering the building. Whether protesters were the cause of the escalation by pushing their way into the building or police for overreacting is debatable.

Thursday’s student vigil outside of Conlan Hall, which was closed for a second time in a week for fear of escalating protests, pointed blame for the aggression partly at Chancellor Art Tyler and Special Trustee Robert Agrella.

“The fault of what happened last week lies with the administration,” said Save CCSF organizer and student Micheal Madden.

Otto Pippenger, whose black-and-blue left eye and wrist braces were physical reminders of last week’s protest, agreed with Madden. Pippenger and student Dimitrios Philliou, who was pepper-sprayed during the rally, were both arrested.

On Wednesday the two were set to be arraigned but the District Attorney’s Office filed no charges.

The administration did not face all criticism Thursday.

During a question-and-answer session at the Participatory Governance Council attended by Tyler, student Senator Carlos Martinez, who said he had been a protester against deportations, wondered why the marchers had seemed so unorganized.

“We don’t agree with this,” said Bouchra Simmons, a student member of the council, adding that the school is already under a microscope and violent protests won’t help.

But American Federation of Teachers 2121 President Alisa Messer placed blame on campus leaders for the recent events.

“This was an entirely avoidable situation and that is the outcome of the administration and a strong police overreaction,” she said.

In June, the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges voted to terminate CCSF’s accreditation, effective this coming July, unless the school comes into compliance with commission standards and eligibility requirements. The termination was not linked to academics.

However, in early January a judge granted a preliminary injunction in a civil case filed by the City Attorney’s Office that accused ACCJC of wrongdoing.

No final action on accreditation can be taken until the trial is completed. The school remains open and accredited, but losing accreditation would effectively force CCSF to close.

About The Author

Jonah Owen Lamb

Jonah Owen Lamb

Born and raised on a houseboat in Sausalito, Lamb has written for newspapers in New York City, Utah and the San Joaquin Valley. He was most recently an editor at the San Luis Obispo Tribune for nearly three years. He has written for The S.F. Examiner since 2013 and covers criminal justice and planning.
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