I flipped through this morning's Chronicle to see how the paper would cover the big, impressive, loud march to save City College, but I must have missed it. Or maybe it wasn't there. Maybe a thousand people taking to the streets to tell the Department of Education that it needs to act to save one of the city's most important institutions isn't news.
Labor, of course, was out in force. But so were students and activists and a whole lot of people who are just pissed that an unelected, unaccountable agency can in effect shut down a school that serves 85,000 students -- and on an educational level, does it very well.
I ran into Alvin Ja, who was marching with crowd. A middle-aged UC Berkeley grad, he's been taking classes at City College for more than 25 years -- classes in Spanish, Japanese, geography, and more. The teaching, he told me, was universally excellent, at least as good if not better than what he found as an undergrad at Cal. And that, of course, is the larger point here: Whatever administrative issues the school has, it's doing a good job at education students.
John Rizzo, chair of the elected (but now powerless) Community College Board, told me that the decision by state officials to take over City College and appoint a special trustee to run it made no sense. "I've looked at the state law and what's required to take over a community college, and it's all about serious financial problems and malfeasance," he said. "Those are not the conditions at City College."
In fact, the school now has a healthy reserve and is financially stable, particularly since local voters approved a tax measure to shore up revenues.
The march demonstrated how much support City College has in San Francisco -- and now supporters need to think about what to do with that energy. There's a meeting tonight (Wednesday July 10) at the Mission Campus, 6 pm, and the Save City College Coalition has more details here. But as I watched all those people chanting out in front of the local offices of the Dept. of Education, I kept thinking: The next march needs to be somewhere else.
In fact, the people who need to feel the pressure are Rep. Nancy Pelosi and Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer.
If Pelosi picked up the phone and called Education Secretary Arne Duncan and told him that she would not tolerate this threatened shutdown of City College, we'd see immediate action. If Feinstein and Boxer got on the issue and put pressure on the administration, and explained how out of control the ACCJC is, the feds would pay attention.
But all we've gotten from our people in Washington is platitudes.
Now much more from the mayor, either. Sup. Jane Kim got a last-minute question in at Question Time and asked Mayor Lee what he was doing to save City College, and he gave a rambling answer saying he was working with everyone. Actually, he's been working with the state officials who just took power away from the elected local board.
My suggestion: Take all of this energy and use it to demand that Pelosi help out. She has spent much of her career building a national leadership position, but she still represents this city, and this is one of those times when the clout she's developed ought to be put to use on behalf of the people who put her in office.