The City College of San Francisco, the largest college in California with 90,000 students, appears to be on the brink of closing. California’s Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges put it on probation and gave it just eight months to demonstrate why it should stay in business. Without accreditation, City College will be ineligible for public funding, which provides the bulk of revenues for the college’s $190 million annual budget.
One of City College’s problems, according to the accrediting commission, is that the sprawling institution has too few administrators–just 39–supervising 1800 faculty members on 200 campuses, including nine main campuses plus dozens of neighborhood centers scattered throughout the city. But the real problem may be this: Why is San Francisco, a city with 805,000 residents, operating a 90,000-student college? The math means that nearly one out of every nine San Franciscans is taking at least one course at City College (though some City College students probably live outside San Francisco).
While the commission did not find fault with the quality of instruction, its report noted that faculty was stretched thin trying to teach too many different things and couldn’t assess how much students were learning. The hugely varied student body includes young people looking for vocational training or hoping to transfer to a four-year institution, plus older people enjoying “lifelong learning” and immigrants simply trying to learn English. The report noted, for example, that a City College program in airplane repair at the San Francisco International Airport employs only one full-time instructor and one part-timer–something to think about for anyone flying in or out of San Francisco. A culinary-arts program has no way of tracking how many of its graduates got jobs at restaurants–and thus whether its instruction was actually useful. The course catalogue typically lists dozens of classes that never materialize either because the classes are under-enrolled or because City College can’t pay for them.
Right now, city officials are hoping to save City College by imposing a city-wide $79-per-parcel property tax assessment. But the problem with City College isn’t a shortage of administrators or money. It’s too many students, too many programs, too many courses, too many locations. My suggestion: Shut down about 198 of those campuses and centers, pare down the student body, and then focus on a reformed curriculum.
Writing in the Chronicle of Higher Education on July 4 (“Who Gets to Define Ethnic Studies?”), Kenneth P. Monteiro, dean of the College of Ethnic Studies at San Francisco State, criticizes what he calls “a piece of legislative hubris from Arizona that purports to ban ethnic studies in public schools.”
Monteiro was referring to Arizona House Bill 2281, passed in May, a month after Arizona’s controversial immigration legislation. It prohibits school districts or charter schools in the state from offering any classes that
1. Promote the overthrow of the united states government.
2. Promote resentment toward a race or class of people.
3. Are designed primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic group.
4. Advocate ethnic solidarity instead of the treatment of pupils as individuals.
Continue reading Ethnic Studies: ”White Studies” in Black and Brown?
While this year has become best known as the fortieth anniversary of Woodstock, it was also forty years ago that the first African-American Studies department was established, at San Francisco State University.
Forty-one fall semesters later, there are hundreds of such departments. Has what they teach evolved with the march of time? What should the mission of a truly modern African-American Studies department be?
The answer common in such departments is that the principal mission is to teach students about the eternal power of racism past and present. Certainly it should be part of a liberal arts education to learn that racism is more than face-to-face abuse, and that social inequality is endemic to American society. However, too often the curriculum of African-American Studies departments gives the impression that racism and disadvantage are the most important things to note and study about being black.
Continue reading What African-American Studies Could Be