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San Francisco | Education & Student Activism

Save SF City College movement – Interview with Professor Bob Price
by Rubble
Sunday Mar 9th, 2014 1:22 PM
Listen to a half hour interview with Dr. Price on various aspects of the movement to save City College from excessive downsizing and possible closure. The movement appears to be focused right now on at least 3 lawsuits aimed to curb the power of the corrupt capitalist oversight board ACCJC, and internal staff, faculty, and student actions aimed at reasonably complying with the draconian, destructive demands of the so-called “audit”. From my perspective, while the board is shown as a “rogue” entity, out of control, the actions are actually fitting precisely with national and worldwide corporatization and downsizing of the higher education system. None of this is – as always characterized in media - an individual issue with one college, but rather an overt attack on the State Community College system in coordination with parallel national downsizing/privatization issues.
(30 minutes)
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Dr. Price is a long-time City College chemistry professor and involved in many political struggles. I prompt the discussion around a few contentious issues. I prompt him towards straight discussion on the corrupt, disingenuous nature of this entire process and real motivations behind it.

Dr. Price explains how none of the audit issues have remotely anything to do with quality of education. While considered by many a “rogue” board with its own agenda, the overriding set of authoritarian actions against City College fit in quite nicely with the regressive sets of goals of Federal level Obama Administration educational policy. Several touched on are downsizing, privatization, and corporatization. The restructuring is resulting in private sector profiteers running the system directly, with a very limited focus toward fast-tracked Associate Degree and maybe certification programs in a few fields which supply corporations with free and cheap workers.

The audit demands and structural changes already put into place to accomplish these aims also fit overall system maneuvers to continue excessive profiteering for the top 1%, achieved by downsizing everyone and everything else involved in the system. Downsizing staff size, compensation, autonomy, and quality of teaching is a main objective. Additionally a climate in which official university bodies can’t even meet an a retaliatory criticism-free zone. I’ve read direct quotes in the newspapers from ACCJC spokes people and lawyers justifying these standards, along with insistence that the courts keep related parties, the general public, and local, state and federal government silent to maintain

The goal is to provide minimal, at will lower-paid lecturers teaching to rote, federally developed course syllabuses in private corporations. Students limited to fast-track two year full-time technical degree candidates, virtually all forced to go into Federal student loan and family debt for a chance to “compete” for an increasingly narrow set of adequate jobs. Students proceeding slower will be flagged for punitive threat to speed up or leave, per unilateral focus on speed of graduation rate.
No unions or staff involvement in school policy. No student involvement in any type of school policy. Especially no student, staff, or worker activism allowed. Private administrators rule with an iron hand. No programs for any of the diverse sets of individuals who use the school for a variety of positive community based aims. As example, downsizing and erosion of federally-mandated disability rights and the programs that facilitate them including rights to go at individualized pace with individualized student programs and counseling assistance.

Elimination of non-degreed programs for groups such as elderly, people in extreme poverty with
social service needs including transportation assistance. Empowering non-corporate alternatives such as gender studies, ethnic studies, arts and media, language and cultural classes, and physical education – all currently utilized actively – eliminated as too costly and non-essential.
Another group caught in the crossfire are students who are working towards a degree on a part-time and casual basis while working and otherwise supporting themselves and family without debt or overwhelm. Very low income people cannot afford to go into debt for a small “chance to compete”. The set of problems probably goes on and on…

Dr. Price speaks articulately and in some detail about some of these overriding issues. He discusses union problems and a current, very controversial internal quieting of direct action activism.
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Hear audio from a save city college rally back in July 2013. Activists gathered on a Friday afternoon in the Financial District, took over most of a whole block between Market and Mission St. Students, teachers and other workers, union reps, and others speak out strongly against the actions against the college. (22 minutes)

Things seem quiet around this issue now. After a burst of internal and external activism. Three lawsuits were filed to stop the unilateral decision to shut down City College over a myriad of “audit violations” having nothing to do with educational standards, stacked arbitrarily to be impossible to implement and also to force gutting of educational and worker standards or else. A court mandated that no action be taken until completion of the audit, and City College administration continues to work feverishly on further compliance. The school is spending money on a push to inform students it intends to continue, with enrollment and state funding forced downward and new and prospective students unclear on their future.

Significant debates have gone on about the usefulness of activism. Some in institutional positions and union employees worried it is creating counterproductive diversions. More knowledgeable activists urge more actions, knowing that the regressive ACCJC actions serve counterproductive privatization and corporatized downsizing favored by the power elite.