Category Archives: Faculty

A grieving college

Last Thursday I watched my colleagues in grief.

It was a professional development day, so classes were cancelled. Instead, there was an excellent schedule of events, including a brilliant keynote speaker, a thoughtful collection of workshops, and division and department meetings. It had the potential to be a day of growth and community.

But somewhere around the middle of the workshop I attended, I realized that I was watching my colleagues express all the stages of grief. I heard denial. I saw anger. I observed bargaining and depression. Occasionally, I even glimpsed a little acceptance.  Different people were at different stages, but all the stages were present. And for the rest of the day, in formal meetings and in conversations in halls and offices, I spotted more and more examples of grief.

Compassion for my college and my colleagues came along with the recognition of the pain I was witnessing.  And then I realized that they were grieving the loss of business as usual.

Under the pressures of the threat of losing accreditation, a new administration, decreased enrollment, new state regulations governing course repeatability, and a somewhat improved job market (which typically reduces demand for classes in community college), City College is experiencing more significant change than it has seen since at least the 1980s. Any change is hard and big changes are harder, so the grief is understandable.

But consider that for decades the college has essentially operated the same, with small tweaks here and there – sometimes improvements, sometimes not. The college’s enrollment management systems and business practices were decades old. The governance system and power dynamics – both formal and informal – have evolved to protect the status quo, to protect under-filled classes, outdated courses, and stale practices.

Of course, many, perhaps most of my colleagues are dedicated, hard-working professionals who put their students first and who innovate and evolve their practices to meet the changing needs of our students. And not all change is good. But the fact remains that my colleagues and I have become comfortable with an institution that is in many ways great, but also has many ways to improve — not least of which is to close achievement gaps at the college that are, if anything, widening.

I have compassion for all people in pain. I also recognize that some pain is constructive. Some pain is part of a necessary process to heal a wounded college. Hopefully, last Thursday’s communal display of grief was a step toward working through pain toward acceptance and a stronger institution in the future.


Day On 3 — November 27

WE ARE CCSF welcomes everyone who wants to REPAIR REBUILD RESTORE our college by focusing on positive solutions.

Wednesday, Nov. 27th, 9:30 AM – 1:30 PM

begins at 9 AM

Meet in front of the bookstore.

We are coming together to take concrete steps to address $1 billion in deferred maintenance at CCSF. Please join WE ARE CCSF, student athletes, and the Mayor’s Office as we roll up our sleeves and get to work:

  • Recycling & Composting
  • Litter Cleanup
  • Landscaping & Planting
  • Weed Pulling
  • Window Washing
  • Pruning & Raking

We are CCSF

Day On II at CCSF — Another Success

Saturday’s “Day On” at CCSF saw another 60 WeAreCCSF volunteers working to make sure City College stays open and in San Francisco for years to come. Together the alliance (Community, Classified, Students and Faculty) washed windows, pulled weeds, and picked up trash and recycling.

And it was great to be joined by CCSF administrators: new Chancellor Arthur Tyler; new Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs Susan Lamb; and newly appointed Dean of Student Affairs Samuel Santos. All three put their gloves on and worked with the rest of us.

The event saw expanded news coverage, including ABC 7, KRON 4, KTVU 2, KTSF 26, KPFA, The Guardsman (CCSF’s student paper) and Sing Tao Daily. Here’s a video of the KPFA piece:

Click here for more coverage.

Join WeAreCCSF for the next event — November 27, 10 AM – 1 PM — as we repair, rebuild, and restore City College.

Help Repair, Rebuild, and Restore CCSF


NOV. 2 10AM – 1PM



Join WE ARE CCSF (Community.Classified.Students.Faculty) and follow up the success of the first Day On.
Help repair, rebuild, and restore your college.



Work. Have fun. Join the WeAreCCSF community.


Check out the WeAreCCSF page:

Follow them on Twitter: @WeAreCCSF



Day On at CCSF

On a day when classes were cancelled and the campus was mostly deserted, more than 60 people arrived at City College of San Francisco’s Ocean campus at 10 AM on Friday. The event, organized by WeAreCCSF (Community, Classified, Students, Faculty), was the first of several to begin rebuilding the college for our community. Together, we picked up trash, pulled weeds, and inventoried the college’s computer equipment. It was one of my proudest days in more than ten years at the college.

2013-10-11 11.43.01

Community members, students, and college employees (both classified staff and faculty) worked side by side. Our goal was to put a small dent in the more than $1 billion deferred maintenance bill at the college, filling in temporarily until more workers can be hired for these jobs.

By the end of the day, the head of the college’s buildings and grounds thanked us, saying we’d done “at least a month of work.” The trash blowing around a windy campus is a perpetual problem, but college workers felt supported and appreciated and could look at what had been eyesore areas with renewed pride.

The aging computers at the college have to be inventoried before they can be replaced, so the computer inventory — now 85% complete — will benefit everyone at the college. The inventory can be finished quickly now that the amount of work is more manageable.

The mood was celebratory and positive. We laughed and joked while we worked. Students led chants as we moved from one job site to another. And at the end, we gathered in the cafeteria to eat and talk a little about the next day of working together.

Friday’s “Day On” was a small step toward repairing the broken parts of the college, rebuilding a positive culture , and restoring the community’s trust. I look forward to more days like it and to seeing more folks at the next one.

2013-10-11 12.06.36

CCSF Is Moving Forward on Accreditation

These days, CCSF is showing up in the news with more woes than wows. That’s about to change. This is the moment for us to look to the future.

While some folks are still nervous about our accreditation status, there is also anticipation of a new possibility ahead. Many of us see the new leadership and public attention as an opportunity for growth and innovation. Special Trustee Agrella is making critical money-saving choices, and Chancellor Brice is pushing us to strive toward excellence. By the way, yes, I have been accused of being a reckless optimist before, but I don’t care; I’m going there. I’m a believer. I believe we can make it happen—we can hold onto our accreditation, change and grow.

Every time I attend an Accreditation Committee meeting I hear a similar message. We’re moving forward. There are accountability structures in place. Someone is in charge of every standard CCSF was cited for on the ACCJC’s list. We have a new administration and leadership with a few key positions soon to be filled. Our new leadership is set to steer us in the right direction. Employees of the college will have the opportunity to meet our new leadership on September 17th for our next professional development event. The plan is to have a campus-wide vigorous discussion about accreditation. We have to educate ourselves and stay informed of the sweeping changes at our college if only to fight back the nausea that rises when we think of our beloved City College closing.

I find it inconceivable that our new administrators competed for their positions only to walk away after a few months of service. I believe they’ve signed on with us because they have a vision of where CCSF needs to go; they believe in us and have enough talent and skills to take us to a new level. They are delegating and collaborating with staff and faculty. They are working on meeting the standards—quickly. I’m not afraid of change, especially when it gives us a chance at surviving the worst possible outcome. I have no doubt that they want the college to remain accredited as much as we do.

Not surprisingly, our worries have become a national issue and concern. Many people are championing our cause. It’s wonderful that people care about us. I’d also like this energy to get directed toward the greater causes of underfunding in public education. As a great nation, we can afford to spend far less on the prison industrial complex and bloated military budget and far more on education, starting with preschool. We can’t expect to disinvest in our society’s public programs and infrastructure and have extraordinary outcomes. We must educate people in order to empower them with the resources to shape their own destinies. As a community college, our role as public servants must continue to be refined and strengthened if we are to remain relevant.

In terms of meeting the ACCJC’s standards, the good news is that most departments at CCSF are fully up to speed with SLOs and program review. All the other big stuff that we were cited for is going to rest on our new leadership. We have to trust that they’ve got it under control.

I, for one, am keeping those folks, and all of us, in my prayers. They are responsible and accountable for moving CCSF forward. I think we need to let go a little and let them do their jobs while we do ours. For those who really must know the fine details, the college is giving the play-by-play on our own accreditation action plan at Anyone can see who’s in charge of what. And, it gets updated regularly.

This is the moment for us to cast our gazes on the horizon of hope while taking careful steps to get there as a unified community.

Reflections for a new school year

With three days till the fall semester begins:

– I’m excited for the classes to begin. I have a good schedule with classes I enjoy teaching and a full complement of students.

– Despite a dramatic and crisis-filled summer at the college, I managed to carve out a good break from teaching. I had a little time with family and friends, and I also spent significant time breaking out the concrete in my backyard and building terraces for a new garden. It was incredibly satisfying work with results I wake up to every day.

– My nephew made a video about the number “6”:

Warms the heart of a math teacher uncle.

– I’m more and more encouraged by the number of my colleagues and students who contact me about what they can do to keep the college open.

– It’s hard for folks who don’t want to yell and protest to be heard amongst all the noise being made at and around the college. It’s the problem of being reasonable. Reasonable people don’t antagonize the people that make the decision about whether the college retains accreditation or not. Reasonable people note that everyone at the college has responsibility for how we got here and also for how we recover. Reasonable people articulate nuanced positions that don’t point fingers and suggest ways to improve the college. Reasonable people talk respectfully and usually at conversational levels.

– City College has a year to show it deserves to be accredited. I’m hopeful. Everyone, including the accrediting commission and the people who protest against them, wants City College to stay open and serve our community. All we have to do is give the commission a reason to keep us accredited.

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