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Consolidating College Diversity Departments? CA Austerity Measures Attempt to Silence Those Who Critique Them

Students in California take to the streets to protest against an education run like a business.
 
 
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Shanell Williams speaks at a rally to save the diversity departments at City College of San Francisco.

 

When Edgar Torres attended City College of San Francisco decades ago, he saw, for the first time, a Latino professor standing up in front of the class. Torres thought, “What are you doing here? You’re not supposed to be teaching.”

That instructor “planted the seed” in Torres that made him believe he could teach, too.

“Before, it was a foreign concept,” Torres said to a group of students, faculty and community members at a rally on Thursday to protest the consolidation of the departments at the college that teach about diversity. “The diversity departments are critical for student success because it allows certain students who come in who are at-risk, to dream about things they never thought was possible.”

CCSF, the nation’s largest community college, has seen more than $50 million in cuts from the state in the last three years. Now, an accreditation commission has threatened to remove accreditation from the college, citing an insufficient funding base, if it does not come up with a plan to cut spending that meets the commission’s liking. Without accreditation, CCSF would lose federal funding and ultimately be forced to close its doors to its 90,000 students.

In response, the trustees have continued with austerity measures to eliminate more than 50 of CCSF's 61 faculty elected department chairs, while installing new, top-down deans. This would result in the consolidation of the African American Studies, Asian American Studies, Interdisciplinary Studies, Labor and Community Studies, LGBT Studies, Philippine Studies and Women’s Studies departments. This all comes despite Election Day's passage of Proposition A, an annual parcel tax that will raise more than $10 million for CCSF annually.

But they won’t be consolidated without a fight.

Speakers at the rally spoke passionately about how important diversity departments are for growth, college retention and developing socially conscious students.

Juan Santamaria, who cohosted the rally, said that taking classes in Latin American and Latino Studies helped him find his passion, and inspired him to take part in movements like this. He said, “These diversity departments are not only a way for students to get to know where they come from, but they also are a gateway for them to be more politically involved.”

Ironically, with this consolidation of the diversity departments, it seems as though the privatization and austerity measures are seeking to weaken the areas of study that nurture the students who are most likely to question these types of measures.

In an amazing display, students from all over California attended the rally at CCSF as well as another action that took place earlier that morning at the University of California, San Francisco to protest the UC Regents meeting and its plans to possibly raise tuition and fees while imposing austerity measures despite the recent passage of Proposition 30. The propostition raises taxes on the wealthy as well as the sales tax in order to generate more than $6 billion in revenue. In addition, a new report released by sociology graduate students this week revealed that some of the regents have ties to Wall Street and their decision to make debt swap deals has cost the UC system $57 million — with $200 million more anticipated in losses.

UC Irvine student Marah Stevenson traveled eight hours to picket outside the UC Regents meeting with about 50 other students, some of whom camped out overnight on the campus.

“If you want to fight against a system, you need a lot of people,” she said. “So by coming out here and putting up our signs, having one extra person every time makes a difference.”