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City College Of San Francisco Budget Meeting Spurs Protests, Threats Of Bankruptcy

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A Board of Trustees meeting at City College of San Francisco turned heated when dozens of protesting students stormed the room, calling for the board's resignation and opposing a move to assign a special trustee from the state to oversee the school's troubled finances.

The meeting was intended to address the community college's budget crisis and impending closure.

"No cuts, no fees, education should be free," and "we don't want austerity, no to the special trustee," students chanted, according to The Examiner. They cited fears that the school would go private, which could result in soaring costs.

With a student population of 86,000, CCSF is the largest public school in California. But after a review by the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges revealed a financial crisis and "leadership weakness at all levels," the school now faces loss of accreditation, closure and possible bankruptcy. CCSF has until October 15 to submit a plan of action, and until March to save the school.

If the board hadn't voted in favor, the state chancellor's office would have appointed one.

The Examiner reported:

A special trustee can be voluntarily requested or forced upon an institution. In a state-imposed model, the trustee would replace the local governing board as the decision-making authority. However, the voluntary placement approved Tuesday allows the board to retain control while the special trustee offers guidance.

“If we don’t take this action ourselves, someone will take it for us,” said Trustee Natalie Berg, who voted with the majority. “It’s important we take this action and that we stand up for what we need to do.”

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, protesters were unmoved.

"We want our college to remain democratic," said Associated Students of City College President Shanell Williams during the meeting. "If they can do this to us, they can do it across America."

CCSF's severe financial troubles came to light in July after the review discovered that 92 percent of the college's spending goes towards salaries and benefits.

The report concluded that the school lacks a sustainable funding plan. "The remaining eight percent is simply not adequate for all other operations and maintenance," it stated.

"[CCSF has] always paid its instructors well. It has always put teaching and student services at the top of the list of priorities," said CCSF's consultant and spokesman Larry Kamer to California Watch. "There are a couple issues that we'll have to look at, though, including how generous we can be moving forward."

The state's community college system chancellor Jack Scott was straightforward with the Chronicle about the seriousness of the situation, warning that "all hell would break loose" if trustees did not take necessary austerity measures.

"City College has done some wonderful things," he said. "But they have significant deficiencies that could actually lead to bankruptcy."

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that City College of San Francisco is a university. The school is actually a community college.

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Filed by Robin Wilkey