The collapse of blue California is picking up speed. California’s largest college, which enrolls 90,000 students, faces closure within a year unless the school can essentially reinvent itself. Bad administration, wasteful personnel spending, poor organization, a lack of strategic vision and a series of budget cuts as the state of California frantically hacks at its own budget deficit have brought City College of San Francisco to the brink.As the Mercury News reports, the college has been ordered to prepare for closure by next March even as administrators and politicians search for ways to keep the school open.Threatening to pull the plug is the state’s accrediting commission that supervises junior and community colleges. Without major reform, the commission says, the College will lose its accreditation in March of 2013 and without accreditation it would lose access to the state funding that keeps it alive.
In a written response to the commission’s findings, interim Chancellor Pamila Fisher said the school is “fully aware of the seriousness of the situation.”“The ultimate responsibility rests with the trustees, administration, faculty and staff to reinvent City College so that it can continue to achieve its important mission, but in a more cost-effective and efficient way,” she told the [San Francisco] Chronicle.
How exactly the school got itself into so much trouble is hard to figure out. It appears that both the administration and the board were incompetent and out of their depth; there are reports that board members (who get paid) were often no-shows at meetings. 92 percent of the total income was spent on personnel expenses; programs don’t seem to be well thought out and no overall strategy or shaping vision guided a school in which, apparently, the inmates took over the asylum and ran it into the ground.The enrollment in the sprawling entity, which includes degree programs at the junior college level as well as night school and adult education and enrichment classes, includes more than a tenth of the population of San Francisco.The travails of the City College of San Francisco are a special case, and don’t really reflect the problems of higher ed nationwide. As a junior college, CCSF is part of the healthiest and most cost-efficient sector in the higher ed system. (Community or junior colleges tend to have lower costs and less overhead than research universities.)But CCSF’s problems point to an important local failure: deep blue San Francisco is not doing a good job at helping low income people. The noble rhetoric about justice and compassion that liberal politicians so eloquently express doesn’t seem matched by particularly inspiring results. To let the community college that offers low income people their most hopeful route of escape from the poverty trap fall into ruin is not the mark of a compassionate or justice seeking political movement.America’s cities are often run by center-left or in some cases frankly-left politicians in hock to powerful urban machines. Compassion for the poor and social justice are the chief rhetorical mainstays of their political discourse. But too many of the institutions they actually run — public housing projects, school systems, welfare bureaucracies — devastate the poor because of bad management, crony appointments and corrupt practices.One of these days, America will have a president who takes poverty seriously. That president, and governors who think the same way, will sic prosecutors on these corrupt urban machines and the vampire-like patronage networks that feed off the poor, and put a lot of bad people in jail. They will pay particular attention to the deep and hidden links between these corrupt entities as the Wall Street interests who work hand in glove with them.But, to quote the son of Arathorn, today is not that day. For American law enforcement, the corruption that blights our cities is at most a secondary issue. Via Meadia hopes that someday that will change.