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Marchers decry state of City College Civic Center campus

Students and teachers at City College’s Civic Center Campus rallied Thursday on the steps of San Francisco City Hall to demand a place in area to hold classes and the quick retrofit of the shuttered campus building.

City College officials waited until Jan. 9, three days before the semester was scheduled to begin, to tell students and faculty the campus was closing for earthquake retrofitting. Marchers say the abrupt closure has forced some students to drop out of college altogether and has placed a burden on others.

Civic Center students now must go to either the Chinatown campus or the Mission campus to take classes. “It gets shut down with no notice to them,” said Alan D’Souza, vice president of the American Federation of Teachers Local 2121 and a librarian at City College.

Former assemblyman and City College of San Francisco instructor Tom Ammiano asked:

“How did this happen? Where is the mayor’s office on this?”

The mayor’s office didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment, but CCSF spokesman Jeff Hamilton acknowledged the execution of the closure was not ideal. “We are sorry about that,” he said of the short time frame.

Hamilton said college officials are in complete agreement with satisfying both demands of the marchers and officials are pretty close to having it done. Supervisor Eric Mar told those at the rally the abrupt closure was a “slap in the face” and Supervisor David Campos said college officials closed the campus without any community input, a statement echoed by others.

Campos, Mar and Supervisor Jane Kim will be holding a hearing on the matter, but a date has not been set, Mar’s office said. City College ESL instructor Diane Wallis said since the closure of the Civic Center campus the number of students in her classes has dropped from 25 or 30 to five or six. “It’s really had an impact,” Wallis said.

Student Fei Jiang, who was taking English classes at the Civic Center campus before the closure, said the Chinatown campus, where she is taking classes now, is further from her home and does not have a place to eat or even a microwave. Two parents she knows haven’t been coming to classes because the Mission and the Chinatown campuses are too far away for them.

Lead organizer for the Chinese Progressive Association Emily Lee said, “City College is a ladder to a better life.” The CPA advocates for immigrant families.

One example is Ligia Montano. Montano was an immigrant from Nicaragua who knew no English before coming to the United States. After attending City College’s Civic Center campus, she earned a bachelor’s and master’s degrees at San Francisco State University. She is the health care organizing director at Senior & Disability Action in San Francisco.

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