By Joshua Pechthalt
A guiding principle in our democracy is that the people govern by electing their representatives to office, whether it's the president of the 7th grade homeroom, local school board, mayor, president of the country or any other elected office. The American Revolution of 1776 cast aside the authority of a monarchy to govern and put that power in the hands of the people, however incomplete it was at that time.
Yet the authority of the people of San Francisco to determine the direction of their only community college by electing their 7 representatives to the Board of Trustees has been taken from them with little opposition from our elected leaders in Sacramento.
In July of 2013, over the vehement objections of the California Federation of Teachers and others, the California Community College Board of Governors and its Chancellor Brice Harris replaced City College of San Francisco’s Board of Trustees with a “Special Trustee with Extraordinary Powers.” The state took this extreme and unwarranted measure after the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC) moved to revoke City College’s accreditation. A trial is ongoing to reverse that decision.
The actions of the state’s community college Board of Governor’s were not warranted and flies in the face of what it means to live in a democracy.
If the people of San Francisco are dissatisfied with their elected Board of Trustees, they can vote them out of office or recall them. Terrible and sometimes incompetent leaders get elected all the time. But the authority of elected leaders to govern is not contingent upon some higher body making that determination. It rests with the people.
We were encouraged when the Community College Board of Governors heard our concerns this past summer and promised to address the issue at its next meeting this coming Monday. They agreed to bring a plan to restore City College’s Board of Trustees. Unfortunately, word has it that they are proposing that the San Francisco Board of Trustees not be fully reinstated until 2016.
That’s simply not good enough.
The Board of Governors’ should act to immediately reinstate City College of San Francisco’s Board of Trustees. The people of San Francisco have not waived their rights to citizenship and voting and its past time to return their authority to determine the fate of their community college. To paraphrase a TV detective of the 1970s, “its democracy baby!”