City College special trustee restores public comments, meetings

City College student Otto Pippenger is held by police at a City College protest against Special Trustee Robert Agrella.
Screengrab of video by Peter Menchini

Protests against City College of San Francisco's leadership trumpeted grave concerns in the college community over the lack of public voice at the school. Now, some of those concerns have been resolved, and the beleagured CCSF is taking baby steps towards restoring democracy.

Special Trustee Robert Agrella announced via mass email today the return of public comment to City College board meetings, and, well, actual meetings. Local college officials praised the move as a step in the right direction.

"Perhaps the restoration of some level of openness will make people feel their voices are being heard," said Fred Teti, the college's Academic Senate president. The school's senate only yesterday passed a resolution urging Agrella to restore public comment, Teti said, and with good reason.

Though the mention of board meetings may be elicit a shrug or a snooze for some, for City College students the right to speak out publicly to school leaders was important enough to be jailed over. Only last month, hundreds of student and faculty protesters stormed the school's administrative building, and in the violent clash with SFPD and City College Police, one student was pepper-sprayed and another punched in the face.

Both were jailed afterward, and one of the students said all he wanted was a dialogue.

"We just want to have a conversation with Bob Agrella," Dimitrious Phillou said in a video interview with the college's newspaper, The Guardsman. "It'd be nice if he would talk to us, like a real human."

And changes to City College are coming spitfire-fast. After they got word from their accreditors that they may close in July of this year, the school has scrambled to reshape classes offered at the school to meet the requirements, and vision, of their accreditors. Agrella was appointed by the state to take the place of the college's duly-elected Board of Trustees -- and therein lies the issue.

Not everyone agreed with the board, and many members through the years have been accused of laziness, incompetence, and worse. But at the very least, the college community had a monthly opportunity at public meetings to tell the board what was right and what was wrong, leading to many decisive turnarounds: budgets amended, classes saved, services restored or cut.

It was an imperfect process, but at least a forum existed to give the public the right to address their officials in full view of the public. Under Agrella, no such forum existed.

Student and faculty shout "let them speak!" at a City College board meeting.

When Agrella took over the powers of the board, the idea was to expedite decision-making in order to save the college. But this meant an end to the meetings. Though he posts the agendas for his decisions online, he held no public meetings, and only solicited "public comment" via email, which many rightly noted were not public at all.

"Apparently these meetings are happening in the special trustee's head," Alisa Messer, the City College faculty union president told the Guardian in our story, "Democracy for None [3/18]." "No one agrees that [email] comment is public."

That will change April 24. Agrella will hear public comments at 4pm at City College's main campus in the Multi Use Building, Room 140. Unlike meetings of City College's full board, Agrella's public comment session will not be televised or audio recorded. When we asked why, college spokesperson Peter Anning said he would look into it. 

Anning added that Agrella did issue one warning. "He was very clear that this was going to follow board policy which will require civil discourse," Anning said in a phone interview. "That’s been an experience in the past, where people have gotten belligerent. He said he won’t tolerate that." 

California Community College Chancellor's Office spokesperson Larry Kamer said Agrella's decision to restore public comment was a practical one.

"I think Bob is a problem solver, he’s a practical guy," Kamer said. "If there was concern and discontent about public comment, I think he just wanted to deal with it before it became a problem."

Messer applauded the decision as a step in the right direction, but cautioned that it was a small step in terms of restoring City College's democracy. 

"Of course, at any moment Dr. Agrella could -- and should -- restore actual board meetings," she told us. "He could even include the voice of the voters by convening our publicly elected Board of Trustees."

The Board of Supervisors unanimously passed a resolution last month urging Agrella to do exactly that. 

"The resolution sends a very clear message about the importance of restoring democratic decision making at City College,” Sup. David Campos told the SF Examiner.

But, as Teti told the Guardian, sometimes you need to recognize that victories come incrementally. 

Thinking Agrella would restore the Board of Trustees, video airing of public comment and full meetings all at once is perhaps a stretch, he said, "That's the pie in the sky idea."


Because the usual suspect extremists always show up, having nothing better to do with their time. And ordinary people with jobs and families, i.e. the silent majority, do not.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 17, 2014 @ 5:25 pm

And the news agencies are making it increasingly difficult to sign in.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 17, 2014 @ 7:32 pm

So I guess democracy is a waste of time.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 17, 2014 @ 8:54 pm

"Perhaps the restoration of some level of openness will make people feel their voices are being heard,"

Great, now a bunch of dim bulbs have a captured audience with which they can share the full breadth of their inexperience.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 17, 2014 @ 9:36 pm

I gave up trying to wake people up; being a Machiavelli type is the only way to live now. CCSF is so fucking corrupt like San Francisco, California and ALL politicians, teachers are just as corrupt feigning concern and the students are fucking drones, they got exactly what they voted in more police state bullshit. I love the picture how the pig aka cop is gingerly pushing down the student to his knees as if this makes it OK. What a fucking society we live in, where everyone is out for themselves. And CCSF is just a representation of America, brainwashed idiot Obama voters, who thought and think politicians, are different, but they bought it. And you still have people brainwashed, we live in an oligarchy. No one has rights for God’s sake you fucking idiots Snowden had to escape to Russia; if that does not tell you something about the police state nothing will wake you from the slumber. CCSF stole millions upon millions for buildings, and then cut classes, why? Because they gave out corrupt contracts to corrupt contractors, who hired illegals and then shafted tax payers, then like fucking vampires want more. And taxpayers give it to them. CCSF allows illegals to take spots from Americans all in the name of being magnanimous and benevolent, and give them a free ride while sticking to Americans. And, then give more spaces to foreign students because they pay more, and you all take it up the ass.
Then you have on campus every special interest group gay, lesbian, black, Asians etc. and you know what to me this is fine, no problem, but it becomes a problem when they allow every group BUT whites. See, unless you are on bended knee carrying the water for every race, and group BUT white males you are a racist. And today because most of these Obama voters are drones, they are more afraid of being called a racist than being called a murderer or rapist.
So, this is why I hope CCSF is not only closed but replaced with a dump. I have never had more hatred and disdain for a place, this is because it is wholly so fucking corrupt and out of control nothing short of a wrecking ball will make CCSF fair.
Fuck the liberal cunts and thugs from campus police to motherfucker teachers that populate this abhorrent cesspool of shit. Propaganda to get Obama elected, propaganda to hate white males, unless they are gay, hatred for Christians, hatred for anything and everything that made America great, not only supporting abortion, but applauding it, teachers that impose their liberal agenda, big brother IDs to do anything, is everyone on drugs? Are all these fucking sheeple brainwashed? I truly ‘am in the fucking Twilight Zone.
Black is white and white is black, right is wrong and wrong is right, evil is acceptable and good is punished.
CCSF has shiny new buildings, teachers have exorbitant pay, the campus hires everyone BUT straight white males, and of course straight white males are more than welcome to pay taxes and attend classes as long as they know their place. Keep your mouth shut, make no waves and comply.
Wake up, you are in a police state, wake the fuck up, no habeas corpus, no rights, anyone can be arrested for anything anytime, killed by drones, no trial, no nothing.
Justices of the Supreme Court can force you to buy anything and just call it a tax, no media, just sycophants, you think China is oppressive? Fuck wake the fuck up, this nation is the most corrupt nation on earth. Why, because like Hitler said bigger the lie the easy for people to believe. When you have a society so obsessed with porn celebrity, money, entertainment, and drugged, what have we become?
CCSF a place where the majority of students go to get free money, where CCSF coddles so-called minorities all in the name of being politically correct while they harass and run amok.
CCSF is just representation of the new Amerika (sic) a place where being on SOMA and agreeing that our leaders are double plus good is eco-friendly. As they inform us that choco-rations have gone up, and everyone cheers, even though I secretly cannot remember the last time I had chocolate.
I cannot cry anymore, I cannot cry for my nation anymore, I guess this is because I’m so scared, and I wonder if it would be better to be blissfully ignorant, and I cannot do it, no matter how painful I will go down fighting.

Posted by JOHN SMITH PATRIOT on Apr. 17, 2014 @ 10:48 pm


Posted by Guest on Apr. 18, 2014 @ 10:29 am

I kind of agree that public comment is a waste of time, but for a different reason--people on boards/commissions have probably already made up their minds and will do want they want to do regardless of the public comments received.

Public comment lets people blow off steam. If Special Trustee with Extraordinary Powers Agrella had been following the open meeting law, the police-student confrontation on 3/13/2014 might not have happened.

What's the law?
Education Code 72121: "all meetings of the governing board of any community college district shall be open to the public,"

Ed Code 72121.5: "It is the intent of the Legislature that members of the
public be able to place matters directly related to community college
district business on the agenda of community college district
governing board meetings, and that members of the public be able to
address the board regarding items on the agenda as such items are
taken up. Governing boards shall adopt reasonable regulations to
insure that this intent is carried out."

Posted by aj on Apr. 17, 2014 @ 11:13 pm

i was gonna post on this, untill i read JOHN SMITH PATRIOT's post which says it all and pretty much lays out what has and is goin down at city college.

Take back America from the corrupt politicians and the wealthy 1%er who own them!

Posted by sftparty on Apr. 21, 2014 @ 9:15 am

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