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Bad Press Nets Needed Maintenance At CCSF

Holding a Board of Trustees meeting in a room with no heat apparently gets the maintenance money moving. At least, that’s what happened earlier this month at the City College of San Francisco.

Reportedly, boilers on the Mission, John Adams, and Ocean campuses have been broken for as much as two to three years. Boiler failures have meant that teachers have conducted classes in (literally) near-freezing temperatures.

To dramatic effect, one CCSF instructor passed out hand-warmers to the Board as it attempted to conduct a meeting in the same environment that teachers must hold classes. The instructor says the CCSF administration gave her handwarmers when she complained about the lack of heat in her classroom. Additionally, other instructors say that the space heaters the administration provided are either too small to be effective or they overtax the electrical system in the classrooms.

No one could explain why the heat problems have gone unrepaired. To no one’s surprise, the Board of Trustees at City College of San Francisco announced that they had approved the use of $2.6M to repair boilers on three of the institution’s campuses. Currently, the temperature in the college’s classrooms range from 42°F to 55°F. The repairs are supposed to be complete by this summer.

The fact that the faculty and students had to host a demonstration for the benefit of the Trustees may come as a surprise. Area voters authorized an $845M bond issue in 2020 specifically to construct and repair the college’s buildings. All the money has been spoken for, and of course, none of it was allocated for maintenance of the campus boilers. During the meeting, Board Chair Alan Wong promised to hold the CCSF administration and the Board itself accountable for the heat problem.

Oversight and maintenance are not major priorities

There are two things that have caught my attention here. First, the Board has not been providing oversight of the Administration as it is supposed to. If the Board were functional, the heat in campus buildings would be on. Period. And something as important as boiler maintenance would have been prioritized in the list of projects that the voters paid for in the 2020 bond request.

Second, it is clearly more important to the Administration to build new than it is to provide maintenance for what they already have. No higher education administrator should be permitted to create more of what it already refuses to take care of. Higher education facilities are too damned expensive to allow them to rot for lack of basic maintenance on systems like heat and proper electrical service.

This is why community college Boards must adopt and enforce asset protection clauses as a condition of employment for the college President. Putting that person’s job on the line every single day may be the only way to emphasize the importance of prioritizing the care and maintenance of the facilities.

Photo Credit: Charles Hackley , via Flickr