City College hires gay interim chancellor

  • by John Ferrannini, Assistant Editor
  • Tuesday June 4, 2024
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City College of San Francisco interim Chancellor Mitchell Bailey. Photo: Courtesy Mitchell Bailey
City College of San Francisco interim Chancellor Mitchell Bailey. Photo: Courtesy Mitchell Bailey

The San Francisco Community College District Board of Trustees voted 4-1 May 30 to approve Mitchell Bailey as the first gay man to lead City College of San Francisco.

Bailey, who was not at the meeting, started on the job the following day. He is serving as the interim chancellor of the only college in the district for one year, or until a permanent chancellor is chosen, according to the professional services agreement the board signed off on. His salary will be $330,000 a year.

"I am honored with the opportunity to support my community and serve CCSF's interim chancellor," Bailey stated. "I look forward to working with students, faculty, staff, the board of trustees, and our broader San Francisco community in aligning priorities and resources to keep the needs of students first. As a proud community college graduate, I appreciate the challenges faced by many students in balancing priorities and needing flexible educational opportunities. I want CCSF to be accessible and welcoming to every student and resident of our city."

As the Bay Area Reporter previously reported, board President Alan Wong negotiated a contract with Bailey after Chancellor David Martin announced last September he'd be departing at the end of the 2023-2024 academic year when his contract ends. Martin began his tenure less than three years ago.

Martin did not give a reason for his resignation, but layoffs and budget cuts in an attempt to achieve fiscal stability made him unpopular with parts of the faculty union, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. While the board was able to approve a balanced budget and set aside a 5% reserve, it faced harsh criticism from students and faculty over the cuts it made to do so. And it is already bracing for more fiscal challenges in coming years.

In January, the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges gave City College a warning that "the Commission requires the Governing Board consider the College's long-range fiscal implications when making financial decisions in order to assure financial stability." The college remains accredited, though it must prepare a report to detail how it will fix these issues.

Bailey, heretofore the owner of and principal consultant at San Francisco consulting firm MBailey Advisors LLC, had until 2022 been a vice chancellor and chief of staff to the chancellor at the San Mateo Community College District.

While Bailey would be the college's first gay male leader, he's not the first out interim chancellor. That distinction belongs to lesbian Susan Lamb, who was tapped for the position in 2015, as the B.A.R. reported.

Wong said he was "so excited about this historic moment and what this means for City College and the city's LGBT community," but not everyone at the meeting was so sanguine.

Trustee Aliya Chisti was the only member of the board to vote no.

"Unfortunately, I will not be supporting the contract tonight," she said. "This is not personal to Mr. Bailey, but I have overall concerns about the negotiation process and the short turnaround. I know we're facing time constraints, but that being said, with the salary amount being compensated I cannot support this contract."

Trustee Shanell Williams, a queer woman and past board president, called in during public comment. She was not physically present and did not vote during the roll-call.

"It's appalling to me, when this board has talked about the amount of salary for administrators, being fiscally responsible, and the administration making exorbitant amounts, [and] the fiscal state we're in, what is being offered," she said. "I am really disappointed, colleagues."

Williams said she felt Bailey's appointment being announced via a B.A.R. article — "media articles coming out of nowhere without full board approval" — was disrespectful.

"I just think there's a lack of transparency and respect for colleagues on this board," Williams continued. "This is an important role, and no disrespect for the incoming interim chancellor, I just think the process overall was a failed one."

Wong told the B.A.R., "It's unfortunate that Trustee Williams, who has not been at a board meeting since February 2024 and missed all the interviews and negotiation sessions for a new interim chancellor, parachuted into this meeting to not support Bailey."

Williams told the B.A.R. she spoke during public comment because she was "under the weather" and couldn't attend the meeting.

She said she had missed meetings recently, but added she feels Wong is singling out the attendance issue to "distract from his leadership failures."

"People get COVID, people get sick," she said. "He's failed in his role as president to keep us informed. It's just really sad he's going this route."

Williams said Wong "missed commencement last year" and "several key things" himself. While she told colleagues she will not seek reelection in November for another term on the college board, Williams feels Wong is upset she won't endorse him going forward.

In her view, Martin was "pushed out by the board majority" for his fiscal stances, was "bullied and humiliated," and that "I don't have capacity to support another [chancellor] search."

Wong stated in response that he did not miss commencement last year, and "gave a commencement welcome address during each of the last two commencements." He added that he has "not asked for nor do I want Trustee Williams' endorsement for November."

Bailey's salary of $330,000 places San Francisco Community College District ninth out of the 10 regional community college districts in terms of executive pay, ahead of the Marin Community College District, with a base executive salary of $286,000. The No. 1 base executive salary, with the Foothill-De Anza Community College District, is $448,047.

Board Vice President Anita Martinez, who voted yes, said before her vote, "I will be voting yes on this because if I voted no, we'd have to start all over, because there'd only be three yes votes. We don't have the time for that and we have to move to something more important — the search for a permanent chancellor."

Trustee Vick Van Chung, who is nonbinary and genderqueer, said that they hope people give Bailey a chance.

"This process for finding an interim has also not been easy, given the timeline we were on, but I hope this community lends the compassion to open yourself to the idea that we really tried the hardest to find the best candidate, and I think we did," they said.

Updated, 6/4/24: This article has been updated with comments from Trustee Shanell Williams and President Alan Wong.

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