The City College of San Francisco (CCSF) has issued a formal public apology following its “improper” withdrawal of a Cantonese certificate program.
Background information: The program, a 16-unit Chinese Cantonese Certificate, was one of two learning pathways developed after a two-year, community-driven fight to save Cantonese instruction at the college due to budget cuts. It was set for a final review by the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office when the Curriculum Committee reverted it back to “draft status” on Nov. 23, 2022.
The surprise retraction sparked outrage in the Chinese community. City College Trustee Alan Wong, who was elected board president earlier this year and has been leading the effort to save the program, described the decision as “unjust,” “undemocratic” and “tone-deaf.”
What the college said: In its public apology dated July 10, CCSF acknowledged that the certificate program’s withdrawal was “improper.” City College trustees reportedly took “unanimous action” to support the program at a regular meeting of the Governing Board of the San Francisco Community College District in June.
“At the June 22, 2023, regular meeting of the governing board, the district’s legal counsel stated that the 16-unit Cantonese certificate was improperly withdrawn after governing board approval. The College and the Board would like to apologize to our community for any harm, confusion, or frustration this process may have caused,” the college said.
What’s next: While the college has apologized, the certificate program will remain excluded from the 2023-24 academic year as its records have already been deleted from the college curriculum management software following the retraction. The program will instead begin in 2024-25.
Wong notes that Cantonese is the most common language spoken by San Francisco’s Chinese population. Data from 2021 shows that of nearly 660,000 limited English proficient client interactions across city departments, 43.6% were in Cantonese. Cantonese is also the second-most requested translation for domestic violence calls after Spanish.
Wong said in a new statement:
This isn’t just about cultural or language preservation. It’s about the practical needs of the City’s large immigrant and senior Cantonese community to have equal access to healthcare, public safety, and social services. I am committed to ensuring that City College rectifies its past wrongs, rebuilds trust with our community, and moves forward with a Cantonese certificate in 2024-2025.
The other Cantonese language program — a nine-unit Conversational Cantonese Certificate — is slated to begin this year.