Board reverses layoffs of three staff members after community outrage

Screen+grab+from+the+April+1+Board+of+Trustees+special+meeting%2C+where+the+board+unanimously+voted+to+rescind+its+decision+to+layoff+three+classified+employees.+The+board%27s+decision+at+its+Feb.+25+meeting+was+met+with+much+criticism+from+the+campus+community%2C+which+spoke+out+against+the+layoffs.

Screen grab from the April 1 Board of Trustees special meeting, where the board unanimously voted to rescind its decision to layoff three classified employees. The board’s decision at its Feb. 25 meeting was met with much criticism from the campus community, which spoke out against the layoffs.

Ryan P. Cruz, Editor-in-Chief

The City College Board of Trustees unanimously voted to rescind its decision to lay off three classified employees at a special meeting Thursday after facing scrutiny from staff, faculty and community members throughout the month of March.

The layoffs were approved on Feb. 25, and the decision was the focus of criticism from the campus community at the board’s March 11 meeting, where public comment was packed with concerned community members questioning both the action and the process of approving the move in a closed session.

“The board made a decision in closed session, we thought it was an appropriate decision,” said Board of Trustees President Peter Haslund. “We discovered later that we made a mistake.”

Superintendent-President Utpal Goswami said that the college would work out alternatives to layoffs, allowing the three employees to keep their pay and benefits.

“I think we can work out the transfers and assignments without having to go with this process,” Goswami said.

The three positions in question—a warehouse assistant, an international outreach and admissions tech and an administrative assistant—were also listed on the agenda under a new resolution which would “reduce” each position, effectively eliminating them, starting June 30.

The board decided to remove this item from the agenda, after Goswami said a conversation with California School Employee Association (CSEA) chapter representatives led him to seek alternative means to reducing payroll expenses.

“I want to thank Dr. Goswami for letting us know he’s willing to work with us and trust us to find another solution instead of layoffs,” Auchincloss said.

Many supporters of classified staff signed into the meeting to give public comment, but after Goswami announced the item was removed from the agenda and the layoffs were to be rescinded, the tone of the public comment turned to appreciation to the board.

Liz Auchincloss, City College’s CSEA chapter president said her comment “changed dramatically” in the hour before the meeting, and like many of the other speakers, yielded her time after praising Goswami and the board for working with classified staff to make adjustments.

“I want to thank Dr. Goswami for letting us know he’s willing to work with us and trust us to find another solution instead of layoffs,” Auchincloss said.

Trustee Veronica Gallardo provided some background context on the board’s original closed session decision, and said the layoffs were made after discussion with legal counsel.

“The college has always been supportive of our classified staff,” Gallardo said.

She said that rescinding the layoffs was “the right thing to do,” and City College is in a position to keep its employees working through the pandemic as a public institution—something many businesses in the private sector have struggled with in the past year.

“Reassigning people allows them to still get a paycheck, and to keep their health insurance,” Gallardo said.

Trustees Jonathan Abboud and Anna Everett also spoke in support of the rescission.

Everett said she was happy to see there will be more collaboration in decision making, and acknowledged the “improved morale” of employees giving comments at the meeting.

“That really touched me,” Everett said.

The board will reconvene on April 22.