City College of San Francisco Board Votes To Save Cantonese Classes

Cantonese courses have been popular despite risks of being eliminated due to budget cuts.

City College of San Francisco marquee
City College of San Francisco marquee. Alex Mullaney/Ingleside Light
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Efforts to maintain the Cantonese courses available at City College of San Francisco were successful after the college’s Board of Trustees last week voted in favor of a resolution that directs the chancellor to look into creating a certificate or degree program and to work with four-year universities to ensure the courses are transferable.

Dozens of current and former students, residents and individuals from different work professions, called to give public comment at the special trustees meeting Thursday on the importance of keeping the Cantonese classes available for the public. Over the years, the courses have been popular despite risks of being eliminated due to budget cuts, said Trustee Alan Wong, who authored the resolution.

“Since fall 2019, our Cantonese classes have all been over 100 percent full. They’ve been full beyond capacity,” Wong said.

Two courses offered in the last semester were also full as well. The one course offered this spring is full too.

As the colleges focus on courses that lead students to certificates or degrees, creating a certificate or degree program and by allowing the courses to be transferable to a four-year university would help save the courses and not be on the chopping block during the next budget talks, Wong said.

Wong shared his own personal story of when an elderly Chinese woman with a purple bruise near her eye stopped Wong for help at a local hospital. Wong said she was punched by a person on a Muni bus and was unable to communicate with hospital staff and asked him to help interpret for her.

“For me, ensuring that we have a strong and robust Cantonese program is not just about protecting Chinese culture and language in history, but also ensuring that we can train and support the next generation of public safety healthcare and social workers to serve our community,” Wong said.

Many others called into the meeting to share their personal stories of encounters with monolingual individuals who only spoke Cantonese, a dialect of the Chinese language.

CCSF student Brent Locke said he took Cantonese in order to better communicate with his 92-year-old mother.

“She was thrilled I was taking Cantonese and thrived on helping me with my classwork,” Locke said. “She helped me right up to the end.”

Locke said his mother died on Dec. 15 on the day he was taking his final exam for the course.

“These memories have been enough incentive for me to continue to take cantonese, even after her passing,” he said.

Victoria Eng said she was inspired to take the Cantonese course after being asked directions at Golden Gate Park from an elderly woman. Eng said she understood enough of what the woman was saying, but could not give her the directions. After taking the courses, Eng said it changed her life and allowed for her to connect to her family and neighborhood.

“I think that’s so powerful and I think it would make a great difference in the city if we could keep these classes,” Eng said.

Chancellor David Martin said at the meeting that the resolution was “wonderfully written” and that he will work with faculty, the college’s Academic Senate and transfer partners in finding ways to grow Cantonese classes and programs.

“We can start that process here at City College and I am fortunate to be in a position to help move this forward.”

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