CCSF Officials Appeal Decision To Pull Accreditation, Shy Away From Pointing Out Knocks On Accrediting Board

City College of San Francisco officials on Monday submitted a formal request for review of a regional panel’s decision to revoke the school’s accreditation, but the request made no mention of recent criticism of the accreditors by the U.S. Department of Education.

The Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges announced last month that City College’s accreditation would end in July 2014 unless changes are made to the school’s governance structure and finances.

However, last week the Department of Education issued a letter finding fault with the ACCJC’s accrediting process for City College, citing vague instructions for compliance, a lack of faculty members on evaluation teams and a possible conflict of interest between the commission’s president and her husband, who was on an evaluation team.

Yet City College special trustee Robert Agrella said today that he decided not to include the federal criticism of the ACCJC in the school’s request for review because he did not want City College to take an adversarial role against the commission.

“By doing that we would be attacking the commission,” Agrella said. “That’s a call I made and we’re sticking with it.”

Agrella, who was appointed last month by California Community Colleges chancellor Brice Harris to oversee City College’s fight to maintain accreditation, expanded on his decision in an open letter posted on the school’s website on Monday.

Agrella wrote, “I strongly believe that the best path to maintaining CCSF’s accreditation is to follow the Commission’s rules, regulations, and directions and to continue to show substantial progress toward meeting the eligibility requirements and standards.”

He wrote, “If our review document joins the attack on the Commission, I believe that the review and appeals process will be unsuccessful. If this is the case, I also believe our timeframe for meeting the standards may be significantly shortened.”

Agrella said today that rather than have their timeframe shortened, his hope is that the 85,000-student school will be able to show enough progress that the commission could extend its accreditation deadline past its current date of July 31, 2014.

“I wouldn’t have taken this on if I didn’t truly think we would maintain our accreditation,” he said.

City College’s faculty union last week called on the ACCJC to reverse its decision to revoke the school’s accreditation in light of the Department of Education letter, but Agrella said that was highly unlikely.

Agrella, who spoke to reporters today at a panel convened in San Francisco by the group New America Media, said City College is continuing to address the commission’s recommendations during the review process. If the decision to revoke accreditation is upheld, the school plans to appeal.

Agrella said changes being made include redefining the roles of department chairs and deans and making sure the school maintains financial stability by placing at least 5 percent of its general fund in reserves.

“We want to put the pedal to the metal and work as hard as we possibly can,” he said.

The appointment of a special trustee temporarily removed any power from City College’s board of trustees, and Agrella said he does “not see a board coming back into the institution for some time to come,” with him or another special trustee likely overseeing the school for “several years.”

Agrella said City College also has to add details to a report outlining the school’s plans in the event that its accreditation is indeed revoked next year and the school has to close.

Among the options the school is looking at would be to lease space in its buildings to neighboring institutions to allow City College students to transfer there without having to commute to other destinations around the Bay Area, he said.

“It’s simply not possible to say every student at City College can just get in a car and go to another institution,” he said.

Meanwhile, City College students are holding a march and rally starting at 4 p.m. today to demand that Mayor Ed Lee help save the school from losing its accreditation.

The march, which begins at 4 p.m., will end at City Hall.

Dan McMenamin, Bay City News

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  • KPV

    The DOE’s assessment of ACCJC’s practices shouldn’t be seen as an “attack” even though it was in response to those who are hostile toward the ACCJC. The DOE is neutral here; they simply compared ACCJC’s actions to the DOE guidelines.

    ACCJC shortcomings seem like fair game because the the ACCJC by-laws make clear that appeals should be based on some flaw in the Commission’s evaluation (see below). The by-laws also allow for new financial evidence to be considered, but CCSF’s woes go beyond its balance sheet.

    I’m not in favor of throwing out the ACCJC’s entire assessment like some critics of the ACCJC. The College needs to be held accountable and it ought to meet the accreditation standards. (SF students deserve a stellar institution!) But given what’s at stake — the fate of the state’s largest community college — an overly polite and opaque process calls for further questions.

    For instance, has the Commission given Agrella some indication
    that they are open to a broader appeal, one where new or ongoing
    improvements can be considered?

    Article 9, Section 7. Grounds for Appeal
    The grounds for appeal shall be limited to the following: (1) there were errors or omissions in carrying out prescribed procedures on the part of the evaluation team and/or the Commission which materially affected the Commission’s action; (2) there was demonstrable bias or prejudice on the part of one or more members of the evaluation team or the Commission which materially affected the Commission’s action; (3) the evidence before the Commission prior to and on the date when it made the action which is being appealed was materially in error; or (4) the action of the Commission was not supported by substantial evidence. The “action” referred to in this Section refers to the Commission’s action at the conclusion of the Commission’s Review process.

    ACCJC By-laws: http://bit.ly/CommWASCbylaws

  • KPV

    The DOE’s assessment of ACCJC’s practices shouldn’t be seen as an “attack” even though it was in response to those who are hostile toward the ACCJC. The DOE is neutral here; they simply compared ACCJC’s actions to the DOE guidelines.

    ACCJC shortcomings seem like fair game because the the ACCJC by-laws make clear that appeals should be based on some flaw in the Commission’s evaluation (see below). The by-laws also allow for new financial evidence to be considered, but CCSF’s woes go beyond its balance sheet.

    I’m not in favor of throwing out the ACCJC’s entire assessment like some critics of the ACCJC. The College needs to be held accountable and it ought to meet the accreditation standards. (SF students deserve a stellar institution!) But given what’s at stake — the fate of the state’s largest community college — an overly polite and opaque process calls for further questions.

    For instance, has the Commission given Agrella some indication
    that they are open to a broader appeal, one where new or ongoing
    improvements can be considered?

    Article 9, Section 7. Grounds for Appeal
    The grounds for appeal shall be limited to the following: (1) there were errors or omissions in carrying out prescribed procedures on the part of the evaluation team and/or the Commission which materially affected the Commission’s action; (2) there was demonstrable bias or prejudice on the part of one or more members of the evaluation team or the Commission which materially affected the Commission’s action; (3) the evidence before the Commission prior to and on the date when it made the action which is being appealed was materially in error; or (4) the action of the Commission was not supported by substantial evidence. The “action” referred to in this Section refers to the Commission’s action at the conclusion of the Commission’s Review process.

    ACCJC By-laws: http://bit.ly/CommWASCbylaws

  • Karl Young

    CCSF undoubtedly needs to improve on a lot of problematic practices that have been pointed out. But that doesn’t change the fact that the ACCJC has clearly shown itself to be incompetent and incapable of performing the task that it was organized to perform. Given that, it should be immediately relieved of it’s responsibilities, it’s current processes terminated, and a competent organization, that understands something about education, be retained to re-evaluate the current situation and make recommendations on how to proceed.

  • Karl Young

    CCSF undoubtedly needs to improve on a lot of problematic practices that have been pointed out. But that doesn’t change the fact that the ACCJC has clearly shown itself to be incompetent and incapable of performing the task that it was organized to perform. Given that, it should be immediately relieved of it’s responsibilities, it’s current processes terminated, and a competent organization, that understands something about education, be retained to re-evaluate the current situation and make recommendations on how to proceed.