Saving CCSF: Judge To Hear Bids To Keep Accreditation-Challenged College In Business Today

A San Francisco Superior Court judge is due to hear arguments Thursday on two separate bids for preliminary injunctions blocking City College of San Francisco’s loss of accreditation.

The two injunction requests were submitted by City Attorney Dennis Herrera and by the California Federation of Teachers and its affiliate, American Federation of Teachers Local 212l.

Superior Court Judge Curtis Karnow will hear arguments on the motions at the court’s Civic Center Courthouse at 400 McAllister St. at 9 a.m. Thursday.

If it is not blocked, the loss of accreditation ordered by the Novato-based western regional branch of the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges will occur on July 31, 2014.

Herrera, acting on behalf of the people of California, and the union, which represents nearly 1,500 faculty members at the college, filed lawsuits in August and September to challenge the commission’s decision.

The two lawsuits have been designated as related and both assigned to Karnow, but they are proceeding separately.

In a brief filed in support of a preliminary injunction, city lawyers argued, “Loss of accreditation is effectively a death sentence for an institution because it renders the institution ineligible for federal funds.

“And when a local community college closes, it has devastating consequences not only on the college itself, but on students, employees and the community at large,” the attorneys said.

The lawsuits contend the commission’s procedures violated the California’s Unfair Competition Law, which bans unfair business practices, in several ways.

Among other claims, they say the commission was biased against the college’s mission of “open access” to the community and engaged in apparent or actual conflicts of interest when commission President Barbara Beno appointed her husband and a commission vice president to evaluation teams.

They also allege the evaluation teams were too heavily weighted with administrators and lacked adequate representation by professors.

When the commission announced its decision last July, it cited alleged problems at the college with financial accountability, institutional governance and compliance with accrediting standards for instructional programs and student support services.

The college was “significantly out of compliance” with accrediting standards, commission lawyers said in a filing earlier this month opposing a preliminary injunction.

The lawsuits are “unnecessarily interfering with ongoing administrative proceedings involving complex federal regulations,” commission attorneys wrote.

Herrera told the court that the college’s enrollment, which previously numbered more than 80,000 students, has already declined significantly because of the threatened loss of accreditation.

But the commission argued in its brief that the college has had a steady decline of enrollment since 2009 and that the cause could be any of several factors, including increases in tuition and fees and reductions in state funding.

If granted in either or both lawsuits, a preliminary injunction would remain in effect until a full trial is held on the claims.

A third lawsuit was filed against the commission in November by the Save CCSF Coalition, a group of faculty, students and staff, but that group has not yet filed any motions, according to the court’s docket.

In another proceeding outside of court, the college has asked the commission for an internal administrative review of the decision to revoke accreditation.

Julia Cheever, Bay City News

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