Unions Voice Concern Over City College’s Future After Restoration Status Granted by Accrediting Commission

Unions and officials expressed concern today that City College of San Francisco’s future remains threatened despite an announcement by the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges allowing the college two more years to fight for its accreditation.

City College faculty members and the California Federation of Teachers, which represents educators across the state, expressed distaste for the ACCJC’s announcement that it has granted CCSF restoration status, arguing that the status will do more harm than good.

The California Federation of Teachers called the ACCJC’s actions in sanctioning CCSF and pulling its accreditation in the first place, “arbitrary, inconsistent and illegal.” The union said that the commission has left CCSF without any right of appeal or review, allowing the college to be shut down unless it reaches full compliance with all requirements, yet allowing other colleges to remain open if they meet only “substantial compliance” standards.

Tim Killikelly, president of CCSF’s faculty union, AFT Local 2121, said the restoration is “deceptive” and that it is granted in order to deflect attention away from the commission’s questionable practices.

“It is a ticking time bomb for CCSF, not a real solution to the problems the ACCJC has created for us and our thousands of students,” Killikelly said.

The announcement by the western regional branch of the ACCJC today granting restoration status to City College comes more than two years after the commission initially placed the college on “show cause” status and later planned to terminate its accreditation, citing issues with the school’s finances and governance structures.

The announcement by the Novato-based commission comes just prior to a judge’s expected ruling in a civil lawsuit filed by City Attorney Dennis Herrera against the ACCJC, alleging that the commission violated the state’s Unfair Competition Law and unfairly sought to remove the college’s accreditation.

The restoration status, which is effective immediately, is the result of a newly created process that allows CCSF to remain accredited and provides the college with two years to come into full compliance with the ACCJC’s eligibility requirements, accreditation standards and commission policies, according to commission president Barbara Beno.

Among other claims, the lawsuit against the ACCJC contends the commission had a conflict of interest because Beno’s husband, a dean at Laney College in Oakland, served on an evaluation committee; that the committee had too few academic members; and that the commission failed to give the college adequate notice and opportunity to respond to the alleged deficiencies.

Deputy City Attorney Sara Eisenberg contended in the closing arguments of the trial that the restoration process is not a fair remedy because there is no appeal after the final outcome of that effort and because successful restoration would require 100 percent compliance with all standards, instead of the “substantial compliance” normally expected of community colleges.

Instead, Eisenberg stated that City College’s accreditation process should be restarted.

According to a statement released by the ACCJC today, the commission said, “the College, assuming a concerted and good faith effort, has the ability to resolve these issues within the two-year period.”

Until then, CCSF will need to come into compliance with all accreditation requirements, Beno said.

In 2017, the commission will review the college, according to the ACCJC.

The commission said the college’s accreditation is being challenged after the college failed to address requirements first identified by the ACCJC in 2006.

In 2013, the ACCJC planned to terminate CCSF’s accreditation, but the termination was suspended and the college remained open because Judge Curtis Karnow issued a preliminary injunction keeping the accreditation in place pending a resolution to the lawsuit filed by the city attorney.

Judge Karnow has said he plans to issue his decision sometime this month as a proposed ruling, after which both sides will have 15 days to respond and suggest changes.

The judge is then expected to issue a final decision. That ruling can be appealed to the state Court of Appeal and Supreme Court.

City College Chancellor Dr. Art Tyler did not criticize today’s announcement by the commission. Instead, he said the college’s restoration status affirms the progress made by faculty, staff, students and administrators.

“We had mountains to move and we moved them,” Tyler said, adding that he believes the college will continue to improve and serve thousands of future students.

Hannah Albarazi, Bay City News

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