Growing Criticism of Community College Accrediting Commission

By Helena Worthen and Joe Berry

The Accrediting Commission of Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC), which has decided to terminate the accreditation of City College of San Francisco next July, is now itself either under review or the direct target of six different local, state or federal actions.

Dennis Herrera

Dennis Herrera

For City College, the loss of accreditation would mean loss of access to local, state and federal funds, which would effectively shut the college down.

Locally, San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera has filed two lawsuits, one an injunction to keep the commission from carrying out the termination.

Herrera’s press release alleges political bias on the part of the ACCJC, unfair and unlawful business practices, and “retaliation for advocating the open access mission” of the California Community Colleges.

A second lawsuit charges that the Board of Governors of the California Community College “impermissibly delegated its statutory obligation” to regulate and evaluate community colleges to a “wholly unaccountable private entity.”

On Aug. 22, the SFCC District, the college’s administrative unit under Super-Trustee Bob Agrella, filed a request with the commission for a review of its decision. The specifics of this request have not been released, as the ACCJC has decided that all items submitted to it are confidential.

That same night, 26 students from the Coalition to Save City College were arrested for trespassing when they conducted a sit-in at Mayor Lee’s office demanding that the Mayor support the fight for CCSF against the ACCJC. Their court date will be Sept. 23.

At the state level, Senators Jim Beall, D-San Jose, and Jim Nielsen, R-Gerber, co-chairs of the Joint Legislative Audit Committee, directed the Bureau of State Audits to investigate the ACCJC, looking at the cost of accreditation and the impact of the ACCJC on the students and the people of the State of California.

This audit will result in a report with recommendations, and may take seven or eight months to complete.

In the meantime, the State Chancellor’s Office, at the request of a number of community colleges, formed an Accreditation Task Force to study the relationship between the ACCJC and the California Community Colleges generally.

This Task Force was formed last December, after the ACCJC’s “show cause” letter of July 2012. It will also result in a report.

On the federal level, the US Department of Education, following a complaint filed last April by the California Federation of Teachers, sent a letter to the ACCJC on August 13 charging ACCJC with lack of sufficient faculty representation on the accrediting team, conflicts of interest, and lack of due process.

In this letter the Department of Education said, “The ACCJC must take immediate steps to correct the areas of non-compliance identified in this letter” and made reference to the upcoming evaluation of the ACCJC by the D of E later this year.

No one at the ACCJC offices would answer questions about any of these matters.

Helena Worthen and Joe Berry can be reached at Worthenberry@yahoo.com.

Courtesy of the San Francisco Post, August 30, 2013 (www.postnewsgroup.com)