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On July 3rd, 2013 another chapter in the saga of the future of City College of San Francisco (CCSF) took an unexpected turn when the accreditation committee, Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC), revealed its decision to pull accreditation for CCSF after the finish of this academic year.

CCSF has been engaged in a year-long process, attempting to fix issues that ACCJC laid down last year as conditions for the college to keep its academic standing. Rather than taking the improvements made thus far as a sign of the future health of the institution ACCJC decided, instead, to pull the college's accreditation, which would end the ability of the college to offer degrees, transfer credits or accept state funding - affecting 85,000 students.

The ACCJC itself stated that the threat to shutter CCSF was not at all based on the academic performance of the college, but detailed several issues that it had with the governance of the school - such as its decisions to run with fewer administrative staff, its desire to keep cuts in education as far from the classroom as possible and its opting to run with lower monetary reserves.

City College of San Francisco is not taking these results meekly, the college has until the end of this month to lodge an appeal against the ACCJC panel's decision, and in the meantime it is also pursuing legal avenues against the accreditation entity.

The official complaint, filed by the California Federation Teachers (CFT) jointly with American Federation of Teachers local 2121 (AFT 2121) against ACCJC, has reached nearly 300 pages. The commission initially rejected these findings with a dismissive seven page letter in response, but have been compelled by the U.S. Department of Education to give serious reconsideration to the complaint and compose a response that gives the findings their due weight, finding their first response insufficient.

A teach-in, Wednesday evening at CCSF's Mission Campus, organized by Save CCSF, featured a presentation delivered by former CFT President Marty Hittelman, who has been a bellwether for exposing the out-of-compliance practices of ACCJC. Hittelman's detailed report last year, entitled "ACCJC Gone Wild", outlines the problematic features of the process of accreditation, fostered directly by the secretive institutional philosophy which the process embraces. It was in this document that Hittelman leveled the observation that "The ACCJC has become a rogue accrediting body."

At the center of the controversy is the nature of the relationship the private agency has with the public colleges under its influence. Accrediting companies are paid fees to assess the status of academic institutions and are supposed to comply with the education codes.  ACCJC has garnered complaints about its practices in the past, most remarkably when it yanked the accreditation of Compton Community College in 2006. Many other community colleges have come to the realization that ACCJC has sanctioned nearly half of the community colleges in California, which is unusually aggressive.

Hittelman relayed his experiences with ACCJC's accreditation panels, which he stated are made up of "failed administrators" of community colleges themselves. Barbara Beno, the president of ACCJC was once president of Vista Community College in Oakland and was forced to leave the district in 2000. Hittelman said that the agency has created a "reign of terror" in California, with community college faculty and staff now in fear of speaking against the ACCJC out of trepidation that their own college will face sanctions in retaliation for the criticism, likening it to his experiences with the Red Scare among academia in the 1950's.

Hittelman's presentation concluded with his recommendations that the CCSF community keep up the fight with their three-pronged strategy, 1) continued union legal work, 2) broadening campus coalitions, 3) expanding street heat efforts by Save CCSF. He noted that Beno dangled the possibility in statements reported in Huffington Post that the panel's decision might not be irreversible. Hittelman attributed this rare public shift to the all-out efforts of the school's community to keep pressure and scrutiny on the agency.

Break-out sessions, brainstorming for future actions, and public comment on the nature of this crisis finalized the agenda for the evening. Shanell Williams, CCSF's Ocean Campus Associated Student President, Alissa Messer, President of AFT 2121, and Alyssa Picard, field organizer for AFT, all took suggestions from the participants of the teach-in and also offered some concrete options for future actions.

Joe Berry, founder of the Coalition of Contingent Academic Labor, offered this succinct observation of the way forward for CCSF to battle forced closure by those who would remove the strongest institutions of education in the U.S., "We are the Chicago of higher education, we have to be the Chicago teachers' union" in our resistance.

Photo: Marty Hittelman and Alissa Messer, President of AFT 2121, standing in front of a reproduction of Diego Rivera's mural "Pan-American Unity Mural." Michelle Kern/PW

PS: Please sign petition to Save CCSF

via People's World

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Comment Preferences

  •  Since I moved from San Francisco (0+ / 0-)

    to Sonoma Co. five years ago I haven't really kept a close eye on this. Obviously money is part of the problem.

  •  CCSF is essential for affordable education (4+ / 0-)

    in the oh-so-costly city of San Francisco.  

    I've taken everything there from graduate literature courses (with professors who taught better than many at elite institutions I've attended) to floristry training.  

    CCSF deserves public support and MUST continue.

    "The extinction of the human race will come from its inability to EMOTIONALLY comprehend the exponential function." -- Edward Teller

    by lgmcp on Fri Jul 12, 2013 at 01:50:03 PM PDT

  •  I attended classes there many years ago (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Rosicrucian, homo neurotic

    Back in the 70s I took two years of classes here.  I loved the school.  

    If you want to know the real answer: Just ask a Mom.

    by tacklelady on Fri Jul 12, 2013 at 01:54:12 PM PDT

  •  From what I understand, 94% of CCSF's (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    FG, Simplify

    revenue goes to salary and benefits compared to 83% for other community colleges in CA.  That's money that isn't going to maintenance and And that's after a $79 per parcel tax to benefit the college was passed last year.

    This sounds like a case of severe mismanagement.  Colleges like any other institution need to have sound financial practices and CCSF is no exception.  

    "Those who have wrought great changes in the world never succeeded by gaining over chiefs; but always by exciting the multitude." - Martin Van Buren

    by puakev on Fri Jul 12, 2013 at 02:02:15 PM PDT

    •  The impression I get is that (0+ / 0-)

      there is pressure to force staff cutbacks and/or salary reductions. It looks like they brought out the heavy artillery.

    •  To be fair (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      in these times of incredibly harsh funding cutbacks and uncertain funding streams, deferring maintenance and maintaining staff is not per se a poor decision. I am not familiar with the nuts and bolts of their budget myself.

      Remember, schools across California have been finding out what their funding will be only after the academic year is half gone for the past few years.

      The bigger concern for me would be the deficit spending and low reserves.

      Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

      by elfling on Fri Jul 12, 2013 at 02:24:56 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Since that report last year, a wage cut was (0+ / 0-)

      instituted.  ACCJC is still revoking the accreditation of CCSF after a year of the college making improvements.

      ACCJC was recommending the hiring of several administrators, not a move that usually saves money.  

      AFT 2121 made a budget proposal in the Spring:

      The District went with their own proposal:

      The District’s tentative budget

      *cuts faculty (and administrative) salaries by 5% even though revenues are now back to pre-recession levels;

      *sets aside $2 million to restore classified positions and other “priorities” with no mention of faculty needs;

      *overreaches by putting $6.3 million into reserves.

      •  111 of 112 community colleges in CA (0+ / 0-)

        have met the accreditation standards.

        In 2006 CCSF was asked to address 8 recommendations; as of last year, 5 were partially met, the others not met at all.  They were then given 14 recommendations to meet; as of today just two were met.

        I once attended CCSF so this really breaks my heart.  But it seems that they have truly fucked themselves over here through gross mismanagement and don't have anyone to blame but themselves.

        Again, 111 of the 112 community colleges in California seem able to meet the accreditation standards.  Only CCSF seems unable to.  That would indicate to me that the problem lies with CCSF itself.

        "Those who have wrought great changes in the world never succeeded by gaining over chiefs; but always by exciting the multitude." - Martin Van Buren

        by puakev on Fri Jul 12, 2013 at 03:42:36 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Hittelman's report addresses this (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          ACCJC has several colleges on warning statuses all over the state of CA.  

          "Twenty eight colleges were on sanction as of January 2012.

          In February 2012, the ACCJC summarized
          the types of “deficiencies” that “caused” the Commission to impose a sanction of Warning, Probation
          or Show Cause.

          The vast majority of reasons dealt with the adequacy of procedures, reviews of programs, services,
          and operations as well as whether the college adequately used assessment tools such as student
          learning outcomes in the evaluation of faculty. Sanctions were rarely, if ever, based on the actual
          quality and adequacy of instruction received by students. The focus of the Commission has been,
          instead, on the gathering of data."  

          There are other documents linked in the articles to break down why this is not a problem isolated to CCSF.  

  •  I guess fixing some of the issues is not on the (0+ / 0-)

    list. I'm not a fan of administrators but 39 administrators for 90k students and 2700 other employees is a ridiculously low level. That said, I've heard that professors at CCSF are very good.

    •  CCSF has addressed several of the issues (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      FG, sfbob

      since the "show cause" sanction last year.  That is why the decision to revoke accreditation was unexpected.  

      "Faculty members have pointed fingers at California's regional accrediting commission since last July, when it placed City College on its most severe sanction, "show cause," and gave the college eight months to show why it should remain accredited. Since then, the college has worked hard to address 14 major deficiencies, mostly in governance and finance, that have led to layoffs and bitter labor negotiations.

      The accrediting commission will issue its verdict in late June or early July. If accreditation is revoked, City College would be forced to close.

      In their complaint, the faculty unions say the "show cause" sanction was illegal in the first place."

  •  The issue is all about money (4+ / 0-)

    not about the provided education.

    IMHO, they made some questionable choices in the last few years in terms of assuming that the voters would come through with more funds - but they did win those bets.

    I'm not entirely convinced the the accreditation board truly has the best interests of the students and the community at heart, though, either.

    This site is a good place to go to read more about the issue:

    There are quite a few articles over the past few years.

    Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

    by elfling on Fri Jul 12, 2013 at 02:21:57 PM PDT

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