City College Vindicated by State

New Ruling Released

Illustration by Serina Mercado
Illustration by Serina Mercado

By Audrey Garces

The future of the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges remains uncertain after a state task force deemed the commission unfit to oversee California community colleges, reinforcing criticism surrounding the sanctions it has imposed on the majority of these schools.

The panel has advised State Chancellor Brice Harris to replace the accrediting commission with a new accrediting agency.

City College is still sanctioned under “show cause” by the commission until fall of next year, in which the school must show the agency they have reached financial and administrative standards in order to remain accredited. If accreditation is revoked at that point, City College will lose public funding and will have to shut down.

Task Force Raises Concerns

The state appointed a 10-member task force of City College leaders and faculty members to evaluate the accrediting commission after hearing concerns from college faculty, the California Federation of Teachers, politicians and the chancellor’s office, to name a few.

“We know City College is critically important to our city’s future.”

“Like most people, I too have lost confidence in the ACCJC to do its job holding colleges accountable,” Board of Trustees member Amy Bacharach said. “Although

I am a strong advocate for accrediting systems, and believe that institutions of higher education must be held to high standards, it was clear that the ACCJC did not operate in the best interests of the institutions it was supposed to be overseeing.”

In a 270-page report, the task force indicated the accrediting commission placed sanctions on 53 percent of California’s community colleges in 2005. In comparison, accreditation agencies serving other regions sanctioned only 12 percent on average.

The report also stated that the ideal accrediting commission would help to improve colleges, rather than strictly scrutinizing and threatening to revoke their accreditation.

“One of the main questions about ACCJC and the accreditation process is whether it is a collegial process intended to assist colleges in continuous improvement – or whether it is a punitive process run by an organization which regards itself as judge and jury,” ESL Department Chair Gregory Keech said.

A Brief History

The current accrediting com- mission has greatly criticized City College, but the commission itself has been facing backlash over the last couple years.

In 2014, the California State Auditor’s Office released a statement that outlined the commission’s lack of transparency, an inconsistent treatment of colleges and an unusually high sanction rate.

“Community college students throughout the state should not have to suffer the same uncertainty our own City College students had to endure for more than two years,” Mayor Ed Lee said.

In the People v. ACCJC earlier this year, Judge Karnow of the San Francisco Superior Court found the accrediting commission exhibited “significant unlawful practices” and broke four laws in its pursuit to discredit City College.

“San Franciscans deserve nothing less than a fully accredited and thriving City College – so our residents have access to critical education and workforce training to compete and succeed in the 21st century economy,” Board of Trustees member Alex Randolph said. “It is time to put our students first.”

Possibilities on the Horizon

The task force recommends replacing the accrediting commis- sion with the WASC Senior College and University Commission, which oversees accreditation for four-year universities in California. However, this turnover could take years for the U.S. Department of Education to sort out, leaving City College vulnerable to losing accreditation next fall.

“Community college students throughout the state should not have to suffer the same uncertainty our own City College students had to endure for more than two years,” Mayor Ed Lee said in an official statement on Aug. 28. “We know City College is critically important to our City’s future.”

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Send an email to: Audrey Garces

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