The battle for City College’s accreditation continues in San Francisco Superior Court

Judge Curtis Karnow listens intensely to testimony during a preliminary hearing on Sept. 10 regarding a lawsuit that challenges the ACCJC's decision to revoke City College's accreditation. (Photo by Khaled Sayed)
Judge Curtis Karnow listens intensely to testimony during a preliminary hearing on Sept. 10 regarding a lawsuit that challenges the ACCJC’s decision to revoke City College’s accreditation. (Photo by Khaled Sayed)

By Santiago Mejia

The Guardsman

Judge Curtis Karnow has yet to make a decision in City Attorney Dennis Herrera’s lawsuit against the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges following a Sept. 10 hearing at Superior Court.

Karnow heard cross-motions for summary adjudication in front of an audience of approximately 100 City College supporters that nearly filled all courtroom seats.

City Attorney Dennis Herrera, representing the People of California, filed the lawsuit in Aug. 2013. Herrera claimed that the commission unlawfully decided to terminate City College’s accreditation.

Andrew Sclar, an attorney who represented the commission, denied all claims and said the case had no merit.

During the hearing, Karnow could’ve made an early ruling which would eliminate the need of a trial, instead he said he’d release a statement in a few days.

“I’m trying to figure out what evidence the People are relying on,” Karnow said.

During press time, The Guardsman contacted the San Francisco Superior Court for the statement. An official said Karnow has yet to release his statement.

If Karnow denies both motions for summary adjudication, both parties will battle it out in a juryless Oct. 27 trial where a judge will decide the fate of City College.

In the lawsuit, Herrera claimed that the commission violated California law under Business & Professions Code Section 17200 when the commission allegedly denied City College an opportunity to respond to all of the commission’s claims of the college failing to meet accreditation standards.

Karnow filed an injunction earlier this year preventing the commission from terminating City College’s accreditation pending the outcome of the trial.

Herrera also claimed that the commission was involved in multiple conflicts of interest, one allegedly being the commission president’s husband and his involvement in a March 2012 evaluation team that was in charge of evaluating the college’s progress and sending recommendations to the commission.

At the hearing, Deputy City Attorney Tom Lakritz mentioned a letter from the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) that was sent last year to the commission’s president.

In the letter, the DOE stated the commission failed to follow its own policy of “minimizing relationships that might bias deliberation, decisions or action(s).” The DOE also found a commission staff member on the April 2013 evaluation team and said it creates an appearance of conflict of interest.

The commission’s policy states it will “include educators, academics, administrators and members of the public on evaluation teams.”

The DOE noted that the evaluation teams sent to City College included a “large number of administrators in comparison to the number of faculty members” and that the commission does not state in its policy that its own members could serve on evaluation teams.

Sclar said that if the court found the commission in violation of 17200, nothing would change in City College’s accreditation status.

“Accreditation is not property,” Sclar said. Under 17200, the remedy is to restore money or property taken.

Sclar wanted to dismiss the case because City College has applied for restoration status, a new policy approved by the DOE that would extend the college’s accreditation for two years as it continues to improve and meet the commission’s accreditation standards.

A team appointed by the commission is scheduled to process City College’s application and notify the college of the commission’s decision in January 2015.

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