newspaper articles and press releases and other sources
CFT Files Amended Lawsuit Against ACCJCHank Reichman / 8 hours agoIn the latest development in the ongoing struggle of faculty, students, and community members at City College of San Francisco (CCSF) and throughout the California community college system against the rogue accreditor, the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC), the California Federation of Teachers (CFT) yesterday (May 19) filed an amended complaint against the commission in California Superior Court. The following is the text of a media release from CFT:
Today the California Federation of Teachers (CFT) filed an amended complaint with Superior Court Judge Curtis Karnow against the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC). The complaint, delayed for more than two years by ACCJC legal maneuvers, alleges a broad array of violations of federal laws and regulations, as well as California common law fair procedure, by the Commission. The plaintiffs, in addition to CFT, include several local community college faculty unions, a number of individual faculty members and a student.
Find the complaint here.
Two years ago Judge Karnow, responding to a suit filed by San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera, found the ACCJC had violated four laws in its attempt to disaccredit City College of San Francisco. In the intervening time the agency has also been under scrutiny by the U.S. Department of Education, the state Joint Legislative Audit Committee, atask force formed by the State Chancellor of Community Colleges, and the California Community College Board of Governors. None of these studies and actions have turned out favorably for the ACCJC, but none have prevented the agency from continuing to violate fair and lawful accreditation policies.
The chief difference between the San Francisco City Attorney’s suit and the CFT’s—originally filed at the same time—is the wider breadth of the CFT complaint. Judge Karnow’s decision reflected the San Francisco violations, but did not examine many other problems the ACCJC has created for college districts across the state.
Said CFT president Joshua Pechthalt, “Despite the wide and growing consensus that the ACCJC no longer meets the needs of California’s community colleges, the agency continues to inflict damage on the ability of students to pursue accessible and affordable higher education, and on the ability of faculty and staff to deliver quality education. The ACCJC also harms taxpayers, whose money is wasted by the ACCJC’s unfair and illegal practices. It is past time for the ACCJC to be replaced by a responsible accreditor, and it is the intent of this lawsuit to spell out the reasons why.”
The plaintiffs allege that the ACCJC unlawfully and unfairly impinges on collective bargaining negotiations authorized by state law by demanding that colleges disregard their duty to negotiate over subjects such as wage increases and faculty working conditions. The amended lawsuit also asserts that ACCJC disregards due process rights of colleges, which are governed by California’s common law fair procedure doctrine. As a result, colleges are denied an opportunity to appeal sanctions and denied written findings of fact on decisions made by the ACCJC. The suit also alleges that because ACCJC has been delegated the job of accrediting California’s community colleges, it must comply with a California open meeting law, the Bagley-Keene Act, which requires transparency, including open hearings by private organizations delegated certain state functions.
Shannon Lienhart, president of the Palomar Faculty Federation and a plaintiff in the suit, said, “The ACCJC has no place in the collective bargaining of my college, and no legal standing to pressure the district over how much of a raise to offer faculty. Nonetheless, the district administration told us that it could not offer more than a 0.85% raise because, according to the ACCJC, to do so would jeopardize our accreditation status.”
“While the problems created by ACCJC in San Francisco might have been the worst, and are still reverberating in our student enrollment problems and college administration unfair labor practices, we are just the tip of the iceberg,” said Tim Killikelly, president of AFT 2121, the faculty union at City College of San Francisco. “This suit aims to insure that all colleges in the state are protected going forward from what happened to us.”
Jim Mahler, president of the CFT’s Community College Council, commented, “We are pursuing this law suit due to the continuing unrepentant attitudes and actions of this agency. It is noteworthy that the statewide association of Community College Presidents/Superintendents/Chancellors is seeking to reform the ACCJC and seek a new accreditor for our Community Colleges. But in the meantime damage continues to be done. We hope this suit helps accelerate our progress toward fair accreditation.”
Highlights of Article from SF Chronicle
Article from the Community College Council's Perspective regarding corporate interests in accreditation related activities. The slideshow itself appears under Reports on this site.
The latest from the court case against ACCJC
CCSF Faces Critical Accreditation Visit; ACCJC's Future in Doubt
BY HANK REICHMAN
From the Academe Blog
[This article has been edited to exclude mentions of efforts by CCSF faculty that are less related to the ACCJC efforts to remove accreditation.]
On Monday, October 10, the ongoing — indeed, seemingly interminable — battle to save the City College of San Francisco (CCSF) from losing its accreditation at the hands of the rogue Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC) will reach yet another critical turning point. On that day an ACCJC visiting team will come to CCSF. Its findings and recommendations will be critical in determining ACCJC's final decision on the two-year college's status, to be decided in January 2017.
Previously, under pressure from a court ruling, political leaders, and especially college faculty and students, ACCJC had placed the school in an unprecedented "Restoration Status." Under Restoration Status, which was created only for CCSF, the college must demonstrate "full compliance" with all accreditation standards, even as other colleges must demonstrate only "substantial compliance". There is also no appeal process available to CCSF under this new status. If the ACCJC decides to disaccredit CCSF, the only option open to the school will be to go to federal court and get an injunction to remain open. CCSF's Board of Trustees thus made a prudent decision to approve $250,000 to hire a law firm to prepare the college for this possibility.
The ACCJC has also changed its policy on visiting team accreditation status recommendations. The new policy is that the team will NOT make accreditation status recommendations, unlike under previous policies. The timing of this change, on the eve of the CCSF visit, is, according to AFT Local 2121, the CCSF faculty union, "both curious and frightening. As you may know the 2012 visiting team wanted to give City College of San Francisco Probation, not Show Cause, by a 14-0 vote. The ACCJC then decided to give CCSF Show Cause and the crisis began. The reason for this new policy according to ACCJC is to avoid any ‘perceived inconsistencies.' There will be no inconsistencies because the team will not even be asked."
Meanwhile efforts to revoke ACCJC's authority to serve as a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting agency continue, as do efforts by the California Community College system to seek an alternative to the ACCJC. As I reported previously, the California Federation of Teachers in August filed a substantive new complaint against the ACCJC, arguing that the accreditor of California's community colleges has failed so completely to fulfill its duties that the U.S. Department of Education should immediately "delist" it—that is, deny its renewal as an accreditor. The CFT was joined in the complaint by AFT 2121 and its parent organization, the American Federation of Teachers.
On September 9, San Francisco area members of Congress Nancy Pelosi, Jackie Speier, and Anna Eshoo wrote Secretary of Education John King "to urge the Department of Education to deny the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC) as a recognized accreditor, and to provide assistance to the California Community College (CCC) system -the largest higher education system in our country – as they transition to a new accreditor."
"City College of San Francisco (CCSF) is a cornerstone of the Bay Area's educational system," the congresswomen wrote.
Since ACCJC issued the Show Cause measure in 2012, the entire CCSF community, including the administration, trustees, faculty, students and community leaders, have rallied together to make the necessary and tough decisions to ensure the College remains open and accredited.
Unfortunately, ACCJC's unfair and opaque actions continue to plague CCSF and the CCC system. ACCJC has inconsistently applied accrediting standards and ignored federal regulations; has lost the support of California's chancellors, state officials and unions; and has been the subject of multiple lawsuits. Simply put: neither the Department nor NACIQI can justify the continued recognition of ACCJC as a quality, fair or reliable accreditor. . . .
Although the Education Department normally certifies accrediting agencies for five years, the ACCJC has been under review since December 2013 when National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity (NACIQI) hearings led to a January 2014 department decision to temporarily continue ACCJC's certification pending a compliance report due in one year on fifteen qualifying criteria. The ACCJC appealed two of these, which postponed application of the January 2014 decision for an additional year. Following additional NACIQI hearings in December 2015, attended by a powerful delegation of CCSF and other community college representatives (I reported on this meeting, which I attended, here), in March of this year the department gave ACCJC a six-month extension of its certification provided it comes into full compliance by October 10, ironically the same day as the commission team's visit to CCSF. A compliance report on seven criteria, excluding the two the ACCJC appealed, is due within thirty days of this date.
On September 22, Barbara Beno, the controversial president of ACCJC, announced that she would retire as of June 30, 2017. Although not a voting member of the commission, Beno has been a lightning rod for faculty and student anger over its handling of CCSF's accreditation troubles. As the San Francisco Chronicle put it, "she is widely regarded as a high inquisitor for California's 113 community colleges who wields strong influence over the 19 voting commissioners." But Beno will still be at the helm when CCSF's fate is decided.
In the Fall 2016 issue of FACCts, quarterly magazine of the Faculty Association for the California Community Colleges (FACCC), Richard Hansen, the association's treasurer who teaches mathematics at DeAnza College in the Bay Area, reported on the status of the community college system's efforts to develop "a new structure or agency for accreditation" of the state's community colleges. He began with a brief summary of the system's complaints about ACCJC:
Lack of collaborative interaction with the colleges and a shroud of secrecy surrounding all ACCJC activities have created what some critics call a "gotcha" approach to the accreditation process. Colleges under review are kept in the dark about expectations, and those on campus preparing for an accreditation review suffer extreme anxiety for fear that something might go wrong and result in a sanction. College representatives believe their jobs are on the line.
Self-studies are written without ACCJC guidelines and authors often resort to checking with recently accredited colleges to ask what is expected in each successive accreditation cycle. Once submitted, the ACCJC offers no feedback, preferring to use what is revealed in the self-study as hints at failings to be explored during the site visit and then exploited in the visiting team report. Ironically, the ultimate "gotcha" is often reserved for the Commission itself as there have been instances in which the Commission's decision on a college results in a sanction more severe than the visiting team recommendation, and Commission findings sometime raise issues not found in either the self-study or the report of the visiting team.
Hansen then reports in detail on the work of two workgroups formed by the state's community college board of governors and involving many of the colleges' chief executive officers (CEOs). Workgroup 1 was instructed to "[r]ecommend immediate changes to improve the existing processes and culture of ACCJC." Workgroup 2 would "[l]ead a change in accreditation structure that aligns all segments of higher education in California." Hansen opines that "the report from Workgroup 1 might be less important in reforming a reluctant ACCJC than in reassuring the USDOE that the ACCJC can be sufficiently responsible, under college CEO monitoring, to serve a transitional role to a new accreditor." And, argues Hansen, a detailed Workgroup 1 report delivered in July "suggests this group has already pointed the way for Workgroup 2." He concludes:
In sum, the Workgroup 1 report, while seeking to shore up an increasingly ineffective Commission, also points to other options. In addition to challenging the destructive culture of the ACCJC, Workgroup 1 also exhibits a promising development in the culture of the college CEOs.
There is clear evidence in this report that the CEOs may be shaking off their heretofore subservient attitude toward the ACCJC — they may be taking a bold step toward controlling their own accreditation future. . . .
Anecdotally, advocates for change in the accreditation process have heard college representatives from other regional accreditors ask, "Why have the colleges under the ACCJC allowed this to happen to them?"
Recent progress on the accreditation front . . . has shown that maybe the community college CEOs are about to assert their authority over the ACCJC. If so, a look toward the long term future of the California Community Colleges and the other Pacific area colleges under the ACCJC suggests it is time to move on to a new accreditor uniting the two- and four-year institutions under a single higher education accreditation community.
This is the model in every other region in the country, and the CEOs should use this opening through Workgroup 2 to make the move and take their rightful place alongside their four-year colleagues. Such an opportunity will not come again soon.
The San Francisco Chronicle article below describes what role community colleges play for their students - in this case at CCSF
Los Angeles Times reports that the ACCJC is questionably seeking positive comments for its review by the United States Department of Education