FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Friday, January 3, 2014
CCSF to stay open for duration of trial; Judge says closure would be "catastrophic"
Yesterday San Francisco Superior Court Judge Curtis Karnow granted a preliminary injunction to keep City College of San Francisco open until the conclusion of a trial to determine whether the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges acted in an unfair and illegal manner in sanctioning and disaccrediting the college.
The judge heard motions over two days from Dennis Herrera, City Attorney of San Francisco, and the California Federation of Teachers, for the preliminary injunction. He granted the injunction request on the basis of the "incalculable harm" that would be inflicted on the students, faculty, employees, and broader community if he did not do so. He denied moves by the ACCJC attempting to dismiss the suits.
CFT president Joshua Pechthalt, one of the plaintiffs in the suit, said, "We celebrate this important step in the battle to save City College of San Francisco. As a result of Judge Karnow's decision, tens of thousands of students will continue to have access to affordable, quality higher education."
Pechthalt also noted that the judge himself observed, "I find that AFT would probably be able to establish that the college was not afforded a fair procedure." Said Pechthalt, "We look forward to the trial, in which we will demonstrate the need to rescind the closure and show cause sanctions."
The city attorney's and CFT's suits are now combined in a "complex case." The Judge will sit down with both parties on January 29 in a case management conference to determine the trial calendar.
CCSF faculty union president Alisa Messer said, "This is a tremendous moment in the battle to save City College. Yet another important independent voice has corroborated that the process leading up to the show cause sanction and disaccreditation was unfair and likely illegal. It should give everyone watching confidence that the court will fairly adjudicate the situation and keep City College open."
Both requests for preliminary injunction asked the judge to ensure the school would remain open as long as the trial proceeds, and the judge agreed that it was probably going to be after July 2014—the date set by ACCJC for closure—before the trial would be concluded. CFT had asked the court to rescind the ACCJC's July 2012 "show cause" sanction. The judge declined to do so. He also declined to act on another part of Herrera's motion—to stop the ACCJC from continuing to issue sanctions on California's other community colleges for the duration.
Temporary injunctive relief doesn't decide whether CCSF will get reaccredited, and doesn't indicate any final decisions. Granting such an injunction depends on the judge's determination as to whether the plaintiffs would suffer harm, and how much, if such an injunction were not granted. The judge was clear about the harm that would result if CCSF were to close: "Those consequences would be catastrophic," he said, to students first and foremost, but also to faculty, college employees, and the San Francisco economy.
The California Federation of Teachers represents more than 25,000 faculty in thirty community college districts.