Judge rules accreditor acted illegally in terminating City College of San Francisco’s accreditation

January 16, 2015—Today the California Federation of Teachers hosted a press teleconference call to discuss Superior Court Judge Curtis Karnow’s ruling in “The People vs. ACCJC.” Participating were CFT president Joshua Pechthalt, Assemblymember Phil Ting (D-San Francisco), AFT Local 2121 president Tim Killikelly, and Shanell Williams, Student Trustee at City College of San Francisco. Here are highlights.

In a vindication of the CFT’s longstanding contention that the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC) acted illegally in its decision to terminate City College of San Francisco’s accreditation, San Francisco Superior Court judge Curtis Karnow issued his ruling today in “The People vs. ACCJC.” 


What’s up with ACCJC?

The Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges, which oversees accreditation of community colleges in California, has been troubled by allegations for years that its methods are arbitrary and punitive. Faculty have charged that the ACCJC, instead of helping to improve the delivery of education, diverts attention, time, and resources away from the classroom to “compliance,” much of which has little, if anything, to do with education. The Commission’s work is also, they say, responsible for deteriorating relations between faculty and administrators fearful of ACCJC sanctions, which occur at a startlingly higher rate here than in regions overseen by other accreditation agencies.

In 2013 the CFT challenged the Commission in a formal process known as “third party comment,” in which interested parties can file a complaint with the commission and with the U.S. Department of Education. CFT also filed suit, seeking an injunction to keep City College of San Francisco open, as did the City Attorney of San Francisco.  An injunction was granted on January 2, 2014.  The trial took place for five days, October 27-31, and closing arguments were heard on December 9.  The judge issued his tentative decision on January 16, 2015, affirming ACCJC broke the law by denying CCSF due process rights during accreditation review.

Meanwhile, on January 14, the ACCJC granted City College "restoration status," a new policy the commission pretends extends CCSF's accreditation, but gives the ACCJC the ability to pull accreditation without right to appeal, and requiring CCSF to achieve "full compliance" with all accreditation standards.  This is a much higher bar than the requirement than for every other community college in California—in other words, more of the same from this rogue agency. Below are links to stories and documents about the trial and the issues that explain what CFT and its locals—and a growing number of elected officials and other organizations—are doing to change the ACCJC’s behavior, and what the Commission has been doing (or not doing) in response.


Press releases 


Third party comments, amendments, and lawsuit

"The People vs. ACCJC"—A day-by-day report, October 27-31 and closing arguments, December 9


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Day One
Day Two
Day Three
Day Four
Day Five
Closing Arguments

Day One of “The People vs. ACCJC”, October 27, 2014

San Francisco—After kicking off the day with a spirited early morning demonstration outside the San Francisco Superior Court building, about a hundred City College of San Francisco faculty, students and community supporters moved en masse into the courthouse to attend the opening day of the trial to keep the college open.

They heard Deputy City Attorney Yvonne Mere deliver the opening argument. She began simply, with “This case is about fairness.” For the next half hour she told Judge Curtis Karnow that the People’s case would prove three things: that the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges violated federal regulations and their own policies when it failed to control for conflicts of interest; it failed to create site review teams that were adequately balanced with academics and administrators; and it failed to give due process to City College.

She also noted that the ACCJC acted in violation of California law when it failed to follow the law and its own procedures; that it deprived CCSF of the opportunity to participate in a process of peer review; and that it acted unfairly when it chose to evaluate CCSF while embroiled with the college in a very public debate over the future of the mission of community colleges in California.


Community college accreditation on trial

4courtroomCCSF faculty and students crowd the S.F. Superior Court for the summary adjudication hearing of the City Attorney's suit against ACCJC on September 10.

September 30, 2014—Over the past two years AFT 2121, representing faculty at City College of San Francisco (CCSF), and the California Federation of Teachers, representing 25,000 community college faculty around the state, have been embroiled in a life and death battle to save CCSF from disaccreditation at the hands of the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC). The expensive and exhausting effort has taken place in the courts, the legislature, the state budget process, at the bargaining table, in the news, and in the streets.


State Auditor’s Report on Community College Accreditation confirms deep problems with Accrediting Commission

accjc reportcard

Sacramento—Today the California State Auditor issued a stinging critique of the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC) in a Report on California Community College Accreditation. The report confirms numerous problems first articulated by the California Federation of Teachers in its complaint to the U.S. Department of Education in Spring 2013, and validated by the USDOE in August, with ACCJC’s operations. Read More...

The CFT Response to the Decision of the ACCJC Appeals Hearing Panel Reviewing Commission Actions in the Case of City College of San Francisco

June 25, 2014

On June 13, 2014 the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (“ACCJC”) released the “decision” of its own handpicked Appeals Panel on the appeal filed by City College of San Francisco (CCSF) on March 4, 2014. CCSF’s appeal argued that it should not be disaccredited, but the decision of ACCJC’s Appeal Panel rejected that argument, while at the same time offering the College further “review” of evidence provided to the Appeals Panel.

The lack of clarity in the decision announcement by the panel, and ACCJC's own pronouncements about it, confused many observers, including reporters and elected officials who interpreted the decision as meaning CCSF had been granted a reprieve from the ACCJC's closure order. This interpretation, reasonable on its face, is in fact wrong. It is the purpose of this document to demonstrate that. Read More...

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