Accrediting commission denies violations over City College of San Francisco

This story has been updated with additional interviews. The accrediting agency that placed City College of San Francisco on the most severe sanction last year has denied charges of irregularities and violations contained in a lengthy complaint filed by the college’s faculty union, Local AFT 2121, last month. It also rejected the union’s demand that City College be removed from that sanction, known as “show cause,” which requires the College to fix its problems or face losing its accreditation.
In a response issued Thursday, the Executive Committee of the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges said the union’s charge that the college was placed on show cause status based on a “mischaracterization” of the college’s accreditation history is “without merit.”
According to the complaint, filed April 30, the commission mischaracterized “the College as having failed to correct deficiencies identified in 2006,” when the commission reaffirmed City College’s accreditation. The union complaint contends that the AACJC did not cite any deficiencies at that time of the 2006 site visit and did not inform the college of any problems that could lead to a loss of accreditation.
The complaint states that, “In 2006, ACCJC reaffirmed CCSF’s accreditation, with some recommendations. Between 2006 and 2010, CCSF submitted three reports to AACJC, which it accepted, in regard to recommendations.”
Commission President Barbara Beno said the allegation indicates a lack of understanding of how the commission operates. “These folks didn’t understand the process,” Beno said, which includes the commission sending follow-up letters and asking for follow-up reports.
Although she couldn’t comment specifically on the City College case because it’s currently before the commission, Beno presented a hypothetical illustration. “Say you’re taking a course and you take the first exam and pass, and then take the second test and fail; should you pass the second exam because you passed the first?”
In its written response, the commission said that even though it reaccredited City College seven years ago, it also issued eight recommendations, two of which were “serious enough to require that the institution take corrective action and provide the commission with a progress report.” Over the next few years, according to the commission, City College failed to adequately fix the problems, including concerns about its financial stability.
The executive committee also rejected union accusations that it violated its own conflict of interest policies by including Peter Crabtree, who is married to commission President Barbara Beno, on the team that evaluated City College in March 2012. That visit led to the college being placed on show cause in July 2012.
The executive committee’s report said Crabtree was selected for the team because of his expertise as dean of career and technical education at Laney College in Oakland.
The committee also refused to respond to other charges included in the 280-page complaint, regarding violations of state law and federal regulations, writing that those are legal issues and the AACJC is not a court of law.
Union President Alisa Messer called the commission’s response “a very predictable move” and “mostly a non-response” because the AACJC wouldn’t address many of the issues raised in the complaint. Beno dismissed that charge, saying that the executive committee wrote a detailed six-page response, they didn’t write a two-line response saying the complaints had no merit.
Messer, in a phone call, wouldn’t comment on the union’s next step, saying they’re still reviewing the response with their attorneys.
She noted that the commission may not be the final arbiter, however, because the complaint was also filed with the U.S. Department of Education. The AACJC is currently up for renewal of its own accreditation from the Department. Messer she hopes that process encourages the commission to consider the significance of the union complaint. “At the very least, I would hope it would have some impact on the care with which they make their decision,” Messer said.
As EdSource Today reported last week, the accreditation commission issued its final report to the College, indicating what action it may take at its meeting next week. It could keep the school on show cause, place it on a lower sanction, remove all sanctions, or revoke its accreditation. The report will remain confidential until the AACJC announces its decision in early July. College officials will have an opportunity at the June meeting to address any inaccuracies in the final report.
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