ACCJC Revokes CCSF Accreditation: FAQ

1. What is the ACCJC’s decision about City College?
On July 3 at 3 pm, the ACCJC (the accreditation commission that oversees City College and all other California community colleges) announced that it is stripping City College of its accreditation, effective July 31, 2014. (The Commission’s letter is here and the full evaluation report is now available here.)

This is an outrageous attack on City College, on public education, and on the affordability and accessibility of higher education to all San Franciscans.

And—coming under the cover of the holiday weekend—it’s perfectly emblematic of ACCJC’s shady operating practices. We shouldn’t be surprised, but we should all be disgusted.

2. Now what?
The first step in fighting back is to express the anger we are all feeling about this decision in a coordinated way.

On Tuesday, July 9, 2013 at 4 pm, there will be a march from City College’s Downtown Campus (88 4th Street and Mission) to the US Department of Education offices (50 Beale St) to protest the ACCJC decision.

We need you and everyone you know to participate.

For more info, see the websites of the Save City College Coalition and AFT 2121.

3. What do I tell my students?
City College is open and all credits students earn here through the end of July 2014 are fully transferrable and qualify for financial aid. Please reassure students on this count, and make sure they know that the Commission’s ruling does NOT reflect on the quality education that CCSF offers.

The ACCJC decision has no immediate impact on the class schedule for the fall.

We hope that by the fall, the appeal and legal processes will produce results that will make the future after July 2014 clearer—and brighter.

4. What will happen to City College?
We are staying open.

California Community College Chancellor Brice Harris called AFT 2121 President Alisa Messer on July 3rd to say that he is placing CCSF into trusteeship. As of July 8th, CCSF is under state trusteeship (see below, “Who’s in charge?”). Harris has made clear that he will also appeal the ACCJC decision, a move we applaud.

According to ACCJC’s handbook, CCSF’s accredited status continues during the appeal process (for more on the appeal process, see below).

Chancellor Harris has also stated that employee contracts will remain in force during the appeal.

No one likes the idea of trusteeship, but we will continue our efforts to work collaboratively to defend City College.

5. Can we appeal? What does the appeal process consist of?
Consistent with most of ACCJC’s processes, the appeal process is rigged against City College.

CCSF can file a notice of intent to request review within 28 days (by July 31, 2013) and a formal appeal within 21 days thereafter.

The review is limited to procedural issues and errors and cannot re-argue the merits of City College’s accreditation application. There is a fee – likely to be in the $10,000 – $25,000 range – for filing. ACCJC will appoint a three-person hearing panel to review the request, and the panel will recommend a decision to the Commission at its next regular meeting.

If accreditation is denied via this review, then the college will have 30 days to appeal that decision to the President of ACCJC.

The College remains accredited and on Show Cause status during the review and appeal process.

6. The appeals process does sound rigged. What else can we do legally?
AFT 2121 and CFT are committed to maintaining CCSF as an accredited institution, and are prepared to take necessary legal action to assure it remains accredited. Any lawsuit will be based on the Commission’s violations of its own policies and the law.

However, only City College (or the state-appointed trustee, now acting on CCSF’s behalf) can appeal the ACCJC’s decision.

7. What does this mean for AFT 2121 members and for our students?
We are all going to have to keep fighting together to maintain and improve City College for our students and the larger San Francisco community. Our organizing efforts are more important than they have ever been.

The ACCJC’s action does not require that classes be cut or programs closed, but as we have all seen (despite many of our proactive efforts on recruitment) that negative publicity surrounding the accreditation process has depressed enrollment, driven away talented students, faculty, and staff, and made it harder to get out of the hole we are in.

We can expect that our work to contribute to the College’s enrollment operations will become even more intense.

8. Do I still have a job?
Yes.Because the threat to our livelihoods and our students’ educations is so immediate, though, we don’t want to pull any punches: we should prepare ourselves—individually and together—for the worst-case prospect that classes or programs will be cut or consolidated as this process goes forward.

9. What is the status of our union contract?
AFT 2121’s contract expired on December 31, 2012.

We have been bargaining throughout the spring and summer, but with no resolution.

In general, the provisions of an expired labor contract remain in force while a new contract is negotiated. Chancellor Harris has indicated that this will be true even with a state trusteeship in place.

So despite the ACCJC decision, the terms of our contract remain in force until we negotiate something else.

(As you know, CCSF has recently made several unilateral changes to our pay, and as of July 1, all CCSF faculty are being paid 5% less than the pay schedule that was negotiated in 2007-08. Grievances are pending about these; read more here.)

10. When does the new state trusteeship of CCSF begin?
We don’t know. We do know that the California Community College Board of Governors plans to appoint the new Trustee at a special meeting called for July 8, 2013.

11. Who is in charge of City College?
At its July 8 meeting, the Board of Governors (BOG) of the California Community College system voted to appoint a special trustee with “extraordinary powers” under an emergency amendment to California Code of Regulations Title V, Section 58312, effective immediately. The new emergency regulations give the Chancellor broad discretion to appoint a special trustee and take other extreme actions if a college faces an accreditation sanction including at the probation level.

Robert Agrella, who has been acting as the College’s Special Trustee since last October, now replaces the democratically elected Board of Trustees in governing the college. CCSF’s Board had called for both a closed session and a public meeting on the evening of Tuesday, July 9; apparently they were subsequently advised that as of the BOG meeting, they have no power to meet or to act as a Board, so those meetings will not take place.

12. What powers does state-appointed Super Trustee Robert Agrella now have?
California community college Chancellor Brice Harris has announced that the new Trustee will have the power to close campuses and programs, but not to override collective bargaining agreements. He will likely oversee the rest of the as-yet-incomplete process of shifting and hiring many of the college’s administrators and make changes in financial practices to address the new FCMAT report. He will also oversee the process of finding a new, permanent chancellor for CCSF, which has had two interim chancellors in the last year.

13. Will the Board of Trustees have any power? Have all Board of Trustees meetings been suspended?
As far as we know, the elected Board of Trustees has no formal power as of Monday, July 8. It is possible that the appointed Trustee will solicit their input, but they have no ability to override his or her decisions. We don’t know whether the elected Board members will continue to meet. In at least one situation we know of where there was a Super Trustee, Board members attended meetings but were made to sit in the audience.

14. Is Thelma Scott-Skillman still the Interim Chancellor?
Dr. Scott-Skillman last month announced her intention to leave in the fall and a search process for the new, permanent chancellor was underway. We do not know whether Scott-Skillman’s plans have changed. She did walk out of the June 26, 2013 Board of Trustees meeting fairly early and did not return, but she then she participated in the July 3 teleconference in which the ACCJC decision was announced and has sent communications to the college community about the situation.

15. What about the search for CCSF’s permanent chancellor?
The search committee has been told that there will be a temporary hold for a few weeks on moving the process forward, but there is no information about the timeline or plan beyond that. State Chancellor Harris has expressed his interest in seeing a permanent chancellor for CCSF sooner rather than later. He indicated on July 8 that he wants Robert Agrella to oversee an expedited process for a new chancellor to be installed as soon as October.

16. What is going on with the CFT/AFT 2121 Third-Party Comment and Complaint about the ACCJC?
The Department of Education (DOE) tasked the ACCJC with providing a more serious response to the complaint by July 8, which reportedly the agency did. The DOE has indicated that they are investigating the complaint but have not made the ACCJC’s response available for scrutiny. At this time we cannot say more about the timetable. The DOE and its advisory panel, the National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity (NACIQI), will also review ACCJC’s own status as an accreditor this fall. The CFT/AFT 2121’s complaint was amended on July 1. See this recent update, with links.

17. How many faculty work at CCSF?
CCSF faculty numbers have dropped precipitously over the last years. At the end of the Spring 2013 semester, the College was down to about 1630 faculty in total, about half of them full-time. (A record number of faculty left or retired at the end of the 2012-13 academic year, so that number is certainly lower now, particularly for full-time faculty.) It has been widely and repeatedly mis-reported that there are 2,500 or 2,600 faculty members at City College; while these numbers may reflect the total employees, the number of faculty has never been much higher than 2,000.

Posted in Accreditation, News

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