What Happened at City College of San Francisco — Postscript

The situation at CCSF continues to be unsettled.  The college will appeal the decision of ACCJC.  The deadline for submitting such an appeal is July 31.  In the meantime, Brice Harris, Chancellor of the California Community Colleges, has announced that he will seek — and surely will receive — authorization from his Board of Governors to replace CCSF’s board of trustees with a “special trustee with extraordinary powers” over City College – a czar who can unilaterally decide how to speed the college toward its goal of staying in business.

The San Francisco Bay Guardian, a venerable free weekly around since the early ’60s, this week published two important pieces on the situation that are well worth reading.  First, there is a guest opinion written by John Rizzo, president of CCSF’s board.  Rizzo argues that “Most of what ACCJC asked for has been accomplished, and the rest is well on its way towards completion within a year.”  He then proceeds to detail the many reforms and changes that CCSF made in response to ACCJC’s findings.

“Not everyone at the college agrees with all of the changes that were made,” he acknowledges. “People have the right to express their views, and indeed, we want the internal experts to speak up and give their best advice. And given the speed and monumental scope of the changes, it is very likely that these changes have flaws and that improvements can be made.  But regardless of what people think of the changes that have occurred, these are changes that ACCJC asked for.”

Rizzo concludes:

Unfortunately, the decision to revoke accreditation will harm City College’s otherwise good financial position by causing a large drop in student enrollment for fall — and the loss of millions of dollars in state funding. Ironically, this will make it more difficult to finish what ACCJC wants done.  The best course for students is to let City College retain accreditation while it finishes the job that ACCJC wants done.

To read the article in full go to:  http://www.sfbg.com/2013/07/09/city-college-will-appeal

The second piece in the Bay Guardian is a much longer expose by reporter Joe Fitzgerald, entitled “Who Killed City College?”  His answer:  the federal government!  Here is are excerpts from this important article with ramifications that extend far beyond San Francisco or even California:

When the president trumpeted education in his 2012 State of the Union speech, he sounded an understandable sentiment. “States also need to do their part, by making higher education a higher priority in their budgets,” Obama told the nation. “And colleges and universities have to do their part by working to keep costs down.”

But the specifics of how to cut costs were outlined by years of policymaking and a State of the Union supplement sheet given to the press.

The president’s statement said that they will determine which colleges receive aid, “either by incorporating measures of value and affordability into the existing accreditation system; or by establishing a new, alternative system of accreditation that would provide pathways for higher education models and colleges to receive federal student aid based on performance and results.”

The emphasis is ours, but the translation is very simple: College accreditation agencies can either enforce the administration’s numbers-based plan or be replaced. The president’s college reform is widely known and hotly debated in education circles. Commonly known as the “completion agenda,” with an emphasis on measurable outcomes in job placement, it had its start under President George W. Bush, but Obama carried the torch.


Speaking on condition of anonymity, an official who worked closely with ACCJC as a member of one of the visiting accreditation teams told us there was pressure to crack down on all the Western colleges.

“The message they’re hearing from (ACCJC President) Barbara Beno is that Washington is demanding, ‘Why are you not being more strict with institutions with deficiencies that have lasted more than two years [and taking action] to revoke their accreditation?'” the source said.

This official said this may soon ripple to other accreditation agencies. “What’s anomalous about California is we’re getting to where everyone will be in a few years.”

If this is true, everyone should read this article.  You can find it here:  http://www.sfbg.com/2013/07/09/who-killed-city-college

And if you missed my original post on the events at CCSF you can access it here:  https://academeblog.org/2013/07/08/what-happened-at-city-college-of-san-francisco/

10 thoughts on “What Happened at City College of San Francisco — Postscript

  1. I’m highly skeptical of anything Barbara Beno says, and the “Washington made us do it” excuse hardly seems plausible. The fact is, Obama’s call for more results-oriented accountability has many dangers to it, but the ACCJC’s incompetence has nothing to do with it. ACCJC fully acknowledged that CCSF had excellent results; the basis for shutting them down is the old-fashioned “inputs and standard practices” model of accreditation that Obama repudiated, where CCSF is attacked for serving too many students and not hiring enough administrators. Under Obama’s standard, CCSF is doing things exactly right by helping many students and cutting administrative costs, and this is precisely the situation where we need an alternative accreditation system like what Obama proposes to overrule a completely corrupt and incompetent force like ACCJC.

  2. Friends,
    I appreciate the article and comments. Your thoughtful consideration of our situation and your support mean a lot to us who have been fighting the unjust aspects of this process for the past year. We inside CCSF have worked to make good changes, to make those we see as necessary if undesirable (the fetish for slo’s) and to oppose hurtful changes. Our Board did everything Beno and company wanted and still were deposed. It’s becoming ever clearer that the ACCJC is on a dangerous and out of control trajectory.
    We continue to schedule “People’s Accreditation Commission” events for people whom the college serves. The message at these events has been clear – we are far from perfect but the attempt to shut us down is beyond the pale.
    Please see below the URL for my recent S. F. Chronicle op ed piece on this controversy, and go to the http://www.saveccsf.org/‎ or AFT 2121 websites for more information on our efforts to defend ourselves and demand accreditation accountability for us all.
    Bill Shields
    Chair, Labor and Community Studies
    City College of San Francisco

    http://www.sfchronicle.com/opinion/openforum/article/Tyranny-over-democracy-at-City- College-4656049.php?t=c94a950067c9b3135f

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