The CCSF Saga Continues: ACCJC Blinks and AAUP Supports "Restorative" Status Proposal

In the continuing standoff between faculty, staff, and students at City College of San Francisco, supported by broad community forces and prominent political leaders, and the Accrediting Commission for Junior and Community Colleges (ACCJC; see my most recent posts here and here; see also my original post of July 8 and subsequent posts on July 13, August 13, and November 8 of 2013) it would appear that ACCJC has blinked.  On June 11, the Commission announced proposed  changes in its policy exclusively for colleges with terminated accreditation, granting a chance for such colleges to request a new “accreditation restoration status.”

“This is new for the ACCJC, but I don’t know if it’s new for other institutions,” a Commission spokesperson said.  “If this policy is adopted as expected,” the ACCJC wrote in a statement to the press, “CCSF would have the opportunity to take steps to be designated as being in restoration status.”  The college would need to file its application for restoration status by July 2014, City College’s originally announced accreditation termination date. This may all be moot, however, as City Attorney Dennis Herrera filed for an injunction to stall the college’s closure until the conclusion of the city’s lawsuit against the ACCJC. Legal proceedings are expected to begin in October.

According to the Commission,

Under the proposed policy, the institution seeking “accreditation restoration” status would first have to be determined eligible and then undergo an intensive review to demonstrate its ability to come into compliance with all standards within a two-year period. Then, if approved for restoration, the institution would have no more than two years to show full compliance with all standards. If after this period the institution has not met all accreditation standards –- or if restoration status is not
approved to begin with — the prior termination order would be activated without any opportunity for an appeal.

The new policy will not be adopted until completion of a two-week comment period, ending June 25.  On June 24, the AAUP’s Committee on Accreditation and its Committee on Community Colleges submitted the following comments in support of the change:

The American Association of University Professors (AAUP) Committee on Accreditation and its Committee on Community Colleges write in support of the June 11, 2014, Accrediting Commission on Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC) policy proposal to create a new accreditation status: “Restoration”. Allowing a college whose accreditation has been terminated to apply for restorative status before the termination date gives a college the opportunity to correct identified problems in order to meet accreditation standards, serve its students and be held accountable for meeting those standards within a two year time period. In particular, we recognize the complexities of the accreditation status of the City College of San Francisco (CCSF). We also recognize the importance of finding a way for CCSF, which educates 80,000 students in the Bay Area, to maintain its accreditation status while the College moves toward satisfying the ACCJC criteria for accreditation. Creation of the “Restorative Status” option for a two-year period is an excellent way to achieve this goal.

The American Association of University Professors Committee on Accreditation monitors the activities of accrediting bodies and seeks to enhance the quality of higher education by advocating for the inclusion of Association principles (academic freedom, collegial governance, and fair processes) in accreditation standards and processes. The AAUP’s Committee on Community Colleges deals with issues of concern to faculty in the nation’s community colleges. The Committee advances AAUP principles on community college campuses in such matters as academic freedom, shared governance, and professional values and standards.

The statement was signed by Prof. Jack Rossmann of Macalester College, Chair of the Accreditation Committee, and Prof. Kimberley Reiser of Nassau Community College, who chairs the Committee on Community Colleges.

On  June 20, the U.S. Department of Education also endorsed the plan, a requirement for final approval.  “This approach would give an institution such as CCSF an opportunity to correct deficiencies and to participate in a process with the potential to avert immediate and widespread disruption to the education of students,” Deputy Undersecretary Jamienne Studley wrote the commission’s president, Barbara Beno, and its chair, Sherrill Amador.

ACCJC’s retreat seems to be proceeding on two tracks.  On June 13, the Commission revealed that its own five-member appeals panel had blocked CCSF’s accreditation revocation and required the commission to take a new look at City College’s progress since spring 2013, which the commission had earlier refused stubbornly to do.  The panel directed the Commission “to conduct and complete as soon as reasonably practical an evaluation” of City College’s compliance with accrediting standards through May 21 of this year. The commission “shall not affirm or finalize the termination of CCSF’s accreditation” until the evaluation is complete unless ordered to “by some superseding authority,” the panel ruled.

In its original announcement of the panel decision, however, the Commission angered CCSF supporters and city political leaders with a confusing press release, which stated:

The panel ruled it would be appropriate for the ACCJC Commission to now consider whether ‘the determined efforts of (college leaders) Drs. (Robert) Agrella and (Art) Tyler and their colleagues following a grant of sufficient authority warrants an evaluation by the Commission whether or not there has been sufficient and verifiable change as of the appeal hearing to justify a reconsideration of the termination action.’ For this limited reason, the case has been remanded back to the ACCJC Commission for further consideration in light of these efforts.

Education officials said they were irritated at the Commission’s confusing announcement, which seemed to suggest inaccurately that it had the option of declining a new review based on recent progress.  “When you get what you asked for in an appeal, that’s called winning,” said Paul Feist, spokesman for state Community Colleges Chancellor Brice Harris.

In other good news for the College, California’s state budget, signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown last week, includes $20 million to restore CCSF’s funding to its level before thousands of students left the school in fear it would lose accreditation.

4 thoughts on “The CCSF Saga Continues: ACCJC Blinks and AAUP Supports "Restorative" Status Proposal

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