Less than an hour after uploading my post earlier today entitled AFT 2121 on the Situation at CCSF, I received via Twitter the following press release from the California Federation of Teachers, of which AFT 2121 is a member:
ACCJC’s Conflicts Of Interest Invalidate Appeal Decision
CFT releases analysis of City College appeal panel finding, calls for scrutiny
After careful analysis, the California Federation of Teachers (CFT) has determined the decision by the panel appointed by the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges to review City College of San Francisco’s appeal of its disaccreditation to be invalid and that the ACCJC should repeal its “show cause” and disaccreditation orders. CFT President Joshua Pechthalt has sent a letter to Community Colleges Chancellor Brice Harris informing him of CFT’s findings.
The lack of clarity in the announcement by the panel, and ACCJC’s own pronouncements about it, confused many, 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 incorrect. The panel issued a complicated decision that rejected CCSF’s arguments but remanded further consideration of recent evidence regarding the college back to the ACCJC itself for an undetermined and ill-defined process in which “the Commission need not follow the express requirements or procedures which govern its routine evaluations…but may, within its sole discretion, develop a format and methodology for this task….”
In trying to unravel the implications of the appellate decision, little attention has been focused on whether the process itself was appropriate. It was not.
In a letter to California Community College Chancellor Brice Harris and Board of Governors Chair Manuel Baca, CFT President Joshua Pechthalt outlined problems with the hand-picked, secretive appeal panel, the members of which were unknown until the decision was issued. “ACCJC’s flagrant disregard for the regulations governing its mandate, its own policies, and legal principles of fair procedure evince an incompetency or improper motive,” he wrote, citing the extensive CFT document analyzing all of the panel’s conflicts and errors.
• The decision was rendered by a panel suffering from multiple conflicts of interest. This means that any decision delivered by this panel was improperly derived and therefore invalid.
• The decision completely ignores the root of the problem: the ACCJC’s own improper and illegal actions in its original imposition of “show cause,” as noted by the US Department of Education (DOE) in 2013 when it warned the ACCJC it had acted improperly. The DOE then granted just a one year extension of ACCJC’s authority, instead of the customary five years, pending ACCJC coming back into compliance with accreditation norms.
• The faulty appeals decision is simply further illustration that the college cannot expect a fair evaluation from the Commission, free from conflicts of interest and predeterminations.
Pechthalt said, “You can’t have the fox guarding the henhouse. It is clear from the actions of this panel, handpicked by the ACCJC leadership, that nothing has changed since the DOE warning. The ACCJC seems just as determined today as it was two years ago to give City College of San Francisco no fair hearing. The ACCJC needs to rescind its “show cause” and disaccreditation orders, and run a new, fair review of the college’s progress, with a properly composed team without conflicts of interest.”
The CFT represents over 25,000 faculty in thirty community college districts, and 120,000 educational employees at every level of the education system, from Head Start to UC. More info: www.cft.org
CFT’s detailed and exhaustive response to the appeals panel’s decision, referenced above, certainly convinces me that my own description of the panel’s report, derived largely from media coverage, was at best incomplete. Whatever may happen to CCSF — and this may most likely be decided when San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera’s law suit against the Commission goes to court in the Fall — it is increasingly clear that the controversy is less about CCSF, its accreditation, or even its faculty and students but about the legitimacy of the ACCJC and, indeed, by implication of the entire accreditation process, at least in the states served by ACCJC and its parent organization, the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC).