The day of reckoning is drawing closer for City College of San Francisco. The embattled community college on Friday submitted its final report to the regional accrediting agency detailing what it has done and what it’s continuing to work on to fix the fiscal, structural and governance issues that landed the campus on “show cause” status, the most severe sanction before losing accreditation.
“Our desire is that the commission looks at that report and says, ‘Wow they’ve made a lot of progress,’” said Robert Agrella, the special trustee appointed to guide the college through the complex process of saving itself.
After reviewing the report, the accrediting commission could take the college off “show cause” and move it onto a lesser sanction – which would essentially signal the college is off the critical list for possible closure. The association could also withdraw accreditation, which would mean the college would close unless it is taken over by another community college district.
The report shows that City College has made significant headway toward addressing the fourteen recommendations from the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC), but isn’t done yet. Agrella said the fiscal issues are under control; however, the politically delicate issue of governance remains a work in progress. Some of that is due to ongoing collective bargaining and some due to opposition by the faculty.
Two areas where there is not full agreement concern the Board of Trustees’ decision to lay off all vice chancellors and deans and revamp the administration to make it more efficient, and to rewrite job descriptions for the department chairs to make it clear that they report to the deans and not the other way around.
Karen Saginor, president of the City College faculty senate, said many faculty members believe these actions went beyond the scope of the commission’s recommendations.
“I have heard members of the commission say that the purpose of accreditation is to improve quality; I haven’t heard them say the purpose is to question our authority,” Saginor said.
Saginor said she feels good about how far the college has come in tackling the problems, but acknowledged the final decision rests with the accrediting agency, a situation she likened to studying for a test.
“Did I study enough; did I study the right things?” she explained. “This is the kind of exam where I’m not going to get an ‘A’ in this class; the question is am I going to get a ‘B’ or a ‘C’ or a ‘D’?”
The accrediting commission will send a team to City College within the next few weeks to follow up on the report, make sure everything matches and ask additional questions if necessary. City College will get a copy of the report and can request changes only if there are factual errors. College representatives will have an opportunity to go before the commission at its June meeting and the commission will post its decision by July 7.
There is no crystal ball to foretell how the commission will rule. Some students and staff have suggested that because of its size – some 85,000 students are enrolled – City College is like the banking system, too big to fail. But accredting commission President Barbara Beno said there’s no reason size should give a college an advantage.
“There’s no reason to be more lenient,” Beno said. “If anything the larger the enrollment of a college the more students are impacted by substandard institutional performance.”