This story has been updated with additional interviews. The accrediting agency that placed City College of San Francisco on the most severe sanction last year has denied charges of irregularities and violations contained in a lengthy complaint filed by the college’s faculty union, Local AFT 2121, last month. It also rejected the union’s demand that City College be removed from that sanction, known as “show cause,” which requires the College to fix its problems or face losing its accreditation.

In a response issued Thursday, the Executive Committee of the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges said the union’s charge that the college was placed on show cause status based on a “mischaracterization” of the college’s accreditation history is “without merit.”

According to the complaint, filed April 30, the commission mischaracterized “the College as having failed to correct deficiencies identified in 2006,” when the commission reaffirmed City College’s accreditation. The union complaint contends that the AACJC did not cite any deficiencies at that time of the 2006 site visit and did not inform the college of any problems that could lead to a loss of accreditation.

The complaint states that, “In 2006, ACCJC reaffirmed CCSF’s accreditation, with some recommendations. Between 2006 and 2010, CCSF submitted three reports to AACJC, which it accepted, in regard to recommendations.”

Commission President Barbara Beno said the allegation indicates a lack of understanding of how the commission operates. “These folks didn’t understand the process,” Beno said, which includes the commission sending follow-up letters and asking for follow-up reports.

Although she couldn’t comment specifically on the City College case because it’s currently before the commission, Beno presented a hypothetical illustration. “Say you’re taking a course and you take the first exam and pass, and then take the second test and fail; should you pass the second exam because you passed the first?”

In its written response, the commission said that even though it reaccredited City College seven years ago, it also issued eight recommendations, two of which were “serious enough to require that the institution take corrective action and provide the commission with a progress report.” Over the next few years, according to the commission, City College failed to adequately fix the problems, including concerns about its financial stability.

The executive committee also rejected union accusations that it violated its own conflict of interest policies by including Peter Crabtree, who is married to commission President Barbara Beno, on the team that evaluated City College in March 2012. That visit led to the college being placed on show cause in July 2012.

The executive committee’s report said Crabtree was selected for the team because of his expertise as dean of career and technical education at Laney College in Oakland.

The committee also refused to respond to other charges included in the 280-page complaint, regarding violations of state law and federal regulations, writing that those are legal issues and the AACJC is not a court of law.

Union President Alisa Messer called the commission’s response “a very predictable move” and “mostly a non-response” because the AACJC wouldn’t address many of the issues raised in the complaint. Beno dismissed that charge, saying that the executive committee wrote a detailed six-page response, they didn’t write a two-line response saying the complaints had no merit.

Messer, in a phone call, wouldn’t comment on the union’s next step, saying they’re still reviewing the response with their attorneys.

She noted that the commission may not be the final arbiter, however, because the complaint was also filed with the U.S. Department of Education. The AACJC is currently up for renewal of its own accreditation from the Department. Messer she hopes that process encourages the commission to consider the significance of the union complaint. “At the very least, I would hope it would have some impact on the care with which they make their decision,” Messer said.

As EdSource Today reported last week, the accreditation commission issued its final report to the College, indicating what action it may take at its meeting next week. It could keep the school on show cause, place it on a lower sanction, remove all sanctions, or revoke its accreditation. The report will remain confidential until the AACJC announces its decision in early July. College officials will have an opportunity at the June meeting to address any inaccuracies in the final report.


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  1. impatient taxpayer 3 years ago3 years ago

    If the issues were not so serious--accreditation problems that must be faced or suffer severe penalties--the CFT's attack on the ACCJC would be down right silly.  It seems evident that blaming someone else for years of failing to measure up to high standards is nothing but a smoke screen to hide the lack of focus on quality education and service.   Why would the Commission operate in any other way but to approach the CCSF matters … Read More

    If the issues were not so serious–accreditation problems that must be faced or suffer severe penalties–the CFT’s attack on the ACCJC would be down right silly.  It seems evident that blaming someone else for years of failing to measure up to high standards is nothing but a smoke screen to hide the lack of focus on quality education and service.  

    Why would the Commission operate in any other way but to approach the CCSF matters in a professional, straight forward manner?  Why would the CFT file a complaint that is frivolous and without merit?  The Commission is charged with examining and recommending.  The CFT has charged itself with complaining about a problem that was of the college’s own making–over many years.  This seems to me to be an exercise in intellectual arrogance.

    Once again, most likely a relatively small number of people strike out against others who would wish to help.  The Commission appoints members of all constituent groups to serve on accreditation teams.  Those visitors to districts are colleagues!  Wouldn’t it be better to look for solutions and work to overcome those barriers to excellence?  The CFT has put the spotlight on a situation which they should be a part of addressing.  

    Instead of pointing fingers, sit down and figure out a way to rise above it all.  Don’t settle for a third-rate institution, or even one that is mediocre.  Have the courage to look at any shortcomings and improve the teaching/learning environment.  There are faculty and staff who are no doubt very talented and capable. They do want to make things work out.  Let them, the District leadership and ACCJC continue to work toward improvement and success.

    Thank you.

    An impatient taxpayer.

  2. Angelo Bertoli 3 years ago3 years ago

    It is disappointing that the ACCJC's disreputable character, along with all of WASC, is not more widely recognized. Since attempts to surface the truth of these organizations on a professional level have not gotten too far locally, perhaps the Department of Education will be more affective. On a level where the proverbial tires hit the road, and although pointed out to the press, not much was publicized regarding the expense account bills the College was forced to … Read More

    It is disappointing that the ACCJC’s disreputable character, along with all of WASC, is not more widely recognized.
    Since attempts to surface the truth of these organizations on a professional level have not gotten too far locally,
    perhaps the Department of Education will be more affective. On a level where the proverbial tires hit the road,
    and although pointed out to the press, not much was publicized regarding the expense account bills the College was forced to pay ( and continues to pay ) for visiting AACJC’ staffers / representatives. Leading things off was a $35,000 tab from an upscale Union Square Hotel. As for the comment made above by an individual claiming to
    have been part of the ACCJC, how many Ritz-Carlton’s and how many swank meals did that individual generate
    for the State of California’s working stiffs? The ACCJC along with its parent organization is an old boys/ girls network
    whose primary responsibility is looking out for their own interests. Do a little research and you will see that some of their momentous, working gatherings are publicized as an opportunity for participants to enjoy Disneyland.
    No wonder among all the nations accrediting associations, WASC and the ACCJC are among the lowest in terms of earning respect.

  3. Barbara Beno 3 years ago3 years ago

    Mr. Hittleman was sent letters from ACCJC dated May 9 and May 31, 2013, in response to his communications. Perhaps he did not see the letters in his mail.

  4. David B. Wolf 3 years ago3 years ago

    Tom McFadden has it right. I am partial to unions and would like to continue to be so, but in this case the CFT is wildly off the mark. I would have preferred their working with the leadership at CCSF that is trying to make the long-overdue improvements such that the college can continue its important work.

  5. Tom McFadden 3 years ago3 years ago

    I served on the ACCJC several years ago. On the basis of that six-year experience I can testify to two things. First, the total professionalism of Commission members in coming to a decision about institutional accreditation. Commission members are educators or members of the public whose overriding concern is the education of students. There are no hidden agenda, no axes to grind, no appetite for confrontation. Second, institutions that worked … Read More

    I served on the ACCJC several years ago. On the basis of that six-year experience I can testify to two things. First, the total professionalism of Commission members in coming to a decision about institutional accreditation. Commission members are educators or members of the public whose overriding concern is the education of students. There are no hidden agenda, no axes to grind, no appetite for confrontation. Second, institutions that worked cooperatively with the Commission, especially after a negative finding, emerged stronger and more effective. I can only hope that the leadership at the City College of San Francisco and the College’s faculty union will react in this way. Only then will the College move forward in what should be its historical focus: the education of its students.

  6. Martin Hittelman 3 years ago3 years ago

    CFT received a error filled and incomplete response to their complaint/comment. I have received no reply or even recognition for my complaint/comment that was also filed on April 30. So much for following their own procedures.

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