It was announced today that City College of San Francisco will lose its accreditation on July 31, 2014, a decision that compromises the reputation of the school, and one that has people wondering about the future of its students, faculty, staff and administrators.
“This is shocking news, and I think shocking for the whole CCSF community and San Francisco in general,” said Alisa Messer, president of the American Federation of Teachers Local 2121 and CCSF English instructor, of the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior College’s decision, in a teleconference call held this afternoon.
City College, the largest community college in California, is now the second in the state (behind Compton College in Los Angeles County) to have its accreditation revoked. Since the ACCJC provided CCSF in July of 2012 with 14 recommendations that, if followed, would help the institution come into compliance with accreditation requirements, faculty and staff have spent thousands of hours trying to comply. But the ACCJC stated in a letter sent to the college today that CCSF had not adequately addressed deficiencies that were outlined last year.
CCSF Trustee Rafael Mandelman, furious over the news, said that the decision is a violation of the public trust. “At the end of all of this, to reach this result is mind boggling,” he said.
Jim Mahler, president of the California Federation of Teachers Community College Council, said that the decision does nothing to improve instruction for students. “By pulling the accreditation from the City College of San Francisco, the commission has proven that they only exist to intimidate and coerce districts into doing what they want.”
In response to the decision, the CFT and AFT Local 2121 joined forces to issue complaints of more than 250 pages to the U.S. Department of Education. CFT President Josh Pechthalt hopes that the complaints will convince the department that the committee’s decision is outrageous. “I think that a full investigation of the committee will help to expose this decision as being unfair,” he said.
In the meantime, the CFT and AFT Local 2121 are consulting with attorneys about how to proceed in a challenging situation full of unknowns. One of their biggest concerns is that prospective students will decide not to attend the college because of the dark cloud of uncertainty that hovers above. Since last year’s threat of termination of accreditation, Messer said that there has been an exodus of faculty, administrators and staff and that the school has had no luck in finding a permanent chancellor. In addition, the large number of students deciding to leave the school or study elsewhere has cost CCSF millions of dollars.
“It has been a demoralizing experience,” Messer said. She noted that even though they are unable to predict what will happen in terms of challenges down the road and loss of positions currently held, one thing is for sure: “The quality of education at CCSF has never been in question,” she said. “It’s sound, and it remains sound.”
Pechthalt emphasized that the college will not give up without a fight. “The community of San Francisco has already mobilized around this, and we’re going to support those efforts,” he said.
Messer mentioned that a march is being planned for next Tuesday, and that while the college is appealing the accreditation decision, the entire community should stand up to ensure that the city doesn’t lose CCSF.
“We intend to defend our contracts and defend our faculty, even as we defend the college that we hold so dear,” she said.