After months of waiting for the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) to respond to hundreds of pages of complaints against the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC), City College of San Francisco (CCSF) and the California Federation of Teachers (CFT) received news yesterday that the DOE validates their complaints for conflicts of interest, mistaken reliance on deficiencies and inadequate faculty representation on accreditation teams.
According to a letter sent to the ACCJC by the department’s office of postsecondary education, the U.S. Department of Education’s accreditation group has found the accrediting commission to be out of compliance with criteria necessary for recognition by the department as an accrediting institution.
The DOE informed the accrediting commission that in order to avoid initiation of an action to limit, suspend or terminate ACCJC’s recognition, they must come into compliance with identified areas of non-compliance within the next 12 months.
“The Department of Education’s letter is a clear justification for reversing the decision on CCSF to remove accreditation,” said American Federation of Teachers 2121 President Alisa Messer in a teleconference held this morning. “They (the DOE) confirm that we should have never been on show cause in the first place.”
Messer said that both the show cause sanction by ACCJC last July, along with the more recent threat of accreditation loss have caused havoc at City College of San Francisco. “We are continuing to lose students who are concerned about their futures,” she said. “We all agree that there are things to work on, but what we don’t agree on are punitive actions and inconsistent actions.”
Joe Pechthalt, president of the California Federation of Teachers, said that a number of different avenues for challenging the ACCJC’s recent decision are being explored. “We’re talking to attorneys,” Pechthalt said, “But we’re also working to put pressure on the commission itself to reverse the decision.”
Pechthalt said that the Department of Education findings suggest in a very powerful way that the (accreditation) decision on CCSF cannot stand. “One would hope that the commission itself would understand that,” he said. “But we have not had a good track record with the ACCJC being a transparent body.”
Messer said that the AFT and City College are hopeful after the Department of Education’s decision, but that it will take time before the next steps become clear.
For now, fall classes are underway, and Messer said that the collective mood on campus has been uplifted by yesterday’s news. “To be told that we were actually maybe going to be losing the college was a whole new level of demoralization,” she said. “But now we have the validation that something is actually wrong with this process, when we’ve known along that something was wrong with the process. That the people who have been scrutinizing us for the last year will have the spotlight turned on them.”
Get caught up on the ongoing saga here. Read more about the U.S. Department of Education decision at saveccsf.org. City College of San Francisco students will hold a rally at San Francisco City Hall on August 20 at 4 p.m. to demand that Mayor Ed Lee take a stand against the ACCJC.