AAUP Responds to CCSF Accreditation Loss

By Jason Elias

In July 2013, after the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges revoked the accreditation of the City College of San Francisco, the AAUP Council’s Executive Committee issued a statement expressing support for faculty, students, and staff at CCSF and urging the accreditor to reconsider its revocation. The Executive Committee charged the AAUP’s Committee on Accreditation and its Committee on Community Colleges with looking into concerns about the situation at CCSF and reporting the results of their inquiries to the Council as soon as feasible.

In the meantime, members of the AAUP’s California conference have joined other labor, faculty, and community activists in demonstrations supporting the college. The strong community response has raised questions about whether the accreditor simply evaluates colleges according to the accreditation criteria or is promoting a particular institutional model that values “completion” of two-year programs above all else. As AAUP first vice president Henry Reichman pointed out in “What Happened at City College of San Francisco?” a July posting on Academe Blog, the accreditor “has not questioned the quality of the education offered at CCSF. Indeed, there is considerable evidence to suggest that educationally CCSF is not only sound but in many respects even exemplary.” Reichman and others have argued that the accreditor has instead targeted CCSF’s strong system of shared governance and focused on past budget problems.

Several recent developments have improved CCSF’s chances of regaining accreditation. In August, the US Department of Education agreed with three allegations made in third-party complaints about the accreditor’s handling of CCSF: first, that the accreditor has no specific policy on the composition of on-site evaluation teams and that its teams are too administrator-heavy; second, that it has not taken steps to avoid either real or perceived conflicts of interest; and third, that it did not differentiate between “noncompliance with standards” and “areas of improvement” in recommendations issued in 2006. The Committee on Accreditation and the Committee on Community Colleges submitted written comments to the US Department of Education’s National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity. In August, the San Francisco city attorney filed suit against the accreditor for conflicts of interest and retaliation, and in October, the California Federation of Teachers filed a lawsuit seeking to block the accreditation revocation.

The Executive Committee’s statement is available on the AAUP’s website. More information about the movement to support the City College of San Francisco can be found at http://www.saveccsf.org/.

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