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We did it! City College regains full accreditation

January 14, 2017

by Mary Ratcliff

San Francisco – City College of San Francisco today announced that its accreditation was reaffirmed for seven years by the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC).

“This is a great day for City College, for San Francisco and for the California community college system,” said Rafael Mandelman, president of the City College Board of Trustees. “So many people at the college have done such incredible work to achieve this result. San Franciscans should be very proud.”

No one fought harder and longer than City College student Shanell Williams, shown here in 2014 speaking at a rally. She was a student trustee then, and now she’s a full member of the City College Board of Trustees after coming in the top vote-getter among College Board candidates in the November 2016 election. – Photo: Santiago Mejia, The Guardsman

Before ACCJC threatened its accreditation, City College was renowned as the nation’s largest community college, with 95,000 students. Enrollment has plummeted, but students are expected to return once they learn that the credits they earn will be recognized by colleges and universities everywhere.

“We’re thrilled that the ACCJC has recognized the amazing work done by City College and has given us seven years of accreditation. It is a tribute to our faculty, staff and administration who have worked so hard,” added Thea Selby, vice president of the Board of Trustees. “Now is the time to enroll in City College. The District has been given the stellar bill of health and the best teachers in the country are ready to teach you!”

Since its founding in 1935, City College had won the hearts of San Franciscans. Shocked that this educational treasure could be lost, citizens of all stripes leapt into action to save a school that truly guarantees equal opportunity for all.

“This decision is a major win and a testament to the dedication and hard work of the entire City College community,” says Interim Chancellor Susan Lamb. “With the help of elected officials and San Francisco voters, we came together under extremely difficult circumstances and worked hard to achieve this major milestone.”

“We’re thrilled that the ACCJC has recognized the amazing work done by City College and has given us seven years of accreditation. It is a tribute to our faculty, staff and administration who have worked so hard,” added Thea Selby, vice president of the Board of Trustees.

The California Federation of Teachers, representing 25,000 community college faculty in 30 colleges across the state, played an active role and calls the decision long overdue. CFT president Joshua Pechthalt, an outspoken critic of the ACCJC’s decision to place CCSF on “show cause” in the first place in 2012, said: “This is great news for the students, faculty, staff and city of San Francisco, all of whom depend on that outstanding college for access to an affordable higher education.

“This successful outcome could not have happened, however, without the continued pressure of AFT Local 2121, the CFT, national AFT, and other allies who have advocated for the college since the disastrous and illegal ACCJC decision of 2012. It is also clear that new leadership at the commission has made a difference.”

City College faculty union president Tim Killikelly said: “All of us at the college are so excited and relieved that the accreditation crisis is over. But we mustn’t forget that the accreditation crisis at CCSF should never have occurred. The quality of its education was never in doubt.”

Now that City College’s accreditation crisis has been resolved, the CFT plans to meet with the Community College Board of Governors to discuss the next steps for accreditation in California. The reform of a broken accreditation system has been uppermost in stakeholders’ minds ever since 2013, when the CFT, together with AFT 2121, filed a third party complaint with the U.S. Department of Education over ACCJC’s actions.

This was but the first of many actions taken by CFT and its allies that brought close scrutiny to this particular ACCJC decision but, more broadly, to the culture of secrecy and arrogance that had sent the commission down the wrong path. It took lawsuits, legislation, a state audit, a Chancellor’s Task Force and Board of Governors actions to arrive at today’s announcement.

City College faculty union president Tim Killikelly said: “All of us at the college are so excited and relieved that the accreditation crisis is over. But we mustn’t forget that the accreditation crisis at CCSF should never have occurred. The quality of its education was never in doubt.”

AFT national President Randi Weingarten said: “After five years weathering needless sanctions and punitive attacks from their rogue accreditor ACCJC, the brave students and faculty at City College of San Francisco can finally focus on creating opportunity rather than on fighting for survival. Faculty can get back to teaching and students to learning, without the specter of institutional decimation and devastation hanging over their heads. We fought hard for this and won, and we are thrilled to have been proven right about how great this college is.”

“We need to stay on track to a new accreditor,” said Pechthalt, “as well as make sure no student faces the obstacles to a quality education that the ACCJC created in this situation. Toward that end, we will need key policy safeguards so that the CCSF situation is never replicated in other colleges. We hope this turns a page for higher education in California.”

One of the lawsuits to save City College from virtually certain closure after its accreditation was slated for termination was filed by San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera against ACCJC in August 2013 for unlawful business practices in its evaluation of the college. After winning the high-stakes preliminary injunction motion that successfully halted the termination process, Herrera’s suit ultimately proved that ACCJC engaged in “significant unlawful practices.” It also secured tough, enforceable injunctions to protect City College’s rights in the evaluation process.

AFT national President Randi Weingarten said: “Faculty can get back to teaching and students to learning, without the specter of institutional decimation and devastation hanging over their heads. We fought hard for this and won, and we are thrilled to have been proven right about how great this college is.”

“City College is part of the fabric of San Francisco.” Herrera said today. “It provides hope, community and opportunity to anyone who needs it. I’m happy we were able to do our part to help keep the school open, and I’m thrilled this vital institution will now be able to serve its students and our city for generations to come.”

Congresswoman Jackie Speier, who represents San Francisco, issued a victory statement: “Our collective nightmare about the viability of City College is over. Tens of thousands of students in San Francisco can finally rejoice and enroll into City College classes with confidence,” Speier said.

“It’s been a long and hard-fought battle by a large coalition of students, educators and elected officials who recognize how essential City College is to a healthy San Francisco. The college has a sterling record of preparing students for good and well-paying jobs that it can now continue without the fear of having its doors slammed shut. This is a victory for the entire city.”

Bay View editor Mary Ratcliff can be reached at editor@sfbayview.com or 415-671-0789. For more information and background on this long running story, click here and here.

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