Threatened closures are social justice issue
With the largest community college in California threatened with closure due to a loss of accreditation, community college faculty around the state are shaking their heads as they consider the stability of their own institutions.
City College of San Francisco may be the largest community college to have faced down the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges, but it is not the only one. College of the Sequoias in Visalia is also on the “show cause” list for alleged poor campus environment and is scrambling to make sure it doesn’t lose accreditation in the spring. As of October, some 20 publicly funded community colleges in California have received some sort of sanction by the commission, a private education association that accredits public and private community colleges in California, Hawaii and the Pacific Territories.
Social justice issue
“CCA stands in solidarity with our colleagues at City College,” said CCA President Lynette Nyaggah. “At the same time, we are concerned about what will happen to the College of Sequoias, where CCA represents faculty. The college in Visalia is in an area where poverty is high and students are underserved. This is a social justice issue.”
Lisa Greer, president of the College of the Sequoias Teachers Association, couldn’t agree more.
“We are the only higher education institute between Fresno and Bakersfield. We have extremely high unemployment, a high teen pregnancy rate and rampant drug use. Our students already have a hard enough time coming here. What will happen if we are closed?”
The college is expecting to be reviewed again by an ACCJC evaluation team in mid-November, and may learn at that time whether the show cause order has been withdrawn, will continue, or whether it will lose its accreditation. The college has submitted a final report to the ACCJC on how it has addressed previous concerns, largely having to do with campus climate.
Meanwhile, public officials are beginning to pay more attention to the ACCJC’s operations, particularly its president, Barbara Beno. Among those officials are state Senators Jim Nielsen (R-Yuba City) and Jim Beall (D-Campbell) who called for an audit of the commission. Following his meeting with Commission President Barbara Beno, Neilsen told the Joint Legislative Audit Committee, “I have never dealt with a more arrogant, condescending and dismissive individual,” adding it did not give him “comfort that all is well in how they are treating our California Community Colleges.”
Nielsen said he was even more troubled to learn that three days after the meeting, Beno ordered commissioners to shred confidential documents and notes, team and committee reports provided by an institution.
“What have they got to hide, and what have we got to accomplish to assure that all community colleges in California are fairly treated?” he asked the legislative subcommittee.
City College was officially denied accreditation in July and has been working with a special trustee to address issues and to retain its academic status. The faculty union represented by the California Federation of Teachers, has filed suit against the ACCJC to block the planned closure of the school.
Letter from DOE
Following a complaint by the faculty union, the ACCJC was taken to task in August when the U.S. Department of Education concluded that the accrediting commission had violated federal regulations. Specifically, the letter raised concerns about conflicts of interest, the fact that no “deficiencies” about CCSF were identified in its earlier review in 2006, and that there was insufficient faculty representation on the accrediting teams.
In a statement of solidarity with the City College faculty, CTA President Dean E. Vogel said, “In recent years, the ACCJC has issued an extraordinarily high number of sanctions to community colleges in California compared with other regional commissions in the United States. This is in spite of the fact that there is no evidence California’s community colleges provide education of lower quality than comparable community colleges across the country.
“We have urged the Commission to adopt a collaborative approach with colleges to overcome weaknesses, rather than impose sanctions. Unfortunately, it appears the commission has disregarded the herculean effort made by City College of San Francisco over the past year to address ACCJC recommendations.”