SAN FRANCISCO—This week, the California Federation of Teachers filed a substantive new complaint against the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges, arguing that the accreditor of California’s community colleges has failed so completely to fulfill its duties that the U.S. Department of Education should immediately “delist” it—that is, deny its renewal as an accreditor. The CFT was joined in the complaint by the faculty union at City College of San Francisco, AFT Local 2121, and its parent organization, the American Federation of Teachers.
A previous complaint filed by CFT in 2013 resulted in a finding by the Education Department that the ACCJC was in violation of numerous accreditation standards.
“For years, the ACCJC has pushed forward with self-serving, illegal accreditation practices that unjustifiably sullied the names of colleges and universities throughout California, like our own City College of San Francisco, while allowing bad actors like Corinthian Colleges to defraud and even bankrupt thousands of students,” said AFT President Randi Weingarten, whose 1.6 million members include more than 200,000 professionals in higher education. “Even after it’s been found at fault, the ACCJC is still in business, with the potential of devastating the college’s functioning and, with it, the ability of faculty to deliver a high-quality education to our students. Enough is enough. It is time to delist this failing commission and return hope to the community and every student City College serves.”
The complaint notes that the ACCJC is widely scorned because of its actions and no longer has “wide acceptance” among the California community colleges it oversees, a crucial standard for continued recognition for regional accreditors by the Department of Education.
“It is past time that we move on to a fair, competent accreditor for the colleges that serve more than 2 million students,” said CFT President Joshua Pechthalt, who is an AFT vice president. “The department should pay close attention to the long list of abuses of power and violations of accreditation norms committed by this agency, and help us find an agency that can do the job properly.”
The complaint zeroes in on an immediate problem created by the ACCJC for City College of San Francisco. In responding to a wave of criticism of its unfair and unlawful attempt to disaccredit City College in 2013, the ACCJC came up with a new policy, which it called “restoration status,” to give City College two more years to address the problems identified by the agency.
“Restoration status wasn’t designed to help City College,” says Tim Killikelly, president of AFT Local 2121. “It was designed to make it appear that the ACCJC was reasonable and responsive, so that it could survive all the scrutiny and actions that were coalescing against it from the courts and government agencies. But it is a policy that leaves all decision-making in the hands of the ACCJC and provides no due process or appeal procedures for City College.”
This policy, notes the complaint, does not align with accreditation norms, causes grave harm to the students and faculty of City College, and could allow the ACCJC to order City College closed in January 2017 with no opportunity for appeal.