Cindy Chew/S.F. Examiner file photoCCSF will find out next month whether it will keep its accreditation.

Cindy Chew/S.F. Examiner file photoCCSF will find out next month whether it will keep its accreditation.

Accreditor too harsh on CCSF, complaint says

A complaint filed against the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges requests the removal of the harshest sanction issued against City College of San Francisco, claiming the commission violated “federal law, state law and their own guidelines.”

The California Federation of Teachers and the American Federation of Teachers Local 2121, which jointly filed the claim this week, say the commission is designed to review CCSF’s educational program but that instead it evaluated the administration and finances, among other things.

“They’ve essentially stuck their nose into other matters besides what accreditation is supposed to be about: looking at and evaluating educational programs,” said CFT President Joshua Pechthalt. “They went well beyond that — in violation of federal and state law — by saying they need to hire more administrators, or they’re not putting enough money into retirement and benefits, and that you’re paying part-time faculty health benefits, which you shouldn’t be doing.”

CCSF was issued the sanction last summer after the commission found numerous violations with operations, structure and the way the school handles its finances. The sanction meant CCSF officials needed to prove why the school should remain open by following as many as 14 recommendations.

A 262-page report was submitted to the commission in March detailing the changes CCSF had made since the sanction was issued. The commission is expected to make a ruling on City College’s fate in June.

The 280-page complaint was filed this week with the accrediting commission and the U.S. Department of Education, which regulates the commission.

Among other contentions are claims of numerous conflicts of interest between members of the commission, and alleged personal relationships with some members of the visiting team who are supposed to be independent of the commission. It also lists violations of procedure, including the independent team not giving a recommendation to the commission following last year’s visit to CCSF.

Accrediting commission officials said the complaint would be formally reviewed and responses will be made directly to the complaining parties.

Alisa Messer, president of Local 2121, said CCSF’s sanction was “never valid in the first place.”

“It’s a very thorough documentation of a series of idiosyncrasy regarding the sanction of City College of San Francisco and some behaviors of the accrediting commission in relation to that and other community colleges,” Messer said. “The status should be removed and CCSF should be re-evaluated.”

Messer and Pechthalt said they would like to see the sanction revoked and the commission investigated.

“We don’t want the federal government to reauthorize this accrediting commission,” Pechthalt said. “It should be a commission that is open and transparent.”

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