Tuesday, July 9, 2013
The Steering Committee of the California Conference of the American Association of University Professors (CA-AAUP) unequivocally opposes the recent decision of the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC) to revoke accreditation for City College of San Francisco (CCSF).
2. The CA-AAUP supports the AFT's request to the Department of Education for investigation of the ACCJC, in regard to conflicts of interest, lack of transparency, violations of federal and state laws, and violations of ACCJC’s own formal policies; and
3. The CA-AAUP applauds CCSF faculty, staff, and students for maintaining their commitment to quality education under extremely difficult conditions.
The CA-AAUP is a state-wide organization of associations affiliated with theAmerican Association of University Professors. The CA-AAUP represents all sectors of higher education in California--the Community Colleges, the California State Universities, the Universities of California, religiously affiliated colleges and universities, and other private institutions. As such, it is the task of the Steering Committee of the CA-AAUP to articulate and defend the interests of its various constituencies.
The ACCJC's decision to revoke CCSF accreditation follows its July 2012 order to "show cause" why CCSF should not lose its accreditation. We note that the order to show cause focused entirely on questions of financial and administrative policy. CCSF acknowledged its financial insecurity and took steps to address the problems identified by the ACCJC. The elections of November 2012 facilitated this process by reserving substantial funds for CCSF. Voters' decision to support CCSF financially confirms the community's commitment to CCSF, and its support for CCSF faculty and students.
We note further that the ACCJC's finding of an inadequate administrative system at CCSF is somewhat unusual. It departs from the widespread recognition that all institutions of higher education have recently expanded their administrative ranks. CCSF has explained that it scaled back its administrative structure in an effort to deal with its financial problems, while preserving its core instructional mission. This calculation appears reasonable to us. It is a reflection of the unsustainable financial rigors under which the College has operated over the past several years, rather than a reflection on CCSF’s administrative incompetency.
The most striking aspect of the ACCJC’s rationale for revoking CCSF's accreditation is that it does not provide any academic reasons for doing so. By all accounts, CCSF has consistently provided quality education to its 85,000 students. CCSF’s academic success is no doubt related to the stability and quality of its faculty. CCSF strives to employ full-time, tenure-track faculty and has acquired a positive reputation for its dealings with part-time faculty. The resultant academic success of CCSF students has won the praise of informed observers. For example, in 2012, Schools.com ranked City College as second among the top 25 community colleges in California (http://www.schools.com/articles/top-25-community-colleges-in-california). This ranking reinforced the praise that the New York Times heaped on CCSF several years earlier.
If anything, the ACCJC’s decision to revoke CCSF accreditation shines a statewide spotlight on the CCSF’s impressive academic performance. As word of this decision spreads, faculty at public and private institutions of higher education in California and beyond have expressed their strong disapproval of ACCJC’s ruling.
The ACCJC’s decision has also drawn attention to the history of criticism that surrounds the ACCJC. A common complaint is that the ACCJC has grown imperious, and that it is too hasty in its decisions to sanction community colleges. Rightly or wrongly, informed observers also speculate that the ACCJC's pattern of premature censure supports a push to “privatize” higher education. The spike in sanctions serves, for some, as a justification to promote the “for-profit” initiative in higher education.
The Steering Committee of the CA-AAUP cannot document this latter claim, but we take both observations as distressing evidence of estrangement between the ACCJC and the state’s community college system.
These developments must be reversed as soon as possible. The best way the ACCJC could do so would be to involve faculty more closely in its workings. More constructive solutions to CCSF’s financial and administrative problems need to be devised. At the same time, CCSF should be commended, not punished, for delivering so well on its core instructional mission under conditions of financial duress.
The Steering Committee of the CA-AAUP joins several major organizations such as the American Association of the University Professors,** the American Federation of Teachers, and the Californian Federation of Teachers in respectfully but emphatically requesting that the ACCJC reverse its revocation of CCSF’s accreditation.
Furthermore, mindful of the complaints regarding a lack of transparency in the ACCJC's work, the Steering Committee urges the AJCC to reform its approach and the manner in which it discharges its statutory duties.
*More information about the AFT's complaint can be found here:
** See the AAUP's 7-8-13 statement regarding CCSF accreditation: