SF City Attorney Dennis Herrera sues to keep City College open

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The suit against the ACCJC
Photo by Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez

City Attorney Dennis Herrera filed a suit today to block City College of San Francisco’s accreditation agency from closing down the school.

The accreditation agency, the Association of California Community and Junior Colleges, moved to put City College on a sanction last July that would lead to its closure in exactly one year. Since then, enrollment at the college has plummeted and the school has been in the fight for its very existence. Now Herrera is saying that closure action was improper, unwarranted, and out of line with the agency’s prior actions.

Herrera’s suit alleges the ACCJC unlawfully allowed its advocacy and political bias to prejudice its evaluation of college accreditation standards, he said. “It is a matter of public record that the ACCJC has been an advocate to reshape the mission of California community colleges,” Herrera said, and that was the basis of his suit.

The ACCJC cannot be advocates for change in the higher education system, he said. “There’s a reason judges aren’t advocates and advocates aren’t judges,” he said. “Now we have no problem with the right of others to advocate an agenda against the open access mission… but we should have a problem with an entity charged with evaluation engages in political advocacy.”

Notably, the ACCJC wanted City College to shrink its mission, concentrating its money on students who could transfer easily to four year institutions from City College, which many advocates say would leave students learning trades, new English learners, and other disenfranchised students in the dust. You can see our coverage on that here.

Above: Text of Herrera's suit and a press release with more information, courtesy of Sara Bloomberg, reporter for City College's newspaper The Guardsman.

 

Herrera also filed an administrative action against the California Community College Board of Governors, saying they had abandoned their role as the check and balance on community colleges, and left it to a private institution that was unaccountable to the public (for full disclosure, I am named in Herrera's suit on pages 16 and 18 for my role advocating against the Student Success Act of 2012 to the Board of Governors. I was a student at the time, not a professional reporter, and I have no personal stance on the future of the ACCJC). The Board of Governors oversees the 112 community colleges in California, the largest body of community colleges in the country. 

Alisa Messer, the faculty union president of City College, agreed that the Board of Governors should not be abdicating its policy and oversight role. 

"No outside, unaccountable agency should be making up its own rules or setting policy for our state's colleges," she said. 

City College Trustee Rafael Mandelman applauded action against the ACCJC.

“At this point I think it absolutely critical the ACCJC is not in the driver's seat making these decisions, they're not fit to do that,” he told the Guardian.

This past Tuesday City College submitted review documents to the ACCJC attesting to why it should be allowed to stay open and accredited, and Therese M. Stewart, the chief deputy city attorney, said that while they sent an order to ACCJC not to destroy documents, they had not yet obtained any documents yet. “We haven’t actually sought documents yet from the ACCJC, we asked them to not destroy documents so that we may seek them later,” she said. “Eventually we will get them.”

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