State calls for reform of unfair practices

Accreditation process changes in lieu of fiascos

By Robert Clinton, Sports Editor

In response to the State Chancellor’s Office’s third iteration of its “Accreditation Task Force,” the California Community Colleges Board of Governors unanimously voted last month to direct the Chancellor’s Office to develop a new model for accreditation of the state system’s 113 schools.

The Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC), the commission that accredits California community colleges, was found by the task force to “lack credibility and no longer meets the current and anticipated needs of the California community colleges.” 

Not only covering the community colleges of California, the commission formed in 1962 also oversees the accreditation of Hawaii’s schools.

The shift in direction was precipitated by the accreditation fiasco at City College of San Francisco in 2013. In that case, the commission moved to repeal the school’s accreditation.

The move did not stem from the school failing to meet the academic needs of its over 70,000 students. The focus fell more along the lines of failing to adequately track its students academic performance and failing to keep what the commission felt were appropriate reserve funds.

The commission issued its findings in a 66-page report detailing excessive short term borrowing and failure to maintain adequate facilities.

That attempt to withdraw accreditation was eventually overruled by a judge on July 31, 2015 following a lawsuit by United Faculty (UF) and other faculty unions.

For years, they have objected to what they feel is an inconsistent and burdensome accreditation process driven by the ACCJC.

“The court system found ACCJC actions to be in violation of professional standards.” Contra Costa College Academic Senate President Beth Goehring said. “While we want to assure a quality education for all students attending colleges in California by having regular accreditation visits, the accreditation body must also assure us that they meet the legal and ethical standards necessary to provide oversight.”

The district’s United Faculty was one of the first to bring its discrepancies with the commission into the public sphere.

In 2009 it helped craft a resolution of “no confidence” in the ACCJC that was delivered to the commission and the State Chancellor’s Office by the California Community College Independents (CCCI).

They are an independent bargaining agency for the California community college faculty members.

Eventually, a state audit also found inconsistencies in the commission’s dealings with different school’s –  coupled with an overall lack of transparency.

“The ACCJC took a more punitive approach when it came to accreditation compliance,” CCC Interim President Mojdeh Mehdizadeh said. “It will take years to know what it will effectively mean to move away from the ACCJC.”

The task force also blasted the ACCJC in its own 270-page report that the commission had resisted calls to change for years.

It also concluded that the ACCJC was too punitive in its treatment of some colleges and that its members seem to care more about regulatory issues than helping schools improve.

After the first task force recommended reforms but got no action from the commission. Then the situation worsened when like City College, College of the Redwoods and Cuesta College were put on sanctions.

This led to the formation of a second task force. That group did not release a report.

Following the inaction, the CCCI along with Senator Jim Beall (D-San Jose) and Jim Nielson (R-Gerber) asked for a legislative audit into CCC accreditation which led to the third task force.