Judge: City College of San Francisco allowed to sue ACCJC

Bay City News
Wednesday, July 16, 2014

SAN FRANCISCO -- A judge ruled Wednesday morning that a lawsuit filed on behalf of beleaguered City College of San Francisco against a regional accrediting commission can continue despite the school's accreditation no longer being in imminent danger of revocation.

In San Francisco Superior Court Judge Curtis Karnow's courtroom, Andrew Sclar, an attorney for the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges, argued today for the lawsuit's dismissal after the ACCJC last month granted City College an extension under a newly established policy.

City College was slated to lose its accreditation effective July 31 after the Novato-based accrediting commission evaluated the school and decided to revoke its accreditation, citing problems with its administration, finances, governance structure and other issues.

The ACCJC voted in June 2013 to terminate City College's accreditation after the school had been placed on "show cause" and allegedly had not made enough of the changes that the commission had recommended.

Last year, the lawsuit filed by the San Francisco City Attorney's Office claimed the ACCJC treated City College unfairly during the accreditation review process, along with other conflicts of interest.

An injunction was issued this January preventing the revocation from taking effect until a trial in October.

In June, the ACCJC announced new rules would give City College more time to meet accreditation standards if the school applied for "restoration status," which would give it two years to complete the commission's requirements and come into compliance for accreditation.

Sclar, the ACCJC attorney, said the school and city attorney's office is arguing that there was not enough notice to correct deficiencies and that there were improper procedures to reach the commission's determination.

He said the commission gave the school "multiple notice" and that "(CCSF) had the opportunity to be heard."

Karnow asked about the likelihood that the ACCJC would find by July 31 that the school is in compliance and would grant them re-accreditation.

Sclar said he was unable to give an exact timeline or know the possibility of re-accrediting the school.

Deputy City Attorney Sarah Eisenberg said nothing will happen in the next two weeks that will affect the lawsuit and argued to keep the suit moving forward.

"We are challenging the procedures which led up to the decision," Eisenberg said.

She urged the judge to not delay the start of the trial on Oct. 27.

Karnow denied the ACCJC's motion, explaining that he didn't have any evidence from the ACCJC that the school's accreditation status would change in the near future.

CCSF supporters who filled the courtroom and hallway left the hearing with thumbs up and in smiles.

American Federation of Teachers Local 2121 president Tim Killikelly said outside of court that today was a "victory."

"Today was great," Killikelly said. "The restoration status process is deeply flawed."

AFT Local 2121 attorney Robert Bezemek said the ACCJC thinks they are above the law and that the disaccrediting process has been illegal.

Eisenberg from the city attorney's office told supporters outside of court that "this went wonderfully."

She said she was pleased with the results and that the trial is not expected to be further delayed.