City College accreditor can’t survive unless it changes — profoundly



By Tim Redmond

JUNE 30, 2014 – It’s become pretty clear in the past couple of weeks that the fight to save City College is only going to end when the rogue accreditation commission is either disbanded, replaced, or completely reconstituted.

The Accreditation Commission for Community and Junior Colleges is so far beyond redemption that the state Auditor’s Office has slammed the panel. The California Federation of Teachers has released a scathing report on the City College decision. The state chancellor and the head of City College both say the ACCJC went too far and needs to back down.

The facts are on the side of the critics – so clearly and so overwhelmingly that I think the city attorney’s lawsuit will be successful, and the state Legislature (where the ACCJC has essentially zero friends) will seek alternatives, and the schools that pay the ACCJC’s nut will get together and demand something better.

And this whole group of crazies will have to resign to save their organization, or see it taken out from under them.

Whatever the positive media spin, the ACCJC hasn’t given up its efforts to shut down City College – and as long as the current leadership is in place, I don’t think it will.

The state auditor is generally pretty neutral, and has no reason to take sides in this fight. Her report has the usual smooth language of bureaucratese, but when you cut through that, it’s brutal. The report suggests that the state Legislature take steps to replace the ACCJC with some other sort of accrediting agency – a radical proposal that would end the hegemony of President Barbara Beno’s fiefdom.

At the very least, the auditor says, the state should offer alternatives, giving schools options for accreditation. Again: That’s the end of ACCJC. Nobody is going to pay dues to this group if there is any possible alternative.

The auditor cited some of the same problems that everyone else in the state is complaining about: The ACCJC does everything in secret session. The sanctions against City College are inconsistent with how other institutions have been treated (as if, for example, there was a political vendetta). City College was not allowed to introduce evidence on its appeal to show that it had made progress in addressing the problems the panel wanted solved.

More: Colleges that have staff members on the board of the ACCJC don’t get sanctioned at the same rate as other institutions.

The auditor is pretty clear: The point of accreditation is to ensure academic quality (oh, and by the way, nobody disagrees that City College students are getting a good education.) Accreditation is not supposed to be used as a tool to promote a policy agenda.

This is devastating stuff in the political world. Take this audit to the Legislature and there’s a good chance that in 2015, the ACCJC could cease to hold monopoly power over the fate of community colleges in California.

Then there’s the CFT report. The teachers, of course, oppose the shut-down of City College, but have also (as teachers do) done their homework. The analysis looks at the flaws in the ACCJC’s decision to deny much of the City College appeal.

Among the key elements of the CFT report: the ACCJC is not telling the truth about the history of City College compliance and accreditation. In 2006, the last time a review team descended on the school, the ACCJC found academic excellence, and noted only a few problems and issues. That’s typical of these reviews – nobody is perfect, and every site visit leads to suggestions.

But the notion that City College was out of compliance for years and refused to make changes is just wrong, and another example of how the ACCJC has twisted the facts in this case to reach a conclusion driven – as a lawsuit and now two different studies show – but ideology and not education.

The ACCJC is not as powerful an institution as it might think. You can’t be arrogant and unresponsive to the state Legislature, the United States Congress, the US Department of Education, and most of your constituents and hope to survive unscathed.

And despite its best efforts, City Attorney Dennis Herrera’s lawsuit is moving forward. The judge in the case, Curtis Karnow, read all the spin in the newspapers and got the attorneys together for a phone conference to see if the lawsuit was moot at this point, but Sara Eisenberg, the deputy city attorney who is so far kicking the ACCJC’s ass, made it clear that the issues are still very real and need to be litigated.

So that question – whether the bogus new “process” is enough to satisfy the legal issues Herrera’s office raised – will be briefed in the next couple of weeks, and if things go as they have been, the judge will confirm that the trial is happening this fall.

What happens if the courts rule in the city’s favor, and the ACCJC can’t defend its position on accreditation? It will have no credibility anywhere.

The only way this agency can keep its operations going at this point would be to back off City College, grant a two-year stay and then approve reaccreditation. But Beno and her team show no intention of doing that. So she is forcing a showdown that I don’t think she can win.



  • Sam

    So nowhere in this vendetta do you even for a moment consider the real issue i.e. that CCSF has been a freaking disaster that probably would been closed down in any other city a long long time ago?

    You seem so intent on undermining a panel of subject matter experts that it appears to not matter an iota to you that CCSF is a freaking abortion of an academic institution. That really just doesn’t matter at all to you as long as your ideological agenda remains intact, does it?

    • joizy

      What’s the matter Sam? Did you try to take a basket weaving class at CCSF and fail? I really don’t know where your opinions are coming from since the facts clearly prove otherwise. CCSF is a nationally recognized institution and has out-performed all other California community colleges on measures of student success. The ACCJC is hardly a “panel of subject matter experts” since the President, Barbara Beno was fired as president of Vista College and the Chair of the commission, Sherril Amador, was voted out by a 70% no-confidence vote from her faculty. CCSF even out-performed all of the schools that members of the commission oversee. It was clearly an assassination attempt for political reasons. And you clearly have no idea what you are talking about.

  • esperanza

    If City College actually was “a freaking disaster”, your concern might have merit. I’m a student there, and have been for the better part of 10 years – one of those lifelong learners that Beno wants to do away with. The reason I continue to attend CCSF is because of the exceptional, highly qualified, and committed teachers there. Ideology isn’t a factor; quality teaching is.

    • Sam

      If it has taken you ten years to graduate the worse educational institution in the Bay Area, then exactly what do you think that we have to learn from your self-serving opinions?

      • joizy

        I wonder if you read the recent state scorecard which showed CCSF out-performed all other community colleges in California by wide margins on all areas of student success and achievement. Some people may take 10 years to complete an AA but that is because they are working adults, are raising families, and /or they entered unprepared by their k-12 education for college work and CCSF helped get them up to speed. I would not call you a troll, but I would call you grossly misinformed.

        • Sam

          If CCSF is that good then why are we subsidizing it? It can surely stand on its own feet if it as good as you claim.

          And why is it to grossly, horribly mismanaged?

  • Donna

    So, troll Sam, what are you basing your opinions on? Statewide statistics?

    • Sam

      Donna, if you are defining a “troll” as anyone who disagrees with your biases then I imagine I am in very good and large company.

      But if your point is that CCSF is a premier educational establishment that is well managed, then the onus is surely on you to produce the evidence for that, because I cannot offhand think of anyone who holds that view.

      • Rick


        All large institutions have managment problems that can and should be corrected, but should students suffer the consequences of bad management that nevertheless provides them with a quality education.

        Here’s evidence of that from the ACCJC itself.
        In the ACCJC’s 2012 report placing CCSF on show cause are statements clearly indicating that CCSF met the main standards for accreditation. CCSF is described as a college that provides “high quality instruction” in both credit and non-credit programs with “several exemplary models of demonstrated educational quality,” “provides comprehensive and accessible student services to its students, and that “there is rich evidence that library faculty and staff demonstrate that their courses and services meet students’ learning needs.”

        This also suggests something positive about the college’s management at the time. Otherwise, how could it achieve what is described here by the ACCJC.

        As a result of the accreditation crisis and the state takeover, the new management team brought in to the college by the superhero special trustee with extraordinary powers is another story–perhaps calling it a “freaking disaster” might be appropriate.

        see 2012 report pgs. 10, 18, 30, 37 and 42 at

  • Donna

    So, Sam, what are you basing your opinions on? You started the conversation – what is your basis?

  • jch

    Sam, You haven’t answered the question. And I suspect you have a very narrow circle of friends. You and that group probably operate in the “evidence free zone” occupied by many conservatives.

    • Sam

      Your “circle” sounds narrow to me as well. The simple fact is that SF is becoming the global center for the knowledge, social and sharing economies that are dominating the planet. I’m struggling to see how CCSF is relevant to that when you need a Ph.D from a top-notch school like Stanford or Harvard just to snag an entry-level job and a $4K a month 1BR flat.

      • jch

        What is the source of your “simple fact”? Personal observation? If so write it up and see if anyone agrees. Otherwise, give some support for your “facts,” something you have failed to do so far.

      • Karl Young

        So, Sam are you saying that anyone without a Ph.D from Harvard or Stanford or the plans to get such should basically just forget about trying to get an education or living in the bay area ? Though CCSF provides a path to 4 year degrees (and maybe on to grad school) at places like that for those who aren’t trustafarians, I guess those people are pretty useless too and need not apply, yeah ?. Thanks for sharing, economically speaking that is.

      • joizy

        So, your solution would be to shut down CCSF and close the door to education for all of those who are neither prepared academically, nor can afford a PhD from Stanford or Harvard. Why don’t you take a few classes at CCSF since it really seems you could use some educating?

        • Sam

          No, I think that some parts of CCSF can be saved. But it needs to be cut back to a viable core.

          Some of the rest can probably be successfully privatized, thereby taking city taxpayers off the dime for its failures.

          And some needs to be closed down.

      • Jonathan

        The last CEO of San Francisco General, who was the first woman CEO, and the longest serving CEO in SF General’s history, got her degree from City College, as a single mom on welfare.
        I took one class there in 2010, and as a result of taking that one class, promoted and nearly trippled my income. I am all for City College as a path to increased opportunity for members of our community who can’t go to Harvard or Stanford.

  • Karl Young

    Hey Tim, thanks for the continuing updates on this and I completely agree with your statement:

    “It’s become pretty clear in the past couple of weeks that the fight to save City College is only going to end when the rogue accreditation commission is either disbanded, replaced, or completely reconstituted.”

    as I always have. My only problem is that in all the ink (er, pixels I guess…) that have been used for this story, not once have I seen anyone even start to outline a legal mechanism for disbanding, replacing, or reconstituting the ACCJC (e.g. even if Herrera wins and saves CCSF it’s not clear that there will be any outright damage to the ACCJC). Given that vacuum it feels like Hitler’s rise to power or something, i.e. no matter how outraged any citizens or politicians get there seems to be no actual remedy available.

  • Robin

    CCSF is an entry point for many to transfer to 4-year schools, it is an entry point for those who are not going for tech jobs but for everything else people can get trained for, it is a place for people to learn English, it is an entry point for those who have done jail time, etc etc. Not everyone is going to live in SF who is going to work here in all the other jobs that exist besides high tech, which by the way, is resented by alot of us due to their workers jacking up the rents to ridiculous levels.

    • Sam

      Resentment of those who have more money than you has a simple name.


      • Robin

        Not really – we have different values than you, which is not to put money above everything else and knock out everyone else who doesn’t make tons of it. Rather, to be considerate of everyone’s needs and not charge a fortune for meeting them, like housing is way way inflated in cost here now.

        • Sam

          If money isn’t important to you then why are you so quick to deride those who have more money?

          It seems to me that if you were genuinely indifferent to money, then you would not judge people based on them having what you do not. It would be more like the way most of us feel about, say, eye color.

          • Robin

            I am not against money. Money can be used for some very beneficial social needs. I am opposed to it hurting others, which is what is going on with rents that are too high for the majority of regular folks to afford. High-paid tech workers are able to afford it and others are being majorly displaced and unable to come here to live. When I came here in the 80s, rents were way low and allowed everyone to be here who wanted to. This is the current social impact of too much spendable money and it’s going to be one of the themes of the upcoming Mime Troupe show opening this weekend. It is an issue that is devastating to people who want to be able to live here and can’t afford it.

          • Sam

            Robin, anyone with money who seeks a commodity X will have the effect of raising the price of X. You might as well complain that people with more money than you drive up the price of everything from beans to vacations.

            You appear to be fine with money as long as that money is used for the things that you just happen to personally approve of, and not otherwise.

            Maybe SF was available to everyone who wanted to come here 30 years ago. But there are plenty of other towns where you and I could not now afford to relocate to. Think you can afford La Jolla, Telluride, Taos or Beverly Hills? No, you cannot.

            The reality is this. People want to have money precisely because it buys you what is most desirable and what is beyond the ability of most people to afford.

            Caviar isn’t affordable by everyone who likes it and nor is living in the world’s favorite city. You have been outbid for something that people want. And you need to learn to deal with that, because nobody is interested in subsidizing your desire to have something you cannot afford. That’s your job.

      • Karl Young

        Yikes, I can’t think of any comments lately that have generated less envy.

        • Sam

          Karl, how can you miss the obvious envy being expressed in these words by Robin?

          “high tech, which by the way, is resented by a lot of us due to their workers jacking up the rents to ridiculous levels.”

          • Karl Young

            Robin’s words implied nothing of the sort to me. There have always been plenty of people with a lot of money in San Francisco and except for the rare upheavals like the current period, people across a broad spectrum of income levels have co-existed happily. Robin’s resentment seemed to me to express the feeling that boom generated wealth combined with a callous disregard for the situation of other people, wealthy or not, was creating problems for all (after all, Vinod Koshla complained about rents in SF). If we were all full on libertarians that only cared abut their own wealth at any cost, then your comment about envy may have been warranted.

            Though a renter that is in danger of getting pushed out of SF, I don’t take any particular stand on the current situation. The Spanish shoved the Ohlone out of town, and the Gold Rush boomers pushed them out. I don’t claim any particular holy status so will just move on if the latest instance of delusional behavior claims my residence.

            My response to you was based on your one dimensional (and unsupported, despite requests by other commentors for evidence) analysis of the CCSF situation. Far be it for me to judge you based on a few posts, but those posts sounded like that of a wealth optimizing bot who has no time even for others trying to generate their own wealth (e.g. immigrants and other marginalized populations who have benefited from the resources provided by CCSF).

            For someone so enamored of Harvard and Stanford educations you seem curiously unaware of recent research indicating that beyond a certain, slightly better than subsistence level, yearly income, further wealth begets no further happiness. So your state seems like a far from envious state to me (and I would bet even for other wealth optimizing bots).

          • Robin

            Thanks, Karl – all the education in the world will not cure a callous heart. That part starts with learning some compassion for others. Sometimes that happens when we ourselves take a tumble and need assistance.

          • Sam

            I agree that compassion for others is important. Isn’t that why the wealthiest typically put their money to good use, either by offering jobs to others or by funding charities, trusts and foundations to help others.

            What you cannot reasonably expect rich people to do is subsidize your rent just so you can live in a town that you cannot afford. Rather, you need to adjust your aspirations to suit your wallet.

            Not everyone can afford to live in the world’s favorite city.

          • Robin

            We always could until this tech boom happened. Sorry, I’m not buying it. And this article is supposed to be about City College. I look forward to its strong preservation.

          • Karl Young

            Ah, I see, the current situation is just the compassion of the marketplace; move along little irrelevant have-nots and have some compassion for the real men who should be able to enjoy their city without these nattering nabobs of negativism around. Well I knew a few of the he-men who had to go home to mommy after the last crash so I don’t see this as proper functioning of the market, just stupid planning (fueled of course by the greed of the hit and run real estate types, most of whom will lose their gamble as well as a bundle). And if you’re not for sale I’m afraid you’re being a little hypocritical; if market forces are as sacred as you seem to feel then people as well as real estate should have their proper market value. But as Robin said this discussion is getting a little far afield re. CCSF and the ACCJC; I think we should all just thank Tim for following this issue closely and giving us the details that none of the rest of the press seems interested in.

  • Ann Clark, SF Resident, Educator and CCSF Graduate

    Hi Tim, thank you for your excellent investigative reporting re CCSF. It is the best. Your reporting has far exceeded the SF newspapers. Hard to understand the motives behind the devastating and continuing ACCJC attacks against CCSF. July is the magic report month. Hopefully we will get a much revised ACCJC/Sacramento report. Sacramento still controls CCSF. CCSF has some problems but they can all be resolved. Good news is that the March 15 letters did not go out.

    CITY COLLEGE — CITY WIDE City College has grown from a “college on the hill” and old military barracks to campuses in neighborhoods and communities throughout San Francisco–from the Marina to Bayview – Hunters’ Point; from the Fillmore, Western Addition and Height Ashbury to Castro, Upper Market and throughout the entire city. The growth means new opportunities and challenges. Now is the time to make sure that all our neighborhoods and communities are heard and have equal access to education and resources. Three recommendations.
    1. A San Francisco City College Board of Trustees that represents all the voices of all our neighborhoods, communities, residents, immigrants, veterans, voters, taxpayers and businesses. Change the current seven member CCSF board of trustees to an eleven member elected district CCSF board with representation for all the people in all our neighborhoods and communities — not just the limited voices of the current seven trustees. The eleven districts would be the same as the SF Board of Supervisors. Make sure the student trustee elected by the students has board power to vote.
    2. Hire a firm such as San Francisco’s Harvey Rose & Associates to do locally based, independent, objective examination and financial oversight of CCSF revenues, expenditures including bond money. And to provide yearly reports to the public, the CCSF Board of Trustees and the SF Board of Supervisors to verify that CCSF “books” for education and bonds are open, accurate and well managed. For example, what happened to the money for three major bond projects–all approved by SF voters but never built: The Biotech Stem Cell Center, the Performing Arts Center and the Student Development Center. Where did the money go? For what? To whom?
    3. Restore the CCSF Department Chairpersons’ Council and get rid of the newly appointed Sacramento/AACJC “dean-lets”.


  • Bill

    Sour Sam has fierce opinions despite his lack of knowing much about IHE’s, and CCSF in particular. I’ve a masters and the best faculty I’ve had were at CCSF.
    I’m no fan of its management, but the education was excellent.