Herrera hails ACCJC’s ouster

Community Colleges’ Board of Governors votes 14-0 to replace accreditation model, citing lawsuits over ACCJC’s ‘unfair treatment and punitive approach’

SAN FRANCISCO (Nov. 16, 2015)—The embattled accrediting commission that for more than two years sought to terminate City College of San Francisco’s accreditation will itself be terminated in California, as the Board of Governors of the state’s community colleges voted 14-0 today to implement a new accreditation model.  The board’s resolution cited lawsuits, state audits and legislative actions that identified “grave concerns” about the “lack of transparency, non-collegiality, unfair treatment and punitive approach toward California community colleges” by the Accrediting Commission of Community and Junior Colleges, or ACCJC.  Today’s resolution concluded that the “current structure of ACCJC, along with its lack of credibility as perceived by its peers and the public, no longer meet the current and anticipated needs of California community colleges.”

City Attorney Dennis Herrera, whose 2013 litigation against the ACCJC blocked the commission from moving forward with its plans to terminate the City College’s accreditation, hailed the Board of Governor’s decision late this afternoon.

“Today’s resolution is enormously important to protect all California community colleges, but it’s especially sweet vindication to those who fought so hard to save City College of San Francisco from the excesses of these out-of-control accreditors,” said Herrera.  “The entire City College community—students, faculty, administrators, employees and trustees—deserves credit for the remarkable and worthwhile progress they’ve made in recent years, even when responding to ACCJC demands that were inconsistent and even irrational.  I’m proud to lead an office whose legal advocacy played a key role in helping save our cherished San Francisco institution from the ACCJC, and I’m grateful that other community colleges will be spared from similar unlawful actions.”

Herrera sued the Novato, Calif.-based ACCJC in San Francisco Superior Court on Aug. 22, 2013, alleging unfair and unlawful practices in the agency’s evaluation of City College.  Months later, after a series of procedural delays by the accreditors’ attorneys, Herrera filed a high-stakes motion for preliminary injunction to block the ACCJC from moving forward with its plans to terminate the college’s accreditation.  San Francisco Superior Court Judge Curtis E.A. Karnow granted the major portion of Herrera’s motion on Jan. 2, 2014, preliminarily enjoining the ACCJC from finalizing its planned termination of City College’s accreditation during the course of the litigation.

On Jan. 16, 2015, Judge Karnow issued a detailed 72-page ruling that found ACCJC had engaged in “significant unlawful practices” in reaching its 2013 decision to terminate City College’s accreditation.  The ruling vindicated Herrera’s decision to file the lawsuit, which was harshly criticized by the San Francisco Chronicle and even some city leaders.

The ACCJC took its first public step to terminate City College’s accreditation in June 2012, when the private commission unexpectedly issued the harshest sanction an accreditation process can produce: a “show cause” letter, placing the burden on the college to prove why its accreditation should not be terminated.  A year later, in June 2013, despite significant progress to address the deficiencies identified by accreditors, the commission announced its intention to terminate City College’s accreditation effective July 31, 2014.  Such a termination would have made City College’s closure a virtual certainty, had Herrera’s injunction not blocked the ACCJC from moving forward.

The case is: People of the State of California ex rel. Dennis Herrera v. Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges et al., San Francisco Superior Court No. 13-533693, filed Aug. 22, 2013.


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