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Fight to Save City College of San Francisco Will Go to Trial





The battle to keep City College of San Francisco open and accredited took a dramatic turn late Thursday afternoon. San Francisco Superior Court Judge Curtis Karnow temporarily barred the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC) from revoking accreditation for the 79-year-old school that serves about 80,000 students at 11 San Francisco campuses. The ACCJC, the agency charged with evaluating California’s 112 community colleges, had sought to revoke CCSF’s accreditation by July 31; it was challenged by several lawsuits filed by San Francisco’s City Attorney and a pair of teachers unions.

Judge Karnow, while dismissing the unions’ suits, ruled in favor of the city attorney’s request for a temporary injunction against the accreditation revocation, declaring that CCSF’s shutdown would be too extreme a response to the ACCJC’s findings of administrative deficiencies at CCSF. “Those consequences would be catastrophic,” Karnow said of a shutdown.

Lawyers for the ACCJC unsuccessfully argued for  a dismissal of all challenges to its institutional authority and expertise in determining accreditation standards. Now the fight will move to a bench trial, where S.F. City Attorney Dennis Herrera will press his office’s complaint that the ACCJC’s decision to close City College by pulling its accreditation was motivated by political bias and was payback against CCSF. A number of the school’s faculty, trustees and students had publicly stated their opposition to legislation, favored by the ACCJC and for-profit-college advocates, that would have moved California’s community colleges away from “open education” models to a system favoring degree completion.

Gabriel Zitrin, a spokesman for Herrera’s office, told Capital & Main that a case management conference is scheduled for January 26 in Judge Karnow’s courtroom. At that time calendar schedules, discovery motions and other issues related to the trial’s mechanics will be discussed prior to the setting of a trial date. Zitrin also noted that the teachers unions will remain plaintiffs in that trial. (The Novato, California offices of the ACCJC were still closed for the holidays when contacted for comment.)

Despite Thursday’s victory for CCSF’s survival, Karnow did deny Herrera’s motion to additionally prevent the ACCJC from making decisions affecting the state’s other community colleges until the commission’s evaluation policies were found, by the Department of Education, to conform to federal regulations.

(See Gary Cohn’s December 18 coverage of this story.)

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