Panelists at City College of San Francisco unloaded on the state's accrediting commission Monday, accusing it of unfair actions against the embattled institution.
Rep. Jackie Speier, the San Mateo Democrat whose district includes CCSF, hosted Monday's panel, and she vowed to further shed light on "irrational" behavior by the accrediting body that in 2013 sought to have the school's accreditation revoked.
In fact, "the necessity to get the Department of Education to understand more specifically the arbitrariness with which the [Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges] has been operating" was Speier's biggest takeaway from a panel Monday on the status of CCSF, she told The San Francisco Examiner.
"I want [the DOE] to become much more well-briefed on what's going on with the ACCJC," Speier said after the panel. "I think the record shows there is favoritism, and arbitrariness and retaliation that has got to be changed."
CCSF remains open and accredited as it awaits the outcome of a lawsuit filed by the City Attorney's Office last year alleging that the school was unfairly evaluated prior to its accreditation being threatened two years ago. A judge who heard closing arguments in San Francisco Superior Court last week is expected to issue a tentative ruling in January.
Sara Eisenberg, the deputy city attorney who delivered closing arguments, said Monday at the panel that the City Attorney's Office is "pleased" with its work during the trial.
"We feel good about it," she said. "We learned a lot during this process."
The collective sentiment from panelists -- which included CCSF Trustee John Rizzo, San Mateo County Community College District Chancellor Ron Galatolo, CCSF faculty union President Tim Killikelly and Academic Senate President Lillian Marrujo-Duck -- accused the ACCJC of repeat unfair engagement with the institution.
Rizzo said "the defining moment" for him in believing there was an ulterior motive came when the ACCJC recommended earlier this year that CCSF seek candidacy status, which would have required the school to withdraw its accreditation and effectively shut down, Rizzo said.
"Because of that, to me it is clear that what we need is a reform of the way accreditation is done," he said.
The ACCJC has since offered another option to CCSF: a new policy called restoration status that would give the school two more years to meet all requirements while remaining accredited.
The Board of Governors is already taking steps to allow for another accreditor in the state. At its meeting in January, the board is expected to vote on a regulation change that would remove from its regulations naming ACCJC as the sole accreditor of California community colleges.
Speier and other panelists also urged the reinstatement of CCSF trustees, whose power was transferred to a special trustee first in 2013 and again this past summer. Speier called the revoking of power "unconstitutional."
But a plan to phase in control to the seven elected trustees that will take no longer than 18 months is already underway and is ultimately a requirement for accreditation, said Paul Feist, a spokesman for the California Community Colleges Chancellor's Office. He added that oversight from the office and a special trustee is a condition of stabilization funding secured in June to ensure CCSF does not lose out on state money despite seeing a drop in enrollment.
"It's in everyone's interest that the trustees transition back into power, and that's what we're doing right now," Feist said.
Separately, the California Federation of Teachers that represents faculty in 30 community college districts filed a new complaint with the Department of Education on Monday alleging that the ACCJC continues to act inconsistently and unfairly.