The trial, slated to begin Oct. 27 in San Francisco Superior Court, will last up to five days and be held solely before a judge and not a jury. The outcome of the trial could determine the fate of the ailing community college, which last summer was told it would lose its accreditation this July unless the school came into compliance with accrediting commission standards and eligibility requirements.
City Attorney Dennis Herrera filed a lawsuit against the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges last August, alleging that the commission treated CCSF unfairly in its accreditation review process and that there appeared to be a conflict of interest because ACCJC President Barbara Beno’s husband was part of the team that examined the school.
Judge Curtis Karnow, the same judge who will preside over the trial, granted a temporary injunction in January barring CCSF’s accreditation loss until the trial is complete.
Gabriel Zitrin, a spokesman for the City Attorney’s Office, said Thursday that the injunction indicates that, “The court acknowledges that The City is likely to prevail on the merits of the case.”
The accrediting commission has since appealed that injunction and requested that the Court of Appeals expedite its ruling. The City Attorney’s Office is evaluating whether to oppose that request, but nothing had been filed to that end as of Thursday.
Zitrin called the commission’s actions “unlawful,” arguing it does not have legitimate reasons for removing CCSF’s accreditation.
“This is a protest on behalf of the people of San Francisco against a fatally flawed and biased finding by the ACCJC,” Zitrin said of the lawsuit. “We’re not just going to stand by and let somebody come in and fast-track the death of City College.”
Beno, however, claimed the city attorney’s challenge is an attempt to interfere with the accreditation review process.
“The commission continues to defend the legitimacy and accuracy of its accreditation decisions with respect to City College, and it looks forward to an eventual decision from the court vindicating its evaluations,” Beno said in a statement Thursday.
A similar lawsuit by the California Federation of Teachers and American Federation of Teachers Local 2121 alleging the ACCJC violated state and federal laws during the accreditation process has been stayed.
Meanwhile, though the decision to terminate CCSF’s accreditation was not linked to academics, the college district is taking steps to solidify its future. A draft of an education master plan laying out CCSF’s goals, priorities and direction is expected by the end of April.
Losing accreditation would effectively force CCSF to close.