A San Francisco Superior Court judge announced a tentative ruling Friday that would roll back a regional accrediting commission's 2013 decision to remove the accreditation of City College of San Francisco.
San Francisco Superior Court judge Curtis Karnow stated in his proposed ruling that the Novato-based Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges carried out unlawful business practices and "is liable for violations of the Unfair Competition Law."
Karnow said these violations "made it impossible for City College to have a fair hearing prior to the 2013 termination decision."
The judge proposed an injunction against ACCJC to allow City College the due process it was entitled to, but did not receive, in 2013.
According to Karnow's proposed ruling, the ACCJC must identify in writing any and all the reasons the commission determined City College to be deficient in 2013. The commission must then consider the responses from City College before it reconsiders terminating CCSF's accreditation. The tentative decision from Karnow comes just two days after the ACCJC granted City College restoration status, bestowing the school with at least two more years to fight for its accreditation.
But the fight over City College has been brewing for months: City Attorney Dennis Herrera filed the lawsuit seeking to block the ACCJC's decision to revoke the school's accreditation in August 2013.Herrera contended the commission had a conflict of interest because Beno's husband, a dean at Laney College in Oakland, served on an evaluation committee; that the committee had too few academic members; and that the commission failed to give the college adequate notice and opportunity to respond to the alleged deficiencies.
Herrera alleged that the ACCJC unfairly sought to remove City College's accreditation. ACCJC contends, however, that the commission's decision to place the college on "show cause" status and its later decision to terminate its accreditation stemmed from issues with the school's finances and governance structures.
The commission said the college's accreditation is being challenged after the college failed to address requirements first identified by the ACCJC in 2006.
In 2013, the ACCJC planned to terminate CCSF's accreditation, but the termination was suspended and the college remained open because Judge Karnow issued a preliminary injunction keeping the accreditation in place pending a resolution to the lawsuit filed by the city attorney.
Deputy City Attorney Sara Eisenberg contended in the closing arguments of the trial that the restoration process would be an unfair remedy because there is no appeal after the final outcome of that effort and because successful restoration would require 100 percent compliance with all standards, instead of the "substantial compliance" normally expected of community colleges.
Eisenberg stated that City College's accreditation process should be restarted, which is what Friday's proposed ruling also supports. Karnow states in his proposed ruling that it appears the Unfair Competition Law has never before been used to challenge an accreditation decision.
Both sides now have 15 days to respond and suggest changes to Judge Karnow before he issues a final decision, which can be appealed to the state Court of Appeal and Supreme Court.