City College of San Francisco teachers, administrators and advocates responded with shock and outrage to a regional accrediting commission's announcement today that the school's accreditation has been terminated, effective next year.
Pending appeal, the college's accreditation will end on July 31, 2014, according to the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges, which announced its decision this afternoon.
The ACCJC last July placed City College on "show cause" status and required the school to file a report this March showing how it had addressed problems identified by the commission, including an excessive number of campuses and high non-instructional faculty costs.
At its semi-annual meeting last month, the ACCJC determined that City College had fully addressed only two of the commission's 14 recommendations.
The school, which serves an estimated 85,000 students, will immediately begin the process of requesting a review of the commission's decision. If the decision is upheld after the review, City College plans to appeal.
"We are disappointed in the commission's decision," City College interim Chancellor Thelma Scott-Skillman said. "We will be filing a request for review and will do everything in our power to have this decision reversed."
Alisa Messer, president of the American Federation of Teachers Local 2121, City College's faculty union, called the ACCJC's decision "shocking for the whole City College community" and said it will have "a terrible effect" on the school.
Messer said many teachers and other staff already began looking for other jobs following the sanctions last year and said she expects that to continue after today's announcement.
"We've seen an exodus," she said, adding that student enrollment has also dropped sharply in the past year. "It's been a demoralizing experience."
Josh Pechthalt, president of California Federation of Teachers, which in May filed a complaint against the ACCJC accusing the commission of intimidation, a lack of due process and other violations, said today's decision was more of the same.
"It's an assault on a stellar education system," Pechthalt said, adding that the commission "continues to thumb their noses to individuals or organizations willing to question their behavior."
The complaint, filed with both the ACCJC and the U.S. Department of Education, argues that there are no fair procedures for appealing sanctions from the commission and that the commission does not allow adequate time for schools to respond to the sanctions.
Among the changes that will result from today's decision is the appointment by California Community Colleges Chancellor Brice Harris of a special trustee who will run the school.
The City College board of trustees will "be rendered temporarily without authority ... until (City College) is back on its feet," Harris said.
He said the special trustee will have the unilateral power to close campuses and make other changes "in order for this college to match up its expenses with its revenue streams."
San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee acknowledged that "some hard decisions are going to have to be made" and said he supports the appointing of a special trustee.
"These will be difficult times for the college, but this is the time to commit to true reforms and revitalization, so that this irreplaceable and valued institution continues," Lee said.
Rafael Mandelman, a member of the school's Board of Trustees, said that move "essentially is putting the school in a kind of receivership" and said "the good news is we're not alone and the state of California will be standing with us to try to keep City College open."
However, Mandelman said the change comes at "the price of the loss of local control" and "the ACCJC is fundamentally hostile to local elected governing boards."
Members of the Save CCSF Coalition, a group of faculty, staff, students and supporters of City College, planned a rally this evening at the school's Ocean Campus in response to the accrediting commission's decision.
"It's totally outrageous," said Nancy Reiko Kato, a former student and organizer with the coalition. "This is so totally wrong, we will continue to fight it."
Messer from the teachers' union said a large march is also planned for next Tuesday from the City College downtown campus at 88 Fourth St.