October 20, 2014 in Education
Take the state law on fair competition. Add the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges‘ actions to shut down City College of San Francisco (CCSF). What will these ingredients amount to in a court of law?
That will be determined by San Francisco Superior Court Judge Curtis E.A. Karnow following a non-jury trial that begins October 27. Last year San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera filed a lawsuit on behalf of the people of the state of California (not CCSF) alleging the ACCJC’s evaluation of CCSF was unfair and unlawful under the state law for business competition.
“We have alleged that the ACCJC’s actions, specifically with respect to the evaluation of CCSF, were both unlawful and unfair,” Sara Eisenberg, a San Francisco Deputy City Attorney, told Capital & Main by phone. The ACCJC is subject to California’s Unfair Competition Law which prohibits any business from engaging in unfair, unlawful or fraudulent business acts or practices.
The ACCJC says it followed the state’s Unfair Competition Law in evaluating CCSF, which has a current enrollment of about 80,000 students. “ACCJC believes its accreditation decisions with respect to CCSF have been valid and warranted and that it will ultimately prevail in the lawsuit,” a September 23, 2014 statement claimed.
More specifically, Herrera’s lawsuit alleges the ACCJC “allowed political bias, improper procedures and conflicts of interest to unlawfully influence its evaluation of the state’s largest community college.”
The ACCJC’s evaluation of CCSF found it lacking in several areas. These range from leadership and governance to “significant divisions in the faculty and the wider institution,” Commission President Barbara Beno wrote in a letter of July 3, 2013.
Crucially, CCSF’s accreditation allows it to operate with federal and state funds. Without them it would be forced to close. The commission’s critics allege that CCSF’s “open access” educational mission and spirit of political debate were what the ACCJC’s evaluators found objectionable. In response to the school’s threatened closure, CCSF students, faculty and the wider community have mobilized and organized to keep its doors open via groups such as the Save CCSF Coalition.
The ACCJC, a Novato, California-based 501(c)(3) nonprofit, is part of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, one of six regional higher education accrediting agencies nationwide. The commission has a monopoly on accrediting the Golden State’s post-secondary institutions that award associate degrees.
Herrera’s lawsuit asks the court to void ACCJC’s attempt to terminate the accreditation of CCSF, effective July 31, 2014. Further, the lawsuit requests that the accreditors begin anew an evaluation of CCSF, this time obeying state law to the letter.
“The judge has given us five days for the trial,” said Sara Eisenberg. “There will be, finally, a substantive review of whether the ACCJC’s actions on CCSF’s accreditation evaluation were legal and appropriate.”
On October 8, in a ruling that may not augur well for the ACCJC, Judge Karnow denied the commission’s request for summary judgement – a motion to dismiss Herrera’s lawsuit outright. The ACCJC’s motion, in part, claimed a violation of its First Amendment rights – i.e., its Constitutional protection of free speech.
“The ACCJC has virtually exhausted the playbook in terms of trying to shield its actions from judicial review,” said Herrera in a prepared statement.
Capital & Main asked the ACCJC to comment on Judge Karnow’s refusal to dismiss next week’s bench trial. An unofficial spokeswoman for the ACCJC directed a reporter to its website for comments on the October 8 ruling.
“If Judge Karnow rules against the ACCJC, it’s more likely for him to issue a specific decision pertaining to CCSF than a challenge to the accreditation process more broadly,” said David Levine, professor of law at the University of California, Hastings College of the Law. “However, I am unsure the plaintiffs [people of the state of California] will prevail.”
A ruling by Judge Karnow against the ACCJC would hold its president, Barbara Beno, and her husband, Peter Crabtree — an ACCJC evaluator involved in the commission’s sanctions against CCSF — and other officials connected with that process immune from damages, said Deputy City Attorney Eisenberg, adding that the ACCJC faces liability as an entity only.
“I look forward to finally litigating these issues at trial on October 27,” said City Attorney Herrera, “and to making our case as to why CCSF – a cherished institution that has been a cornerstone of educational promise for generations – deserves a fair and lawful accreditation process.”
Seth Sandronsky is a Sacramento journalist and member of the freelancers unit of the Pacific Media Workers Guild, which is a local office of the Newspaper Guild, a part of the Communications Workers of America.
Today, We’re What’s Left surpassed its highest number of views in 24 hours. Our previous daily high was 266. Today, we went well beyond that with 308 views: 307 from the U.S.; and, one from the Republic of Korea. We’ve gone international! We also received a new follower today. Welcome! You can follow We’re What’s Left, too. It’s easy. That way you will get an email every time we publish a post, which, by the way, isn’t that often.
Thanks to all of you. This seems to show that faculty are interested in what WWL has to say even though you may not always (ever?) agree with us. Truly, we’re the only game in town. No one else does what we do.
So, take it to the next step. Action. I’ve been repeatedly told that faculty are afraid of losing their jobs and ruffling feathers and just want to keep their heads down. Others tell me that the faculty are just apathetic. What will it take to move the faculty once again? Might it come with the next paycheck when you see how much less you are bringing home? Are you not in enough pain yet?
Educate. Agitate. Organize. You can do it again. Let’s talk.
The below link was sent to me this morning from a Cuesta faculty member. Check out the comments to see how Cuesta is viewed throughout the state. So very sad.
As you know, the Executive Board voted unanimously to change the composite rate to the tiered rate for health insurance. The voting EB consists of 3 officers and 2 Council liaisons: Debra Stakes, President; Nancy Mann, Vice President, Secretary; Mark Tomes, Treasurer; Tom Patchell, Council Liaison; and, Cynthia Wilshusen, Council Liaison, Part-Time Council Liaison. This decision was communicated to faculty on May 22.
The single faculty are cheering, I’m sure. Because their fringe amount will pay for their full medical insurance, they will be able to take home money while their married (or domestic partners) and married-with-kids counterparts will be paying significantly out of pocket. How in the world could the union have let this happen–now.
The current and fairly new EB VP has been pushing for this for many years and has apparently influenced the president because as we know, Debra had been opposed to tiered rates. I believe faculty had been told that the union way was “one for all, all for one.” Perhaps. But, that isn’t the crux of the matter here. Unions are about taking care of working families–especially now when same sex marriage rights and protections have happily allowed more couples to marry. So, now we can say the following to the new, young married faculty member (gay or straight):
“Welcome to Cuesta. You will now be broke having to pay hundreds of dollars out of pocket every month to insure your family. Further, you will be broke because Cuesta’s beginning salary for faculty is the lowest in the state. And, in addition to that, you will be really broke because Cuesta faculty have not had a raise in almost seven years. Welcome to Cuesta.”
To impose this change in insurance now is, well, unconscionable. When the first union voted for the composite insurance rate, it was probably the hardest decision we had to make. But, it was the right one. Sure, we heard the “breeder” argument (did you ever think that if there weren’t any breeders, none of us would have jobs?). But, nothing could convince us that any Cuesta faculty member should pay out of pocket for health benefits while other faculty took money home.
The union wants the district to approve a pool for insurance. That is a good idea. But, the union and the district are at impasse on 2013-14 negotiations, and as you heard Gil Stork say (in the same email that asked for a public apology from the union president (!), the district would not entertain a pool idea until the next round, which could be quite some time. Someone please enlighten me about why in the world this new tiered rate would be imposed now. Why not wait until faculty get a decent raise? Why not wait until the insurance pool is agreed to?
Faculty have called me to ask wth is going on. It was May 22 for goodness sakes, they said, that we heard about this–as the semester was ending and faculty were a bit distracted. Faculty in some departments never heard about it from the Council Reps prior to that time. These faculty should be outraged. And, they should act on that outrage. But, I don’t see that happening.
Cuesta faculty rights embarrassingly continue to plunge with no end in sight. Single faculty should do the right thing–tell the union that the tiered rates should not be implemented until no faculty are paying out of pocket. Tell the union to take increases for large lecture classes off the bargaining table (another favorite of the union VP and her colleagues on campus who teach large lecture classes) and apply that asked-for money (if agreed to by the district) to an insurance pot for all faculty. No playing favorites for some faculty while others suffer. This shouldn’t be a single faculty thing or a coupled faculty thing. This should be an equality thing. Strength through unity.
For Us All: A Love Letter to Our Students from the English Department, On the Occasion of the Isla Vista Shootings, May 2014
UCSB is a research university. That means faculty are engaged in pursuits they feel passionately about, whether they are contributing to research on aging, or trying to understand why the arts have been so valuable to our species as to have been, forever, our companions. These preoccupations often seem to take priority over teaching and getting to know our students. We teach a lot of large lecture classes. We dream about sabbaticals. But UCSB promotes undergraduate research as a way of involving undergraduates directly in that part of our mission, and we also teach (and wish we could teach more) small seminars, and we work with our undergraduates in labs, through internships or research assistanceships, on senior theses, in campus activism, on committees. We don’t always know our students’ names, but even if we don’t, we know our students’ faces. You keep us thinking about what matters, about what we need to learn, and what kind of knowledge we need to make, for the future. You keep us young. We hope we give you things too—a feeling for what a body of knowledge is, and can do; ways of thinking, making and doing that change your brains and minds forever, so that all we’ve learned in the past can be part of what you will take into the future we won’t otherwise be able to share with you. Our minds and our hearts are so much more entwined than we realize.
What the faculty have learned in the aftermath of the Isla Vista shootings is how much we love our students. Perhaps love isn’t the right word for the bonds that link people who think, learn, and work together, who share interests, even fascinations. We need a richer lexicon to describe these relationships. But we will use the word because it expresses something of the intensity of our concern, regard and gratitude for you.
We love you. You are part of us, and we are part of you. We know learning is difficult and that you manage a lot of boredom and anxiety every day. We know we don’t always connect well with you, as people or as experts in our fields. But when news of the shootings spread, we were desperate to know whether or not you were okay. We emailed you, telephoned you, scanned news sources, hoping you would not be among the dead and injured, feeling dreadful because we knew somebody had to be among the dead and injured, someone who was smart and hopeful, someone who was important. We’ve been so relieved to hear from you, so worried when we haven’t. We didn’t hear back from Chris Martinez, a brilliant, kind young man, an English major. We’ve all been overtaken by our feelings. But we are glad to know, and want you to know, both the living and the dead, how much you mean to us.
Research on social connectivity is growing more brilliant every day. There is still much we don’t know about how feelings and ideas become, or always already are, communal phenomena. But we know that feelings and ideas are transpersonal. And so we know, partly because we are part of a knowledge-making community, how really true it is that we are all affected by the shootings, how much we have reached out to each other, and how long it will be before we can enjoy again the shockingly good fortune of being alive. We are just so terribly sorry for those who had to leave us before they were ready.
Please be well. If we can help, tell us, and we will tell you. If you need peace and quiet, we will be respectful. If you want to cry, we will cry with you. We will protest the unfairness of life right alongside of you. Please be well. Remember that we love you.