The courtroom fight to keep City College of San Francisco open is in extra innings after a marathon hearing Thursday and a second hearing scheduled for Monday.
San Francisco Superior Court Judge Curtis Karnow heard a full day or arguments Thursday over two lawsuits — one filed by CCSF faculty, a second by the city of San Francsco — that seek to block a move to revoke the college’s accreditation. The Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges has recommended revoking CCSF’s credentials later this year because of what it calls persistent administrative and financial shortcomings. Loss of accreditation would block the state funding upon which CCSF depends and force it to close. CCSF serves about 80,000 students.
In court yesterday, attorneys for the city and two teachers’ unions argued that the practices the accrediting agency denied CCSF due process. Parties in both suits want Karnow to impose an injunction that would block the loss of accreditation; the city also wants the judge to order the agency to conduct a new accreditation assessment.
Robert Bezemek, an attorney representing the California Federation of Teachers and the City College teachers’ union, American Federation of Teachers Local 2121, told Karnow that the ACCJC acted unlawfully in its decision-making process. CBS SF Bay Area reports:
[Bezemek] said “a significant violation” occurred when a commission staff report found 19 deficiencies with the school and the commission then upped that number to 30 at a June meeting without notifying City College of the additional deficiencies.
Bezemek also cited other problems, including an alleged conflict of interest in allowing commission President Barbara Beno to appoint her husband to the team that evaluated City College.
Bezemek also said the accrediting agency’s’s decision resulted in students leaving City College out of fear that the school may close, and that enrollment was down by as much as 30 percent since last spring.
But accrediting commission attorney Philip Ward said revoking CCSF’s credentials was necessary to bring about change. “There has to be major reorganizing decisions at City College,” Ward said. “Nobody wants to see City College disaccredited. … We’re trying to make sure it gets as good as it can be.”
Karnow will decide whether the plaintiffs have standing to bring forward the lawsuit on Monday, when both sides will return to court. It is not clear when Karnow will decide whether to issue the preliminary injunctions. If granted, they would remain in place until a trial can be held in the case.