SF City College Wins Reprieve

A San Francisco Superior Court judge has granted a key aspect of a motion by City Attorney Dennis Herrera to preliminarily enjoin the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges from terminating City College of San Francisco’s accreditation next July.

Under terms of the ruling Judge Curtis E.A. Karnow issued Thursday afternoon, the ACCJC is barred from finalizing its planned termination of City College’s accreditation during the course of the litigation, which alleges that the private accrediting body has allowed political bias, improper procedures, and conflicts of interest to unlawfully influence its evaluation of the state’s largest community college.

Judge Karnow denied Herrera’s request for additional injunctive relief to prevent the ACCJC from taking adverse accreditation actions against other educational institutions statewide until its evaluation policies comply with federal regulations. A separate motion for a preliminary injunction by plaintiffs representing City College educators and students was denied.

In issuing the injunction, the court recognized that Herrera’s office is likely to prevail on the merits of his case when it proceeds to trial, and that the balance of harms favored the people Herrera represents as City Attorney.

On the question of relative harms, Judge Karnow’s ruling was emphatic in acknowledging the catastrophic effect disaccreditation would hold for City College students and the community at large, writing: “There is no question, however, of the harm that will be suffered if the commission follows through and terminates accreditation as of July 2014.

“Those consequences would be catastrophic,” the ruling said. “Without accreditation the college would almost certainly close and about 80,000 students would either lose their educational opportunities or hope to transfer elsewhere; and for many of them, the transfer option is not realistic. The impact on the teachers, faculty, and the City would be incalculable, in both senses of the term: The impact cannot be calculated, and it would be extreme.”

“I’m grateful to the court for acknowledging what accreditors have so far refused to: that the educational aspirations of tens of thousands of City College students matter,” said Herrera.

“Judge Karnow reached a wise and thorough decision that vindicates our contention that accreditors engaged in unfair and unlawful conduct. Given the ACCJC’s dubious evaluation process, it makes no sense for us to race the clock to accommodate ACCJC’s equally dubious deadline to terminate City College’s accreditation.”

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