SF City Attorney Dennis Herrera sues to keep City College open

The suit against the ACCJC
Photo by Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez

City Attorney Dennis Herrera filed a suit today to block City College of San Francisco’s accreditation agency from closing down the school.

The accreditation agency, the Association of California Community and Junior Colleges, moved to put City College on a sanction last July that would lead to its closure in exactly one year. Since then, enrollment at the college has plummeted and the school has been in the fight for its very existence. Now Herrera is saying that closure action was improper, unwarranted, and out of line with the agency’s prior actions.

Herrera’s suit alleges the ACCJC unlawfully allowed its advocacy and political bias to prejudice its evaluation of college accreditation standards, he said. “It is a matter of public record that the ACCJC has been an advocate to reshape the mission of California community colleges,” Herrera said, and that was the basis of his suit.

The ACCJC cannot be advocates for change in the higher education system, he said. “There’s a reason judges aren’t advocates and advocates aren’t judges,” he said. “Now we have no problem with the right of others to advocate an agenda against the open access mission… but we should have a problem with an entity charged with evaluation engages in political advocacy.”

Notably, the ACCJC wanted City College to shrink its mission, concentrating its money on students who could transfer easily to four year institutions from City College, which many advocates say would leave students learning trades, new English learners, and other disenfranchised students in the dust. You can see our coverage on that here.

Above: Text of Herrera's suit and a press release with more information, courtesy of Sara Bloomberg, reporter for City College's newspaper The Guardsman.


Herrera also filed an administrative action against the California Community College Board of Governors, saying they had abandoned their role as the check and balance on community colleges, and left it to a private institution that was unaccountable to the public (for full disclosure, I am named in Herrera's suit on pages 16 and 18 for my role advocating against the Student Success Act of 2012 to the Board of Governors. I was a student at the time, not a professional reporter, and I have no personal stance on the future of the ACCJC). The Board of Governors oversees the 112 community colleges in California, the largest body of community colleges in the country. 

Alisa Messer, the faculty union president of City College, agreed that the Board of Governors should not be abdicating its policy and oversight role. 

"No outside, unaccountable agency should be making up its own rules or setting policy for our state's colleges," she said. 

City College Trustee Rafael Mandelman applauded action against the ACCJC.

“At this point I think it absolutely critical the ACCJC is not in the driver's seat making these decisions, they're not fit to do that,” he told the Guardian.

This past Tuesday City College submitted review documents to the ACCJC attesting to why it should be allowed to stay open and accredited, and Therese M. Stewart, the chief deputy city attorney, said that while they sent an order to ACCJC not to destroy documents, they had not yet obtained any documents yet. “We haven’t actually sought documents yet from the ACCJC, we asked them to not destroy documents so that we may seek them later,” she said. “Eventually we will get them.”


Oldest trick in the book but, usually, also the least effective.

He's gotta try though, I guess . .

Posted by Guest on Aug. 22, 2013 @ 10:54 am

Yes. Yes. Yes!!! Thank you to Dennis Herrera & Team for coming to the defense of CCSF and challenging this travesty of justice. Combined with the decision in Sacramento yesterday, this marks a major change.

It's time for the outside appointed "leaders" at CCSF, who have failed dismally, to depart. It's time to bring back the elected trustees. It's time to get a Chancellor who understands and believes in what CCSF stands for.

Make improvements and fix problems? Absolutely. But abandon the mission and what has made CCSF great? Absolutely not.

Kudos to Dennis Herrera for hitting a home run.

Posted by rick on Aug. 22, 2013 @ 1:26 pm

Yes. Yes. Yes!!! Thank you to Dennis Herrera & Team for coming to the defense of CCSF and challenging this travesty of justice. Combined with the decision in Sacramento yesterday, this marks a major change.

It's time for the outside appointed "leaders" at CCSF, who have failed dismally, to depart. It's time to bring back the elected trustees. It's time to get a Chancellor who understands and believes in what CCSF stands for.

Make improvements and fix problems? Absolutely. But abandon the mission and what has made CCSF great? Absolutely not.

Kudos to Dennis Herrera for hitting a home run.

Posted by rick on Aug. 22, 2013 @ 1:26 pm

I'd give CCSF about an extra 1% extra chance of surviving because of this.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 22, 2013 @ 1:35 pm

Are you a lawyer and do you have a dog in this fight?

Posted by Guest on Aug. 22, 2013 @ 4:34 pm

The vast majority fail. We are sue-crazy in the US.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 22, 2013 @ 4:48 pm

that you made your claim upon?

Posted by Guest on Aug. 22, 2013 @ 8:09 pm

stats you based your claim upon?

Posted by Guest on Aug. 22, 2013 @ 8:46 pm

And does saying that make you happy?

Posted by Guest on Nov. 04, 2013 @ 10:27 pm

Yup ! You got that totally right !!! Thanks for your insightful comment !!!

Posted by Guest on Aug. 22, 2013 @ 9:00 pm

Dennis Herrera has done what the City College administration could not: Take on the ACCJC and the Community College Board of Governors over the way this whole mess has been handled.

First, he identifies the ACCJC's political agenda and how it conflicted with City College's efforts to preserve it's mission of service to San Francisco, noting correctly that the ACCJC cannot be an advocate and a judge at the same time.

Second, he points out the role of the Community College Board of Governors in giving life and death power over community colleges to an unaccountable and secretive accreditation agency.

This, combined with yesterday's vote in the Legislature to audit the ACCJC and last month's notice from the U.S. Department of Education that the ACCJC violated its own procedures in sanctioning City College, suggests that we may see some long overdue reforms, not of City College, but of the ACCJC itself.

Posted by JCHayes on Aug. 22, 2013 @ 4:32 pm
Posted by Guest on Aug. 22, 2013 @ 4:49 pm

"Guest" sure has a lot of unsupported one-liners to opine, with little understanding of the facts.

Posted by saintlennybruce on Aug. 22, 2013 @ 8:08 pm

No, CCSF is not perfect, but it does have a better student success rate than the state average for community colleges, and it provides access to quality education and opportunities for thousands of students in the area who could not afford a college education otherwise.

Do you support the idea that education should only be a right of those who have good financial resources and the rest suffer the consequences of not being born to material wealth?

Posted by Guest too on Nov. 04, 2013 @ 10:36 pm

Like the faculty union. Students fail? Not the faculty's fault. Keep the gravy train rolling!

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Aug. 22, 2013 @ 4:34 pm

decisions and deals made by the administration, not to mention that SF State left City with the bill on the Multi-Use building on the Ocean campus?

Posted by Guest on Aug. 22, 2013 @ 7:27 pm
Posted by Guest on Aug. 22, 2013 @ 7:44 pm

Comparing elite, private, research universities that were founded during Colonial times, with massive endowments, offering BA-PhD programs, to publicly funded community colleges that have been losing their property tax revenue base for 35 years since Prop 13 is like comparing apples and oranges.

Posted by saintlennybruce on Aug. 22, 2013 @ 8:13 pm

Yeah - 35 years ago since which property values have skyrocketed and CCSF has asked for an been granted innumerable parcel tax increases. Give me a break - there's never a problem money can't solve, right?

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Aug. 22, 2013 @ 8:19 pm

She's right

Posted by Guest on Aug. 22, 2013 @ 11:39 pm

Prop13 was approved. Throw in the highest rates of sales and income tax in the country and it is clear that CA does not have a revenue problem.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 23, 2013 @ 7:27 am

But yes the 7% growth rate is a remarkable stat in the face all all the Democrats whining about more taxes.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 23, 2013 @ 8:08 am

All you have to do is look at chronology to see the point where things changed, though growing up in California and seeing its progressively more under-funded institutions relative to population growth, and increasingly regressive tax structure really makes the contrast stark.

Ad valorum taxes (VATs) like sales taxes, and various state income taxes, have been enacted since 1978 to make up for the BASE revenue artificially suppressed by Article 13A. It's why we have one of the most convoluted, regressive, and poorly apportioned tax code in the world. While it's true that property values skyrocketed, that is precisely why parcel taxation was unable to keep pace with population growth.

It's impossible to effectively restructure under-funded institutions, which is why the ACCJC has been attacking the CCCS' statutory missions through the backdoor, rather than raise taxes on landlords.

Would be happy to see one primary residence grandfathered under Prop 13 rules, knowing how many middle income Californians have their retirement tied up in home equity, but income residential, commercial, and industrial properties should not enjoy benefits intended for homeowners.

Posted by saintlennybruce on Aug. 25, 2013 @ 1:11 am

The root cause is often a thing that "liberals" drop on the uncorrectly educated and informed.

The root cause for prop 13 is?

the state has found new ways to extort money from the peasants, and yet it is always broke and yet always finding new ways to spend money.

Posted by Matlock on Aug. 25, 2013 @ 3:07 am

A 50%+1 popular vote on a ballot proposition, based on scare-mongering campaigns targeted at middle class homeowners by commercial real estate interests. One of the dangers of direct democracy, sadly, as we saw when millions from Utah were funneled in to pass Prop 8. The ads from the 70's can still be found on YouTube.

Thanks for the laugh, though. Some of my best friends and family are liberals, but I could never adopt such a weak political philosophy, based on a fundamental contradiction in political economy.

Posted by saintlennybruce on Aug. 25, 2013 @ 3:56 am
Posted by Guest on Aug. 25, 2013 @ 9:07 am

13 should easily be enough for any government that manages it's costs. But CA has not done that and so has egregious rates of sales, income, capital gains and gas taxes as well, and still it's not enough, because nothing is ever good enough for corrupt politicians spending other peoples' money.

So now we need to tackle the cost and spending side, and closing CCSF is just a first, small but politically significant step in the direction of fiscal sanity.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 25, 2013 @ 9:06 am

No, they don't. And if only citizens like yourself could contribute the funds that have made it possible for institutions like Harvard and Yale to come into being, we would have plenty of Harvards and Yales going around. Alas, we cannot even commit to our existing modest community colleges.

Until then, can you find it in your heart to allow people to have access to their CCSF?

And.. try giving Harvard and Yale the same budget cuts that CCSF received year after year during the economic downturn; then send ACCJC to judge them in the aftermath. You can only compare these institutions if you give them the same support.. Ironically, many call CCSF "Harvard on the hills" :) (but one that is open to all, not only to the fortunate few who get accepted and can afford to attend after..)

Posted by Is Guest a graduate of Harvard or Yale? on Nov. 04, 2013 @ 10:58 pm

Great that Dr. Beno has publicly stated that they may still choose to close SFCCD even if they achieve full Standards & Eligibility compliance, if anybody in SF continued to criticize the ACCJC, giving just enough rope to hang herself. Which is illegal, and unrelated to academic standards, as the USDOE confirmed.

Glad USDOE finally weighed in, slamming ACCJC for illegal mission drift away from ensuring academic standards, cited 4 major violation of the Code of Federal Regulations in handling CCSF's accreditation review, and put the ACCJC on "Show Cause", stating they will face decertification if they don't *immediately* start getting into compliance, and achieve full compliance by 8/13/14.

Unions are hardly unaccountable, if you've ever read the Taft-Hartley Act, recent NLRB rulings, or have any familiarity with basic labor law. It's a particular sign of ignorance to make such a claim about AFT 2121. Despite a contract that has an automatic Cost Of Living Allowance increase each year (standard clause), AFT 2121 voluntarily waived their contractually-guaranteed raises to keep classes & counseling open 2007-2012, making their wages stagnant for 5 years in a row, during a Lesser Depression, and the height of SF's Web 2.0/Start-Up boom that made rent in SF highest in the country.

In their most recent round of good-faith negotiations with SFCCD for 2012-2013, AFT 2121 actually agreed to give themselves a 2.85% pay-CUT, to keep classes & counseling open during this challenging year, donated a massive amount of their limited time campaigning to get Measure A passed to fund instructional programs & support services for San Franciscans. In spite of this, the SFCCD BOT, under the direction of the Interim Chancellor & Special Trustee, approved a unilateral, un-negotiated pay-cut of 9.9% for all faculty across the board, and engaged in a mass firing of part-time/adjunct faculty (including academic, disability, & financial aid counselors), which was about 25% of CCSF faculty, an Unfair Labor Practice under the NLRA during a contract negotiation.

Voluntary agreement to waive contractual pay raises for 5 years, voluntary 2.85% pay-cut in good faith negotiations during a financial crisis, campaigning to better fund the district, filing the complaint that USDOE found *very* credible which may serve as grounds to prevent CCSF's closure, ensuring USDOE oversight of how ACCJC handles CCSF's review, and legally establishing the facts that SF City Attorney Herrerra needed for probable cause to finally investigate the long-alleged back-door political advocacy that a supposed public benefit 501(c)(3).

Posted by saintlennybruce on Aug. 22, 2013 @ 7:55 pm

90% of CCSF's operating costs are employee compensation, including gold-plated benefits for part-time employees. Keep it up Dennis! There are plenty of green elves around to print more money!

First-class hero!

A bigger hero than those SFO first responders!

Are City officials are the greatest!

Posted by Guest on Aug. 22, 2013 @ 4:55 pm
Posted by Guest on Aug. 22, 2013 @ 5:09 pm

Willie Brown and Associates?

Posted by Guest on Aug. 22, 2013 @ 7:29 pm
Posted by Guest on Aug. 22, 2013 @ 7:45 pm

Nobody elected the union leaders and the bureaucrats that protect them, thereby destroying CCSF.

Posted by anon on Aug. 22, 2013 @ 7:51 pm

Special Trusteeship is great! No oversight, no accountability, no rule of law, no San Franciscans involved!

Why don't employees realize that their contracts are just guidelines? If you and your employer have been paying into an agreed-upon pension, you retire after 35 years of work, and suddenly someone decides your pension is inconvenient, don't expect them to honor a legally binding agreement protected under the NLRA!

When I spend my entire working life having 6.9% of my wages withheld for FICA/payroll taxes (or 12.9% or more if I'm self-employed), to fund the social security & medicare trusts, why should I expect Social Security Retirement benefits once eligible?

Posted by saintlennybruce on Aug. 22, 2013 @ 8:25 pm

Wasn't it an obvious next step following the DOE rebuke of the regional board? Did not their response to your clarification request veritably demand such a lawsuit using their report as evidence of ACCJC wrongdoing?

I'm prepared to defer to any civil lawyers who may opine here otherwise, but in the meantime I think this case is Herrerra's to lose.

Posted by lillipublicans on Aug. 22, 2013 @ 7:51 pm

Its interesting how the so called "guest" refers to the "union gravy train" while the facts presented in the lawsuit point to a major scam and even a possible collusion by student lending companies and the private colleges that have the most to gain, millions of dollars to gain, from destroying our public college open access system. I am so proud of Dennis Herrera and even more proud that I live in a City that knows the value of a community college model of education because the only ones that have a gravy train are the legislative representatives that get lobbied by and bribes from their corporate owners in ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council. I feel so proud of the City College students of all ages and ethnic groups and races that have been leading the way for the nation to wake up and fight this onslaught against our public education. Future generations of San Franciscans will remember the day they tried to take away our City College of San Francisco and will laugh. For now, we still can't laugh yet, but be assured that we will in the end, WIN. These ALEC thugs now know that we are not "latte liberals". We are a kick ass working class, freedom thinking and loving, critical yet solution oriented, coalition building 49 square miles of creative genius that only comes from real diversity and love for Difference.

Posted by Elizabeth Milos on Aug. 22, 2013 @ 11:05 pm

I am very relieved that Dennis Herrera is defending City College. Everyone should read the lawsuit. It points to a verifiable and actual gravy train. Particularly interesting is the Student financing origins of Lumina Foundation, and its ideological affinity with the American Legislative Exchange Council in its support for the dubiously named Student Success type of bills. Rolling Stone magazine published an article about Student loan financing companies that seem more like loan sharks and it seems far too much of a coincidence that the ACCJC should be advocating for the same type of bills as the ones that Lumina supports while sanctioning City College. I may be only a City College Student but I can add. (lol!) privatization forces have a financial interest in the destruction of public education. The only gravy train that actually exists is the one from ALEC to the legislators that regurgitate these bills. I am very proud of Dennis Herrera and City College students from all ages, ethnicities, races and national origins who have been leading the nation in the fight to defend our quality public education. ALEC thugs finally realize that we are not "latte liberals". We are a kick ass working class freedom thinking and loving, critically solution oriented coalition builiding 49 square miles of creative genius that can only come from real diversity and love for DIFFERENCE

Posted by Elizabeth Milos on Aug. 22, 2013 @ 11:37 pm

As Joe Biden would say, the unions literally sucked the life out of CCSF.

CCSF is no different than bankrupt CA cities, BART, or a failed Muni.

One thing that won't change is a naive public.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 23, 2013 @ 8:05 am

only practical solution to the public sector problem, given the spinelessness of politicians to play hardball with the unions.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 23, 2013 @ 8:29 am

No, it's really not. Your willfully false narrative is being pretty thoroughly debunked by the SF City Attorney, State Legislature, and USDOE.

The only issue that AFT2121 played a role in was getting USDOE to review ACCJC's handling of CCSF, which prompted grave federal sanctions against the accrediting commission, which may well have its recognition revoked, and be disbanded in under 12 months, simply based on their 4 violations of the Code of Federal Regulations and their own Conflict of Interest rules. USDOE will be looking over ACCJC's shoulder for the entire process now.

All of the real problems of the college were finance, budget, and planning issues, which are all issues decided by the district Chancellor, approved by the elected BOT. The shared governance system in the CCCS is purely advisory. All a Chancellor or Board needs to do is write the Academic Senate a letter detailing why they are taking a different action than the advisory opinion, and then they can do precisely as they wish.

They'll never survive this if Pres. Beno doesn't stop treating USDOE officials and State Legislators with such condescension, hubris, and disrespect, too. Happy to see that fired college president dig her own grave after all the public money she's wasted with manufactured crises for 12 years, across the entire state.

Posted by saintlennybruce on Aug. 25, 2013 @ 1:32 am

Jason Grant Garza here ... WOW , Herrera is suing. What about state and federal MEDICAL LAW? Let me tell you about my case C02-3485PJH where the city BROKE FEDERAL MEDICAL LAW in 2001 and when I took then to court in 2003 they had my case dismissed with TESTILYING and FRAUD, In 2007 they signed a confession/settlement with the OFFICE of INSPECTOR GENERAL admitting fault and guilt http://myownprivateguantanamo.com/settle1.html . Why has NO ONE from the CITY ATTORNEY, DPH or the COURTS explained how this MANIFEST INJUSTICE could happen. It is NOW 2013.

Now it has started all over again https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7cP3jCmJFRo&list=TLvxe7rPSIlLY YET look at the other youtube videos to see what I get from the city attorney and DA. What about the PUBLIC RESPONSIBILITY of PROVIDED MANDATED health care under state and federal law? Recently there was an article regarding Nevada and patient dumping ... see where I ask regarding this to the City Attorney and get escorted out by the Sheriff. Yes, wonderful ILLUSION. Watch the other youtube to see what I get from city agencies in charge of ENFORCEMENT and COMPLAINTS. Can you say RIGGED process? Note what I get from SFPD, the Sheriff, City Attorney, DA, OCC, MOD and HRC not to mention how many times I go back to DPH for them to continue to break the LAW ... it is all on youtube.

Shall I show you about ACCREDITATION ...for MEDICAL SERVICES provided ... I took DPH to SUNSHINE where DPH gave me the INCORRECT ACCREDITATION place and when contacted ... they told me they did NOT. When I showed this to SUNSHINE they (sunshine) told me they they COULD NOT make DPH provide something they (DPH) did not have. Trust me any accreditation agency would see where DPH broke STATE and FEDERAL MEDICAL LAW ... unfortunately when I asked the POLICE, Sheriff, Police Commission who enforces MEDICAL LAW ... they DID NOT KNOW. (See youtube videos under Jason Garza.)

Shall I continue pointing out the ILLUSION and selective enforcement, selective prosecution and selective suing? Maybe NOW that Herrera is suing NEVADA ... I can give NEVADA case C02-3485PJH ... show the UNCLEAN HANDS, UNPROFESSIONAL CONDUCT, and ABUSE. So if any from Nevada are watching ... leave a message on the youtube videos. Yes, the WHOLE TRUTH and NOTHING but the TRUTH ... I was left for DEAD after the CITY SIGNED a CONFESSION and it has started ALL over again ... what was the consequence THEN and what is the consequence NOW? More look over here but NOT here by the city attorney? Just thought I would ask and point out the WHOLE TRUTH. Watch the videos to see what I get from the city.

Posted by Jason Grant Garza on Aug. 23, 2013 @ 9:00 am

Disclosure: I think Herrera just wants to be mayor, and I'm still critical of him for being concerned about gender discrimination when it hurts women, but not driving insurance when it hurts young men.

Anyway, entirely aside from that...

I'm utterly mystified at how tellingly ignorant Herrera and for that matter most of the SF public and news media about accreditation in general.

One repeatedly hears rhetoric about how the accreditation agency is "private" and "unaccountable."

ACCJC is a subordinate organization to WASC, which is "the" regional accreditation agency in the Western US, and as such is reviewed & inspected & audited, then in turn accredited by the federal Dept. of Education. This is hardly "unaccountable" by any definition of the word.

And if for those who insist on calling it a "private" organization, consider this: one of the reasons the USA has superior higher education is precisely because government functionaries are not directly involved in the accreditation process. Instead of having DOE bureaucrats visiting schools for regular accreditation-related visits, in the USA it is your peers... fellow educators... professors and administrators from other schools... who are the ones directly involved in education. Accreditation agencies exist in part to keep government out of higher education. If a "public" organization did accreditation, what fine public oversight body should it benchmark itself against? How about the CPUC?

I don't know that City College, SF city gov't, and SF-based media don't have valid arguments against ACCJC, because I really don't know the details. But I know this: that words like "private" and "unaccountable" in reference to ACCJC shows how little those making the arguments actually know about accreditation, and that if the same thing were happening over here in the East Bay, for example with the Peralta Colleges, a lot of people on your side of the pond might subconsciously write it off as what many tend to think of as general Third Worldiness chaos in Oakland/Alameda County. Frankly that's what a lot of this looks like to me.

Posted by oranckay on Aug. 26, 2013 @ 7:14 pm

Bravo! Great comment! You sound like someone who has had first hand experience in accreditation! I knew there were others out there somewhere who could look at CCSFs issues from a peer perspective. I was beginning to think I was the only one who was reading this stuff and realizing that people really do not know what is happening behind the closed doors of CCSFs hidden issues. When you look at the issue of shared governance, the finances and the hard stance against SLOs, it is obvious that divisive factions are very much alive in CCSF. But only someone from a peer perspective would spot it.

Posted by Yienwae on Aug. 30, 2013 @ 1:07 am

Peralta Colleges in the East Bay had their accreditation troubles in the past.
Ironically, while ACCJC President Barbara Beno's husband was applauded for his fundraising efforts there, at CCSF, any fundraising efforts were criticized as going beyond the college's means.

ACCJC has the support of private special interest groups, which benefit from student loan interests. If you research the student loan industry, you can see that people are getting into college debt in ways they can never pay back and the interest on their loans climb astronomically. If you research further, you can see that the next big bubble after the mortgage industry crisis is the student loan industry. ACCJC is not an organization that judges public colleges on their merit. Instead, it has taken on the political task of downsizing public education to create greater clientele for the student loan industry. It also has a policy of acting in secrecy, shredding its documents and not replying to requests for transparency or good communication. That is not an organization one can entrust the fate of public education in the country. An accrediting agency should be free of bias and engage itself in helping maintain quality education. ACCJC does not appear to care one bit about the quality of education. It is a very political organization.

Posted by ACCJC is unaccountable. on Nov. 04, 2013 @ 11:30 pm

Sure some drone from the teacher's union wrote up the talking points for the requisite hacks - Herrera, SFBG, Examiner etc. to parrot ad nauseam.

It's all just hot air. CCSF is on the ropes - the bloviating isn't helping.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 26, 2013 @ 10:28 pm

Guest may find good opportunities to improve his? her? comprehension by taking some remedial courses at the college level. CCSF perhaps?

Posted by Guest should attend CCSF. on Nov. 04, 2013 @ 11:33 pm

I have he same opinion, but we need a new set of laws if we want to see improvements, at least that is my personal opinion!

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