San Francisco Chronicle. August 23, 2013. California lawmakers voted Wednesday to investigate whether the accrediting commission that is threatening to shut downCity College of San Francisco is doing its job right.
To hear state Sen. Jim Nielsen, R-Gerber (Tehama County), tell it, the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges is simply up to no good when it requires colleges to comply with a long and arduous set of standards necessary to be eligible for state funding.
"It's a non-state agency. It doesn't have accountability standards. The U.S. Department of Education has said it has no policy against conflicts of interest. And most concerning is their manipulation of regulations to prevent public disclosure," said Nielsen, referring to a policy the commission adopted recently allowing it to destroy documents it no longer considers necessary.
Nielsen also took a moment to launch into a personal diatribe against the commission's president, Barbara Beno, who was not there to defend herself, declaring her to be "arrogant, condescending and dismissive."
Nielsen and state Sen. Jim Beall, D-San Jose, requested the audit. It's the latest in a series of recent efforts to scrutinize the commission that is set to revoke the accreditation of the vast City College of San Francisco next year, and which has brought a strict level of accountability to all the state's community colleges.
Most recently, influential labor unions of college faculty - the statewide American Federation of Teachers and its local affiliate at City College - filed a complaint about the accrediting commission with the U.S. Department of Education. The department oversees the nonpublic commission and recently upheld portions of the complaint that included allegations that it has engaged in a conflict of interest by allowing Beno's husband to serve on the team that evaluated City College last year.
Although Beno was not at the meeting, Krista Johns, a vice president of the accrediting commission, and Frank Gornick, a college chancellor and one of the 19 voting commissioners, emphasized that no audit was necessary - largely because the Department of Education already evaluates its work and is conducting its five-year review this fall.
"Accreditation benefits students, the public and the state of California," Gornick said in remarks intended to show that taxpayers and students are anything but ill-served when the commission holds colleges accountable.
Even so, the Joint Legislative Audit Committee voted 10-1 to approve the audit, which is expected to take up to seven months.