No decision yet following charged hearing to stall City College closure

SF City Attorney Dennis Herrera speaks with his legal team during a break at SF Superior Court on Dec. 26, 2013.
All photos by Sara Bloomberg

At a Dec. 26 hearing in San Francisco Superior Court, the City Attorney’s office argued that City College of San Francisco should not be shuttered, as long as San Francisco’s lawsuit against a regional accrediting commission remains in court.

The two-year community college, which serves roughly 85,000 students, was notified earlier this year that the regional Accreditin​g Commission for Community and Junior Colleges would terminate its accreditat​ion in July 2014, rendering the school's degrees worthless.

It would be forced to close.

In August, City Attorney Dennis Herrera filed suit against the ACCJC, alleging the closure action was improper, unwarranted, and out of line with the agency’s prior actions. 

At yesterday’s court hearing, litigators from Herrera’s office argued for a preliminary injunction against ACCJC, to keep the college open at least for the duration of the court proceedings.

Stop, halt, cease, desist. That was the City Attorney's goal yesterday: keep City College open until the case is decided.

While yesterday’s hearing was focused on the injunction, the substance of Herrera’s complaint against the ACCJC -- alleging that its members were acting improperly as advocates for greater austerity, among other things -- came into play many times.

The litigators argued from morning till late afternoon, taking only brief recesses. While Judge Curtis Karnow subjected viewpoints from both sides to microscopic examination, there was no decision by the end.

It’s not yet known when Karnow will issue a ruling. 

“Judge Karnow did not rule from the bench, he issued no tentative order, and he gave no indication of how he intends to rule before concluding today's hearing,” City Attorney spokesperson Matt Dorsey noted in a statement following the hearing.

In the meantime, a few statements made in court could shed light onto the outcome. We’ve highlighted a few of them below, along with some key questions.

Attorneys Phillip Ward and Andrew Sclar represented the ACCJC, in opposition to Deputy City Attorney Sara Eisenberg and labor lawyer Robert Bezemek, who appeared on behalf of the California Federation of Teachers.

We thought we’d present the case a bit differently, and give background to some of the main arguments and then write the main arguments attorneys made to address them. Each argument is prefaced first, and links are provided for further reading:

1. Herrera’s suit alleges that ACCJC commissioners acted improperly as advocates. That would mean they not only went beyond their role as objective accreditors, but sought to advance a political agenda against CCSF’s inclusive approach to higher education. They address that here.

Judge Curtis Karnow: All of those expression of political views, if you will, by either the staff or the commission itself, are being cited as the “true agenda” that they're trying to unmask.

ACCJC counsel Philip Ward: There are problems, big problems, at City College of San Francisco.... all of those problems are the product of the so called “open access” mission and the new educational priorities that they're saying are being shoved down CCSF's throat.

Innuendo, character assassination … shows us that is what's being targeted by the plaintiffs allegations.

City College has been kicking the can down the road for six years.

2. Herrera’s motion for an injunction argues that, even as the case is being decided, the school will suffer harm in the interim. How would this injunction soften the blow?

Judge Curtis Karnow: The real thrust of the motion seems to be that the uncertainty has generated behavior by faculty [and] students to depart, and this all stems from uncertainty harm.

When did this uncertainty harm start? How will the actions of this court affect anything? If there's another hearing in July, won't there be more uncertainty, even if I issue an injunction?

CFT counsel Robert Bezemek: Declarations filed show that there have already been instances that harm has already been felt. 

For example, (City College’s) radiology program is top in the nation above John Hopkins University. They've been given an execution date, everyone knows that. There's an order to remove the college's accreditation in July 31. When it got that order, students started to leave the college in droves. 

Deputy City Attorney Sara Eisenberg: We're asking, your honor, right now for something that won't happen until further down the road... but there's real harm happening right now. Latest numbers show enrollment is down 27 percent.

3. Can the ACCJC base its decision to close City College on fiscal issues, rather than educational shortcomings?

CFT counsel Bezemek: We do not deny that they have financial issues... the quality of education is what they're here (the ACCJC) to measure. But you have to find that the harm from the financial issues warrants shutting the school down the only community college in San Francisco. That it is the fundamental part of accreditation. 

Judge Karnow: So your position is that no matter what bad things the college has done, the commission can't withdraw its accreditation?

CFT counsel Bezemek: No, we're saying they have to show substantial evidence. 

(The ACCJC’s) 'internal review' is a joke. An injunction would provide huge relief.

accjc counsel

Counsel for the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges, Andrew Sclar and Philip Ward, confer during a break at a preliminary injunction hearing regarding City College of San Francisco on Dec. 26, 2013. Photo by Sara Bloomberg

4. Is it within the ACCJC’s power to delay City College’s closure?

Judge Karnow: What if we just dropped the process now? 

ACCJC counsel Sclar: There certainly would be harm to us. If we do not enforce sanctions or bring a non compliant institution into compliance within a two year period, we would be at risk of losing our recognition with the United States Department of Education.

It's going to have a chilling effect on all accrediting agencies.

Judge Karnow: Is there any evidence of that in the record?

ACCJC counsel Sclar: No, there hasn't (been). 

Deputy City Attorney Eisenberg: If the people aren't permitted to seek relief through an (injunctive) action, there's no other recourse.

The ACCJC has demonstrated a very cavalier attitude in this case. We’re talking about closing the only community college in San Francisco. Many students don't have access to other colleges otherwise. The relief that we are asking for here is quite modest. It has been granted before... and it didn't do anything other than hit the pause button.


CCSF is a flawed, doomed entity.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 27, 2013 @ 10:50 am

institution know a report is coming and not bother to even start until after the due date?

Posted by Matlock on Dec. 27, 2013 @ 2:07 pm

sad and pathetic.

You'd think CCSF could at least summon the courage to die a dignified death.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 27, 2013 @ 2:38 pm

When the jobs of the faculty is on the line, the AFT and the city will do anything to maintain the status quo.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 27, 2013 @ 9:17 pm

schools which access federal dollars are meeting minimum standards. The Obama administration has been tightening these considerably recently to keep diploma mill schools from saddling their students with huge levels of debt without awarding valuable degrees. Standards are necessary for every organization - CCSF can't exist in a vacuum with no educational standards.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 27, 2013 @ 3:46 pm

San Francisco City College is a very good school and should remain open for it's students, employees and the facility. The only reason they wish to close the school is so that the scum of the earth to reopen it under ownership by corporate vultures. The fact is all education should be free and open to anybody that wishes to better themselves and not held ransom by people that already have to much money then they know what to do with.
The mayor of San Francisco is a vulture and so is anybody that wishes to privatizes this school and they can all go to hell.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 27, 2013 @ 5:25 pm

Dear Public,
I am a student of CCSF, and I have found remarkable inspiration there.
I am studying to be a teacher, Elementary school.

As an advocate for Equity in education, and equal access, I encourage all readers to put their best foot forward as we step into the Spring semester at City College of San Francisco. The American Public must realize, in order to keep Education accessible, we must declare our priorities clearly;


Take a class this Spring! Languages, Dance, Art, Ethnic Studies, Women's Studies, Queer Studies- the list goes on.


C.S. Daims

Posted by Clara Daims, student on Dec. 27, 2013 @ 5:47 pm

spring ritual more citizens should consider taking up. Nothing more fun than reading Foucault's theories on fisting and Shulamith Firestone's dreams of artificial steel wombs to get you in the mood for rebirth.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 27, 2013 @ 7:13 pm

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Posted by Matlock on Dec. 27, 2013 @ 11:08 pm


City College offers classes in real world subjects.

It is terrible that it will lose it's accreditation due to terrible progressive management, that it offers classes to people so stupid that they take ethnic studies is a problem not a solution.

Posted by Matlock on Dec. 27, 2013 @ 11:05 pm

value of queer, gender and wimmin's studies than give in to the demands of neo-liberal capitalists who hate the social sciences. Progressives are determined to turn CCSF into the left's version of Masada - they may get their wish.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 28, 2013 @ 1:04 pm

They could start by losing the faux spellings of "wimmin" and "grrlz". That is 6th grade nonsense.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 28, 2013 @ 1:40 pm

One of the biggest lies that the Right propagates is that their agenda of austerity and privatization is somehow "non-political." The reality is that it's all about priorities, and their priority is to concentrate wealth. That is a vicious, brutal political agenda which does violence to people.

Posted by Greg on Dec. 28, 2013 @ 2:31 pm

We want to close it is because it is a failed entity, and most of that is due to it's politicization.

(Not that concentrated wealth is a bad thing anyway, if that reflects differential rates of wealth creation, but that's another issue).

Posted by Guest on Dec. 28, 2013 @ 2:52 pm

They see a lot of money to be made for rich people by privatizing it. Doesn't matter to them that ordinary working class people will be deprived of a decent education, thereby impoverishing them further.

Posted by Greg on Dec. 28, 2013 @ 3:11 pm

because much of it is not viable at all, and would be closed down. There are probably a few assets that can be run viably but the core entity is flawed.

At minimum you'd have to fire all the current staff, ban unions, sell many of the buildings and then restrict the enterprise to a few vocational classes that can justify themselves.

CCSF is too riddled with disease for anything less than radical surgery to work.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 28, 2013 @ 3:25 pm

These guys aren't stupid. There will be plenty of money for cronies connected to the commission. Real estate speculators will make money on the sale of our public assets. Private corporations are salivating at the prospect of charging vast sums of money for tuition, making money off working class students. And a few people with experience in "business" will get plum administrator positions to the tune of several hundred thousand apiece.

Posted by Greg on Dec. 28, 2013 @ 4:44 pm

admission do not have a lot of money in the first place?

The city would gain, however, by selling off under-performing assets at a more fully valued amount.

Private or public - it doesn't matter. Invest in your winners and cut your losers loose. CCSF is a loser.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 28, 2013 @ 5:08 pm

Fortunes have been made by the rich robbing the poor since the dawn of the ages. It's the very foundation of capitalism.

Posted by Greg on Dec. 28, 2013 @ 5:40 pm
Posted by Guest on Dec. 28, 2013 @ 6:34 pm

More so than usual.

Do you have any proof of this massive conspiracy, or is this one those faith things we hear so much about?

Posted by Matlock on Dec. 29, 2013 @ 12:50 am

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Posted by crimsonchilla on Aug. 03, 2014 @ 8:11 am

The people who are behind closing the place are about the fiscal mismanagement, not some conspiracy to get rid of classes where the only wrong answer is not agreeing the the person standing in front of the class.

Posted by Matlock on Dec. 29, 2013 @ 12:44 am

That's why they appointed an administrator whose pay rivals that of some Fortune 500 CEOs. Good fiscal sense, that. Actually that was one of their main complaints -too much money spent on classes and professors, and not enough on administrators... because everyone knows that more bureaucrats is the key to good fiscal management.

You crack me up, Matlock. The cognitive dissonance that you require should have torn your brain asunder a long time ago.

Posted by Greg on Dec. 29, 2013 @ 8:42 am

Usually, you don't have any when making such claims.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 29, 2013 @ 9:05 am

The accreditation committee is riddled with conflicts of interest. All the solutions they propose seem to benefit rich investors who want to make money off the privatization of public education. You say it's all just one big coincidence, so where's your evidence for that?

Posted by Greg on Dec. 29, 2013 @ 4:42 pm

that there is some dark, weird conspiracy. He's just saying "shit happens", which of course we all know does happen.

If you have zero evidence for your fanciful claim, why not just admit it and say so instead of trying to dodge?

Posted by Guest on Dec. 29, 2013 @ 5:12 pm

The conflicts of interest I'm talking about are well documented. It seems that whenever the rich come up with "solutions" to problems of the poor and working class, those solutions always seem to favor... well, the rich!

Oh, what a coincidence! To say that it's a big grand coincidence is *not* some "fanciful claim," but to question that maybe there might be an element of purpose to all these "happy coincidences" is. Interesting how the mind of a coincidence theorist works.

Posted by Greg on Dec. 29, 2013 @ 6:45 pm

What that really means is that you cannot prove it.

We're asking you to prove an affirmative, which should be possible if it is true.

You are responding by asking us to prove a negative, which you know isn't possible.

Cheap transparent trick by someone who knows he has been caught out making a baseless claim.

If you had any prove, you would provide it to save face.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 30, 2013 @ 7:14 am

The reason people like Greg think everything is a conspiracy is because they think in terms of conspiracy.

If Greg came to power he would actually conspire, if he had the power he would be making secret deals, so he thinks everyone thinks that way.

In the real world, a conspiracy to close city college, sell off it's assets and build condo's would be massive, it would have to include so many people that it would be impossible to get to step two. None of the them would agree on the master plan and the chance that someone would rat them out pretty likely.

It's just easier to jabber on about class and "thats what 'they' want us to think" type business than to look at the real world.

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Posted by on Dec. 27, 2013 @ 8:58 pm

If you follow the 4 questions of this reporting, read and apply reasoning, it seems to point to no injunction.

1. CCSF shot the messenger. "City College has been kicking the can down the road for six years." The impending lawsuit will show if true or not.

2. The harm to CCSF is "uncertainty harm". Issuing an injunction can actually cause more uncertainty (more harm).

3. ACCJC can withdraw its accreditation if there were evidence of financial mismanagement. There were.

4. Who will suffer more harm if judge did not rule the in the party's favor ? About the same. Not much. Students were given one year's notice to transfer to a different school.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 27, 2013 @ 10:23 pm

thường, những yếu tố này có thể được chia thành hai nhóm dựa trên nhôm và các vật liệu thép không gỉ.giàn phơi nhập khẩu điều khiển từ xa thông minh Hệ thống thông minh tiếp xúc - giường đa chức năng

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Posted by BANG TAI CONG NGHIEP on May. 20, 2014 @ 2:06 am

many thanks for this post , it;s a myth to asume that this article is noone ,ACCJC’s power to delay City College’s closure?

Posted by BANG TAI CONG NGHIEP on May. 20, 2014 @ 2:09 am

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