When the 85,000 students at San Francisco City College got wind that the college could close, they immediately took to the streets, forming a Save CCSF coalition and staging mass demonstrations.
If the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges stripped their school of its accreditation, a whole swath of the city's population would lose its shot at an affordable college degree, they argued. What had begun as bureaucratic sparring had turned into an all-out social class war.
But now CCSF students have a new protectorate: The ever-politically astute and press release-happy City Attorney Dennis Herrera, who filed a lawsuit against the Accrediting Commission today.
Pointing out that the commission has publicly opposed City College's "open access" policy to accept any applicant, regardless of income or ability, Herrera alleges that it retaliated against the school for political reasons.
Though a commission spokeswoman declined to comment today, its July report cited poor leadership, lack of financial accountability, and lackluster student services as justifications for shuttering the school. It decided to seize all decision-making power from the current board of trustees and appoint its own special trustee to take over.
San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee and California Colleges Chancellor Brice W. Harris both firmly endorsed the plan over objections from the California Federation of Teachers, whose members filed their own complaint in April.
Herrera is seeking an injunction to prevent the school's closure, but he also wants the Accrediting Commission to face civil penalties for its alleged retaliation, which, if proved, would violate California's Unfair Competition Law.
In a separate complaint, he targeted the Board of Governors of the California Community Colleges for delegating so much power to a private entity.
Because the Accrediting Commission is not based in San Francisco, and not accountable to San Francisco taxpayers, it has no real incentive to serve the public interest, Herrera argues. Thus, he says, the Board of Governors "stripped Californians of the right to a democratic and transparent regulatory process" by using the Accrediting Commission as a cipher.