December 2013 Advocate – ASCCC and ACCJC

Statewide Academic Senate calls on ACCJC to improve processes and become more transparent and open


by Doug Hirzel, Cañada College Academic Senate President

On October 24 each of our three colleges received very positive reports from the ACCJC’s visiting teams.  The reports included commendations on our colleges’ inclusivity of decision-making processes, excellent academic and student support services, collegiality, spirit of innovation, financial planning, and integrated planning.  These outcomes were made possible by the consistent and transformative work of our faculty, staff and administrators over the years since our last visit.  We can all be proud to be part of SMCCCD.  Rest assured that we will address the visiting teams’ recommendations with the same diligence and drive to make our institutions exceptional centers of teaching and learning.

“What is the Academic Senate’s position on accreditation and the ACCJC?”

    This commitment to providing open access to quality teaching and learning opportunities is shared by faculty from one end of the state to the other.  I have just returned, along with our other Academic Senate leaders in the District, from the annual statewide Fall Plenary of the Academic Senate for California Community Colleges (ASCCC).  It was an occasion to educate ourselves, to be inspired and to encourage each other, especially our colleagues at City College of San Francisco (CCSF).  While we wait to learn the outcome for CCSF, as well as for our own colleges’ reaccreditation applications, one might well ask, “What is the Academic Senate’s position on accreditation and the ACCJC?“  

    ACCJC is an organization consisting of its member institutions – the accredited community colleges in California, Hawaii and the Pacific islands.  While the state Academic Senate (ASCCC) is not a member of ACCJC, faculty senates in California are given Title 5-mandated responsibility for the role of faculty in accreditation processes.  Given this relationship, the ASCCC invited the accrediting commission to participate in our Fall Plenary.  ACCJC Vice President Jack Pond and Associate Vice President Norv Wellsfry brought proposed revisions to the current accreditation standards for our review.  

    Faculty were given the opportunity to give feedback on the revisions which resulted in vigorous and productive dialogue among those in attendance.  We were assured that our suggestions will be considered in the construction of the next draft of the new standards that is occurring at this very moment.  That draft will begin a season of “broad ACCJC member and public review” in early 2014.  We greatly anticipate the opportunity to participate in that review.  Those interested can view the ACCJC’s Plenary presentation and read a copy of the proposed revisions to Standards II and IVA here.

    The state Academic Senate (ASCCC) is engaging the ACCJC through dialogue and through adopting a series of formal resolutions that urge the Commission to move toward greater transparency and openness.  ASCCC reaffirmed its own commitment to accreditation and to its advocacy for improvement in the overall accreditation processes.

Resolutions regarding accreditation and the ACCJC

    Resolution 2.01 states the position that ASCCC “values the peer review process of self-reflection and improvement known as accreditation” and that it advocates for “improvements to the accreditation standards and processes.”
    Resolution 2.02 urged the ACCJC to “document and make public what steps it will take to address any areas of non-compliance” that were identified in a recent federal review of the ACCJC.
    Resolution 2.03 requests that ACCJC give institutions substantially more advance notice of changes to required annual reports.
    Resolution 2.04 requests that the ACCJC clearly distinguish between findings of non-compliance and recommendations for improvement.
    Resolution 2.08 calls on the ACCJC to make public “visiting team recommendations for sanctions and minutes of ACCJC meetings including a tally of votes taken.”  It also calls for opportunity for public comment prior to final votes on sanctions.
    Resolution 2.10 urges ACCJC to ensure that “standards are being consistently applied across institutions.”

Resolutions regarding proposed revisions to the standards

    Resolution 2.05, 2.06, 2.09, and 2.11 relate to specific changes requested by ASCCC to the proposed revisions to the standards.  These resolutions urge the inclusion of language regarding academic senate primacy over curriculum, the distinct role of libraries and learning centers, and matters of student and staff diversity and equity.

Resolution regarding City College of San Francisco

    ASCCC considered a wide gamut of responses to the situ    ation faced by City College.   The Senate chose to separate the issues regarding CCSF from those of other institutions that are also currently on sanction.  Consensus was reached on showing support to CCSF by adopting Resolution 2.07 that calls on ACCJC to “extend the deadline by one year for CCSF to comply with accreditation Standards and recommendations, due to the unprecedented legal situation faced by CCSF.”

    At Plenary your senate leaders participated in substantive debate and consensus building on many other non-accreditation related matters such as: the option of choosing multiple identities when collecting demographic data; changes to Title 5 related to concurrent enrollment in CTE courses; and working with local bargaining units to prevent the appropriation of the responsibilities of counselors by non-faculty paraprofessional advisors.  You can learn more about these resolutions and the issues behind them at http://www.asccc.org/resources/resolutions and by becoming involved in your local senate.