March/April 2017 Advocate: Monica Malamud testifies against ACCJC

ACCREDITATION ISSUES

AFT 1493 President Monica Malamud testifies against ACCJC in Washington, D.C.

Local AFT 1493 President Monica Malamud, along with faculty, students and other community college stakeholders from all over California, traveled to Washington DC on February 22 and 23 to offer three minutes each of public comment at the National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity (NACIQI) hearing on Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC).  NACIQI is the U.S. Department of Education agency that monitors and accredits higher education accrediting agencies across the country. Monica’s testimony is shown below.

Other speakers who gave testimony critical of ACCJC included Marty Hittelman (former CFT President), Jeff Freitas (CFT Secretary-Treasurer), the President and Vice President of the California Community College Academic Senate, the Executive Director of FACCC, representatives from members of Congress, and faculty members from CCSF (including current AFT 2121 President Tim Killikelly and former President Alissa Messer) and many other districts, including Los Angeles, Peralta, Palomar/San Diego and Compton.

The powerful testimony extended through most of Wednesday afternoon and demonstrated substantial non-compliance of ACCJC with federal regulations. Much of the testimony challenged the claim that ACCJC enjoys “wide acceptance” by educators, but the few questions asked of commenters largely focused on the concern about what would happen if ACCJC were removed.

Although there were roughly the same number of letters in support of ACCJC as against it, the number of letters against it was not considered as significant, because there were many from CCSF; however, the letters of support from member institutions had been requested by the ACCJC, which requires that institutions it accredits must comply with its requests, so those letters were essentially extorted!  There were other problematic issues in the report, but this was the most telling.

Public comment extended beyond the regular end-time of 5 pm, until almost 6 pm. The meeting was adjourned with discussion postponed until the following morning.

On the second day, the meeting was scheduled to start at 8:30.  In past years the discussion has been robust and fruitful. This time there was no discussion whatsoever. Within 5 minutes of opening the meeting the motion to recommend an 18 month extension of ACCJC’s authority was moved, seconded and passed. No discussion whatsoever.  It was all over in a matter of minutes.

The group then went to visit Congressional offices, including an extended visit with Jackie Speier’s staff.

Monica Malamud’s testimony against ACCJC 

Good afternoon.  My name is Monica Malamud, and I am a Professor of Spanish at Cañada College.  I am also president of the faculty union in the San Mateo County Community College District in California, which includes College of San Mateo, Skyline College, and Cañada College.

I would like to give you two examples of the experiences that our District has had with the ACCJC.
First, I will start with an area where ACCJC shows consistency in their work:  it consistently reaffirms accreditation of colleges who have a representative sitting on the Commission when their college undergoes accreditation, while issuing sanctions for the majority of colleges which do not.  Could this be due to the fact that commissioners are knowledgeable about the ACCJC standards, and therefore able to guide their colleges towards reaccreditation?  Not necessarily.  In my District, after an accreditation visit, the three colleges had between 8 and 10 recommendations from the visiting team, including both college-specific deficiencies and three identical district-level deficiencies.  ACCJC issued a Warning to two of the colleges, but reaffirmed accreditation of the college who had a commissioner in ACCJC.

So, similar deficiencies, but very different outcomes—this shows inconsistent application of standards and decision-making on the part of ACCJC.  This is not just my observation.  The administration in my district has noticed this too, and made the same observation publicly, both orally and in writing.

My second example involves a newly-developed program, one of the 15 pilot Bachelor degrees authorized for the California Community Colleges.  In January 2015, Skyline College was selected to offer a Bachelor Degree in Respiratory Care.  In April 2015, the College submitted a Substantive Change to ACCJC (as required by ACCJC) identifying the program structure and 27 units of upper division coursework (as required by the state).  The ACCJC approved the Substantive Change in May 2015.  In the fall of 2015, courses were developed and in January 2016, Skyline started promoting the program.  But in April 2016, 11 months after the ACCJC had approved the Substantive Change, the ACCJC drafted new policy requiring 45 units of upper division coursework — 18 more units than required by the state.  In a matter of days, Skyline had to develop courses for the additional 18 units.  And just days after this was done, the ACCJC approved a revised version of its new policy, now requiring 40 units of upper division coursework.  The new Bachelor Degree in Respiratory Care at Skyline College could not risk not being approved by the ACCJC, so faculty scrambled to create courses that they did not believe were necessary, college staff scrambled to rewrite and reprint promotional materials, the deadline for application to the program had to be extended, and the pool of applicants was reduced, as a result of the last-minute increase in units that the ACCJC required.

This example shows how the ACCJC acts in a capricious and unreasonable manner, lacking any rationale for its demands.  It also demonstrates that it is not qualified to accredit Baccalaureate Degrees.

I wish these were isolated examples, but they are not.  The commission’s policies, standards and decisions are unreasonable and inconsistent.  Colleges comply with ACCJC out of fear of losing accreditation, not because they agree with the Commission or believe that its requirements will contribute to the improvement of our colleges or guarantee quality education for our students.  ACCJC is not accepted as a viable accrediting agency by our colleges.

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