May 2016 Advocate: Galatolo reports on ACCJC reform/replacement


Chancellor Galatolo reports on moves to reform accreditation for California community colleges

by Ron Galatolo, Chancellor, SMCCCD

I would be remiss to begin this article on the future of the California community college accreditation without recognizing the tenacity and steadfast leadership of the faculty affiliated with AFT Local 2121 (CCSF).  Early in this crusade, they were often chastised by the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC) as self-interested rabble-rousers and, regrettably, many educators believed that inappropriate mischaracterization.  About a decade ago, I too was criticized by the ACCJC for unveiling an alarming trend of sanctions being levied against its member institutions – including the closure of Compton CCD.  I and Elihu Harris (former Chancellor of Peralta CCD) were essentially the only CEO’s at that time to openly question this disproportionate and often harsh treatment of ACCJC’s member institutions.  We too were marginalized.  Furthermore, I revealed several instances in which the Commission overruled the reaffirmation of accreditation that was endorsed by the “visiting team” and during closed, private meetings the ACCJC imposed sanctions on those institutions, ignoring the peer recommendations.

Early critiques of ACCJC were largely ignored, but everything changed when they went after CCSF

In those early years, the movement by a few to highlight these disparate and often unfair actions were largely ignored until the ACCJC moved to terminate CCSF’s accreditation.  To say they woke up a sleeping giant is an understatement.  Soon thereafter, under the direction of the State Chancellor’s Office, a courageous group of educators performed a comprehensive review of the ACCJC and they produced a Task Force Report that connected the dots and affirmed that a wide array of problems exist with the current operating structure, decision-making and leadership of the ACCJC.  That report, by a professionally diverse group of experts, came to the unanimous conclusion that ACCJC does not have the acceptance or confidence of the academic community.  The report was subsequently endorsed by virtually all of the community college leadership organizations (Trustees, CEO’s, etc.).  Again, this new movement was being largely dismissed by the ACCJC as inaccurate, lopsided and not reflective of the true sentiment of the CEO’s or other academic stakeholders, including faculty.

In March, the ACCJC received a letter from the U.S. Department of Education specifying that they have until October 2016 to address an assortment of irregularities or they potentially face the same demise they imposed many years ago on Compton – basically having their capacity to accredit member institutions terminated!  In order to mitigate this short-term cataclysm, the League’s CEO Board, of which I am currently the Chair, met and ratified a process and framework for the ACCJC to achieve compliance with the USDOE.  To that end, three members of the CEO Board – Dr. Helen Benjamin, Chancellor of the Contra Costa District, Dr. Frank Gornick, Chancellor of the West Hills District, and Dr. Brian King, Chancellor of the Los Rios District – engaged ACCJC staff and its Commissioners to begin the dialogue for widespread change to the current structure as well as initiating a long term objective that better aligns the contemporary needs of California’s community colleges (e.g., the introduction of baccalaureate education, guaranteed four year transfer pathways, etc.).

State community college CEO’s commit to both reforming ACCJC and looking for new accreditor

Also in March, California’s community college CEO’s devoted several hours at their annual statewide meeting to discuss this matter in great detail.  During the conversation, the CEO’s reaffirmed their commitment to institutional accreditation and, moreover, acknowledged a desire to reform the existing structure.  Specifically, more than 95% of the CEO’s agreed that they needed to lead an effort that would develop a new model of accreditation in response to the changing world of higher education.  About 85% of the respondents committed to carrying out an explicit set of actions to: 1) improve the existing function, structure, relations and culture of the ACCJC; and 2) simultaneously explore alternative structures for an accreditor that could better align all segments of higher education in the western region – recognizing that this will likely take several years to accomplish.  In addition, the California Community College Board of Governors approved a resolution supporting the aforementioned process.

Recently, two CEO Board members met with the Commission to discuss the formation of these two accreditation workgroups.  Our statewide CEO Board identified more than twenty colleagues who have volunteered to serve on the two workgroups.  In addition to CEO’s, Academic Senate leadership, and Accreditation Liaison Officer representatives, a private community college president has agreed to participate as well as others who represent member institutions outside of California’s community colleges.  These two workgroups are still being formed; however, the composition as it currently stands is as follows:


California CEO’s:
Helen Benjamin, Chancellor, Contra Costa CCD, Convener
Michael Claire, President, San Mateo College (San Mateo CCD)
David Wain Coon, Superintendent/President, Marin CCD
Debbie DiThomas, Superintendent/President, Barstow CCD
Kathy Hart, Superintendent/President, San Joaquin Delta CCD
Victor Jaime, Superintendent/President, Imperial Valley College (Imperial CCD)
Kathryn Jeffrey, Superintendent/President, Santa Monica CCD
Jowel LaGuerre, Chancellor, Peralta CCD
Marvin Martinez, President, East Los Angeles College (L.A. CCD)
Kindred Murillo, Superintendent/President, Lake Tahoe CCD
Kevin Walthers, Superintendent/President, Allan Hancock CCD
John Weispfenning, President, Santiago Canyon College (Rancho Santiago CCD)

Private College CEO:
John Zimmerman President, MTI College

Academic Senate Leadership:
David Morse, President, Academic Senate for California
Community Colleges
Julie Bruno, Vice President, Academic Senate for California
Community Colleges
Accreditation Liaison Officers
Lori Bennett, Executive Vice President, Moorpark College
(Ventura CCD)
Meredith Randall, Vice President, Shasta College (Shasta-Tehama-Trinity Joint CCD)

ACCJC Commissioner Liaisons:
Raul Rodriguez, Chancellor, Rancho Santiago CCD
Sonya Christian, President, Bakersfield College (Kern CCD)


California CEO’s
Cindy Miles, Chancellor, Grossmont-Cuyamaca CCD, Convener
Lori Adrian, President, Coastline CC (Coast CCD) (Until 6/30/16)
Sandra Caldwell, President, Reedley College (State Center CCD)
Constance Carroll, Chancellor, San Diego CCD
Ron Kraft, Superintendent/President, Napa CCD
Willard Lewallen, Superintendent/President, Hartnell CCD
Dena Maloney, Superintendent/President, El Camino CCD
Cheryl Marshall, Chancellor, North Orange CCCD (After 7/1/16)
Sandra Mayo, President, Moreno Valley College (Riverside CCD)
Bryan Murphy, President, De Anza College (Foothill-DeAnza CCD)
Bill Scroggins, Superintendent/President, Mt San Antonio CCD
Susan Sperling, President, Chabot College (Chabot-Las Positas CCD)
Joe Wyse, Superintendent/President, Shasta-Tehama-Trinity CCD

Hawaii CEO:
Lui Hokoana, Chancellor, Maui College, University of Hawaii

Private College CEO:
Jeff Akens, President, Carrington College

WASC Senior Commission:
Mary Ellen Pestriko President, WASC Senior Commission

Five new ACCJC Commissioners to be selected

Lastly, there are currently five Commissioner vacancies (one faculty, one administrator and three members from the public).  ACCJC bylaws prescribe how these posts are filled.  A Commission Nominating Committee is formed that includes four Commissioners and four non-Commissioner presidents.  They will recommend a slate and the member institutions’ presidents cast the votes.  If a person is not selected by the Nominating Committee, an individual can be added to the ballot by a petition of ten CEO’s endorsing that individual.  Of course, this is a powerful mechanism that can be employed to change the existing composition of Commissioners.

I’ve covered a lot of ground in this article, but this has been a long, arduous process that is beginning to yield some favorable results.  It will likely take many years before we fully resolve this matter and implement meaningful change; however, I firmly believe that we are on the right track and we have the right people “on the bus” to accomplish the objective of an accrediting body that is responsive to its member institutions while, foremost, ensuring quality teaching and learning to the dedicated students we proudly serve!