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Friday, May 24, 2024 | Back issues
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Fate of SF Community College Put to Trial

SAN FRANCISCO (CN) - The bid to save the City College of San Francisco's accreditation is now in a judge's hands after closing arguments Tuesday.

For deputy city attorney Sara Eisenberg, unfairness in the process led a federally approved commission to disqualify CCSF, one of the largest community colleges in the United States.

Ken Keller countered that the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges, which made the decision, was simply making sure that students do not waste their time, money and effort trying to better themselves at a substandard school.

He told the stuffed courtroom that the commission has a difficult job, and that the decisions it makes are sometimes tough.

"There is no evidence whatsoever that the commission had any incentive to terminate CCSF's accreditation," Keller said.

"In fact, the commission is there to promote higher education," the attorney added. "It is there to ensure compliance with [federal] standards."

Superior Court Judge Curtis Karnow blocked the revocation of City College's certification pending the outcome of this trial.

San Francisco had brought the issue to court soon after it was decertified last year.

It said that the commission was driven to disqualify the school by legislative and philosophical differences with City College over the purpose of California community colleges. City attorney Dennis Herrera claimed that the commission's conflicts of interest violated California's Business and Professions Code and Unfair Competition Law.

In issuing the temporary injunction, Karnow noted the "catastrophic" impact that disqualification would have on enrollment at the school, which usually caters to more than 80,000 students.

Tuesday's closing arguments capped off a five-day bench trial in October.

San Francisco's Eisenberg emphasized the presence of Peter Crabtree on the team whose 2012 evaluation of the school led to the commission's revocation decision.

She noted that Crabtree is married to commission president Barbara Beno and has another conflict.

Crabtree was on the staff at Laney College, an Oakland, Calif., community college that stood to benefit if City College were shuttered, Eisenberg said.

"We don't dispute that there was nothing in their policy that expressly prohibited staff members from serving," she said. "But that's exactly the problem, the fact that they did not have a policy in place that prevented this from happening."

Because "they did not have clear and effective controls that prevented conflicts and the appearance of conflicts," the commission violated statute, she added.

"The proper remedy for these violations is to set aside the 2012 and 2013 decisions and have City College evaluated anew," Eisenberg said.

Commission attorney Keller, of Keller, Sloan, Roman & Holland, said the evidence undermines the accusations of "bias, prejudice and nefarious motive."

"These personal attacks, I believe, the city attorney had to make because without them this case makes no sense," he claimed, saying, "Perhaps it's the political arena where you have to attack your opponent and attack your opponent personally."

City College benefitted not only from a fair process, but from special treatment to which it was not even entitled, the attorney argued.

San Francisco, the commission and City College, which was not a party to the litigation, now await Judge Karnow's ruling.

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