Dr. Robert Agrella’s response to the U.S. Department of Education letter to the ACCJC

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Date: August 19, 2013
To: The College Community
From: Robert F. Agrella, Special Trustee

Subject: Accreditation and the Review/Appeals Process

I would like to reaffirm my commitment to the college community that my sole purpose for being at City College is to work with you to maintain our accreditation.

Last week the Department of Education (DOE) informed the ACCJC of a number of items it believes the Commission needs to address. These items stem from the complaint lodged with the DOE by AFT 2121. The DOE’s letter has been widely circulated and any number of opinions have been expressed as to how the letter is to be interpreted and what actions the Commission must take to address the enumerated items. There are many individuals within the college who believe that the items in the DOE letter are sufficient reason to negate the show cause determination of the Commission with respect to CCSF. This has led to requests to me and Interim Chancellor Scott-Skillman that we use the DOE letter as substantiation in the college’s request within the review and appeals process of ACCJC to overturn the decision to terminate accreditation effective July 31, 2014. Compounding this entire matter is the fact that both Chancellor Brice Harris and I publicly stated that the review letter (due Tuesday, August 20, 2013) would be placed on the college’s website. However, subsequent to voicing this opinion we were informed by ACCJC that all materials submitted to ACCJC are to be treated as confidential. While both Chancellor Harris and I sincerely apologize for our premature comments regarding disclosure of the review documents, our intention was never to mislead the college community. Nevertheless, the error made regarding the confidentiality of the review materials has led to numerous emails demanding the review materials we provide ACCJC be made public. As previously stated, we cannot share the review documents because we have been clearly informed by the Commission that all parts of the appeal process, including the review, are to be treated as confidential.

I also want to inform the college community that for several reasons I have chosen not to use the DOE letter in our request for review. First and foremost is that the AFT 2121 complaint and the DOE’s letter are not representations of CCSF but rather deemed by the Commission and the college to be third party communications. If we were to use these arguments they would become the college’s official position and therefore the college would join in the attack on the Commission. I strongly believe that the best path to maintaining CCSF’s accreditation is to follow the Commission’s rules, regulations, and directions and to continue to show substantial progress toward meeting the eligibility requirements and standards. If our review document joins the attack on the Commission, I believe that the review and appeals process will be unsuccessful. If this is the case, I also believe our timeframe for meeting the standards may be significantly shortened.

Please understand that I am not trying to stand in the way of concerns about the Commission. I am dealing with the specifics of accreditation and the processes determined and articulated to us by the Commission. I believe that if the college changes direction and begins to attack the Commission, rather than working with it to correct the problems in the institution, it will jeopardize our ability to maintain accreditation. I understand that many of you may disagree with this strategy, but I believe the approach I have briefly outlined has the greatest likelihood of success for CCSF.

Although we may disagree on the strategy to be employed, the college community needs to be in total agreement to work together during these coming months to meet the accreditation standards.

Thank you.