1. It's time to stop rolling over for the ACCJC and start fighting back, and
2. We have to change the narrative about what's happening to the school.
Mandelman made the first point pretty clearly. In his first six months on the board, he said, his goal was to keep the school accredited, and he and his colleagues did pretty much everything that the ACCJC and a special trustee wanted done. "We acquiesced for six months," he said. And it didn't do any good at all.
Some board members are nervous about pissing off the ACCJC, but at this point, there's really no choice. The accreditation panel isn't going to allow City College to continue as anything beyond a shadow of its former self. This is political; it's a big fight, and if we try to compromise and be accommodating, we're going to lose.
The second point is even more significant.
It's easy to say (and it's not wrong to say) that there has been financial mismanagement at the school. But that's not only something that can be fixed (and that process is happening); it's entirely beyond the point. The ACCJC isn't really concerned about fiscal issues or governance; the panel and its leadership want to fundamentally change how community colleges operate in this country.
The San Francisco's Chronicle's editorial today is a perfect case study in how (some of) the news media and (some of) the city's political leadership is getting this entirely wrong:
After years of neglect and mismanagement, this institution - so critical to opportunity and economic development in the city - needs to overhaul financial controls and governance policies to maintain its accreditation. These failures were underlined by an outside review panel that has become the subject of union ire and now Herrera's legal focus.Actually, nobody's coddling anyone or anything. At the direction of a special trustee that the ACCJC wanted appointed, City College has made dramatic changes to governance and financial accountability, some of them bitterly opposed by labor and the students, and many of them unnecessary and wrong. The elected trustees went along to mollify the ACCJC -- and it didn't work.
The city's leaders should be calling for tough love, not coddling dysfunction. Fortunately, Mayor Ed Lee has done just that - but, regrettably, the city attorney is going in the opposite direction.
That's because, as Herrera points out in his lawsuit, this isn't really about whether department chairs or deans or senior administrators get to set course lists and hire faculty. It's about a profound change in the mission of City College and other similar institutions. It's about an attempt by right-wing corporatists, private for-profit schools, and private companies that make money off student loans to undermine public education. There's a huge amount of money in loans and for-profit schools, and the growth in that field depends on eliminating the cheap, more effective, public competition.
Herrera's team did the research that reporters (including me) should have been doing long ago, and his case sets what has to be the new narrative. Ed Lee can talk tough love all he wants, but does he really want to be on the side of the Lumina Foundation, ALEC, the student loan sharks, and the privatizers? Is this the crew we want running education in this country?
Does Nancy Pelosi really want to allow the educational equivalent of the Koch brothers to be calling the shots in the district she was elected to represent?
That's the real story here. It's time to tell it. Loudly.