CCSF & ACCJC UPDATE “Shock Doctrine in Practice”

by Rick Sterling on February 11, 2014

This is the first part of a series of articles which will document the troubled history of the Accrediting Commission, , the betrayal of CCSF by outside appointed administrators, and perspectives on positive things that can and are being done.

Last Friday Feb 7 the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC) announced the decisions from its January meetings.

First, the good news: Only ONE of NINE colleges under comprehensive review was put on sanction by ACCJC. This is in sharp contrast with ACCJC actions over previous years when the sanction rate has been around 50%. The dramatic reduction in sanctions is likely the result of the increasing scrutiny of and pressure on ACCJC including three law suits, inspection by the state auditor, and Dept of Education requirement that ACCJC start meeting federal requirements that their policies and actions be “widely accepted” within a year.

On the bad side, ACCJC rejected the ‘review’ request and reaffirmed its decision to terminate the accreditation of CCSF. This process has already taken seven months and this was only the first step. Next step for CCSF is a formal Appeal. The situation is complicated because the Super Trustee With Extraordinary Powers (STWEP) Robert Agrella publicly gave up on the review request before even filing it and did not use crucial evidence to make the case.


While ACCJC is modifying its actions across this accreditation region, the critical situation at CCSF continues. The college is under the rule of Special Trustee With Extraordinary Powers (STWEP) Agrella and his personally appointed Chancellor Tyler and newly appointed Vice Chancellors of Finance, Academic and Student Affairs.

The situation is a textbook example of the “Shock Doctrine” where a manufactured or real crisis is utilized to remove the elected trustees and impose a single authority. This outside appointed authority has no allegiance to the institution and imposes policies and actions which could not be passed in calmer and more democratic circumstances.

Some of the recent decisions of the newly installed Administration include:
* Reducing pay for faculty
* Increasing pay for Administrators (beyond scale salaries promised to new Admin hires)
* Reducing planning, classroom and enrollment management by elected Dept Chairs
* Indreasing Planning, classroom and enrollment management by non teaching Administration
* Inceasing tuition cost for non resident students
* Cancelling classes weeks into the semester
* Requiring payment immediately (or within 24 hours) of registration, even though some who qualify for tuition scholarship or grant cannot receive it by registration time.
* Escalating demands on teachers to provide more and more “learning outcome” data.

The consequence of these changes has predictably been dissatisfaction among students, declining enrollment, reductions in classrooms and faculty and increasing distrust between faculty and administration.


It’s now seven months since the ACCJC decision to “Terminate Accreditation” and we have finally learned that the request is denied. The process has been exceedingly slow and meanwhile CCSF continues to hemmorage. It appears this is how STWEP Agrella may like it since it gives them more time to unilaterally impose more changes (contracts and governance changes) in a crisis situation.

ACCJC has said the Review process is part of the Appeals process and must follow those rules. However in a double standard, they have not followed the federally mandated requirements of due process in the Appeals Process. For example, under federal regulations the Appeals Panel should not be an advisory panel; it must have decision making authority. But under ACCJC the panel only had advisory responsibility.

Seven months after being hit with Loss of Accreditation decision, CCSF is now finally able to file a full Appeal of that decision. Given Agrella’s history, should we have confidence that he will advocate for CCSF?


Under newly created ACCJC bylaws, the appeal must be filed according to “The Appeals Procedure Manual”. A preliminary version of this document says

“information about the time and place of the Hearing, the identity of the Hearing Panel members, the grounds for appeal, strategies for appeal, and documents submitted by either party that describe its arguments and positions relative to the appeal may not be disclosed to the general public, the press, or posted on any website”

ACCJC has selected the members of the “Appeals Panel”. Of the thirteen appointed members, there is only one teacher.

When STWEP Agrella filed the Review Request he said he could not use the findings of the Dept of Education against ACCJC because that was a “third party” complaint and he did not want to join the “attack on the Commission”. His explanation was illogical because the request was to use the findings of the Dept of Education not to enjoin the AFT complaint. The Dept of Education is the ultimate authority and to refuse to use their findings against ACCJC’s evaluation and action against CCSF is a clear betrayal. That decision demonstrates that Agrella is unwilling or unable to represent CCSF.

STWEP Agrella and California Community College Chancellor Harris have often said “Don’t argue with the referee”. Normally that is good advice and sensible practice. But, as any good coach knows, there are times when you have to criticize a referee who is making bad calls or make a strong appeal. In this case, the lives of tens of thousands of people connected to CCSF have been significantly disrupted and damaged. A proud institution has been severely damaged and the public greatly confused. The Dept of Education determined that ACCJC’s evaluation and actions against CCSF violated federal regulations.

If they are to regain any semblance of credibility, STWEP Agrella and Chancellor Tyler must consult with people who truly represent CCSF and file a REAL APPEAL of ACCJC’s horrendous actions against the college.

Rick Sterling is a community college graduate and retired electronics/aerospace engineer.
He can be contacted via

Filed under: Archive