Rampant Misinformation Surrounds City College Struggle

by Moira Jean Sullivan on August 15, 2013

City College of San Francisco opens August 14. It is accredited and has made that loud and clear to the community that deserves a community college. The “Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior College” (ACCJC) may have put a dent in the car but CCSF is still on the road and running at top speed. The Save City College of San Francisco maintains that the ACCJC “manufactured a crisis, deepening the atmosphere of emergency that had hung over the college since the ACCJC put it on “show cause” in July of 2012”. They believe that the ACCJC, a corporate entity, continues to discredit, disrupt and damage the college. There is a larger issue that lurks behind this: the growing trend towards privatization of public education high schools and community colleges by the Department of Education.

It is not only the ACCJC that is involved in dividing community opinion in an arbitrary ruling, according to the “Save City College” movement. There is rampant misinformation everywhere. This is losing the city of San Francisco and California millions of dollars.

San Francisco Chronicle reporter Nanette Asimov who has covered the story extensively as a “Higher Education” correspondent, never fails to miss a beat in putting out negative reports on the college. She has the distinction of being the person that has the ability to most fan the flame of (mis)information about CCSF given the conduit of the largest daily in San Francisco. Even when she sees fit to take a closer look into the politics behind the threat of non accreditation, the Herculean efforts of CCSF to bring the school into alignment with current educational standards are minimized. Her articles are eerily recycled chapter and verse by readers of the paper regarding the situation since the Chronicle is widely available in the Bay Area. By her own admission, Asimov bases her articles solely on information from the ACCJC and the “Fiscal Crisis and Management Assistance Team” (FCMAT) report. Both have been criticized for exaggerations, errors and bias by Beyond Chron – a website that admirably goes beyond the coverage offered in the SF Chronicle.

Even though Asimov claims she wants the school to survive, there is a lack of in depth reporting from multiple perspectives. There are virtually no interviews with faculty, administrative representatives, students, or the community. Above all, the reporter should take note of valid criticism of the sources she relies on. It is worth noting that because an alternative discourse is lacking in the Chronicle this should raise a flag about whether the entire story is being told. Numerous faculty and administrative representatives at CCSF have written the Chronicle to protest what they believe is slanted news coverage, and Asimov is aware of the criticism. It doesn’t matter. Wherever and whenever she is called on this, she manages to use media to broadcast interpretive and opinionated falsehoods. It would be strange if she didn’t stick to her story. Armed with the facts (biased reports), she sees fit to extrapolate from them in an astonishing display of polite and sophisticated vitriol.

Fortunately, there are independent websites and even threads of truth in corporate media in the midst of the ongoing Asimovian CCSF narrative that reads like a TV miniseries. A San Francisco Chronicle columnist brought the news this week that the City of San Francisco is studying the economic impact of closing the community college, which educates workers in vital city services. The diversity and service of the school to the community are indeed major factors that have not been taken into account by ACCJC. This development signals that there is more to take into consideration beyond an arbitrary accreditation decision by a private corporation. This contrapuntal melody in corporate media is reassuring in one way. The truth is going to get out there by hook or by crook.

City College of San Francisco is not unique when it comes to sanctions. According to Truth-out.org correspondent David Bacon in his examination of the corporate educational reform embodied by ACCJC, “Sanctioning community colleges is a trend growing beyond San Francisco: 27 districts in California (25 percent of the state total) are currently on the list. Two others in addition to SFCC have “show cause” orders that threaten closure. The accreditation commission is not a public agency but a self-perpetuating private one overseen by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges. Its primary source of funding appears to be membership dues from educational institutions, which have no input or oversight rights.”

New facts are coming to light and there is a growing community of supporters beyond the borders of CCSF to save the college. That is why City College of San Francisco reminds the city that it is important to know the following:

City College of San Francisco is still fully accredited and the good news is that you can enroll in classes today.

And if timing means anything, the president of San Francisco State, Lee Wong, endorsed City College of San Francisco August 10 in the “Open Forum” of the Chronicle and is working closely with Mayor Ed Lee along with others to keep this important community college running. He is confident that the current trustee, faculty, staff and students will succeed in this mission.

Moira Sullivan PhD is a member of FIPRESCI (International Film Critics) and a staff writer for Movie Magazine International, San Francisco where she does weekly radio reports on film reviews, events and festivals. Since 2013 she is a lecturer at City College of San Francisco in the Cinema Department.

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