City College of San Francisco

SFPD to answer questions on fatal shooting of Alejandro Nieto

San Francisco Police Chief Greg Suhr will be on hand this evening [Tue/25] for a town hall meeting to discuss last week’s officer-involved shooting in Bernal Heights Park. The shooting victim, 28-year-old Alejandro Nieto, was a City College of San Francisco student, a Latino, and Bernal Heights resident who had hoped to become a youth probation officer.

Just before sunset last night [Mon/24], a group of about 150 friends, family members, and community supporters gathered for a vigil at the spot where he was gunned down by multiple police officers.

The community members lit candles, sang, burned incense, and conducted Buddhist chants in honor of his spiritual practice. Those who knew Nieto, whom they called Alex, described him as caring, ambitious, and committed to nonviolence.

“He was such a bright person,” said Ben Bac Sierra, an author and instructor at City College who knew Nieto through shared ties in the neighborhood. Nieto had been helping Bacsierra organize community events and book readings, he said. They’d rolled down Mission Street together in a classic low-rider for a parade, shouting “si se puede!” while onlookers cheered them on.

Torrance Bynum, former dean at City College’s Evans and Southeast Center campus and a former instructor of Administration of Justice, described himself to the Bay Guardian as Nieto’s mentor. “I would give him rides home from class,” he said. Nieto would stop by to visit him, and “if I was in a meeting, he would wait for me.” Bynum said he’d phoned Nieto on his birthday just a few weeks ago, March 4.

On Monday night, major questions still lingered about the events leading up to Nieto’s death.

A statement issued by the SFPD on March 21, about three hours after the shooting, said officers had arrived at the park in response to “911 calls of a male subject with a gun.” Police “encountered a male subject with a weapon,” the statement went on. “The male subject pointed a weapon at the officers, and multiple officers discharged their firearms.” (In an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle, Deputy Police Chief Lyn Tomioka indicated that he “appeared to draw a weapon.”) He was pronounced dead, the statement noted, “and an additional weapon was found.”

In the days following the shooting, however, friends and family members told reporters that Nieto had a stun gun, not a firearm, because he worked as a security guard at a nightclub. They also said Nieto was peacefully eating a burrito just before the shooting occurred.

According to California Bureau of Security and Investigative Services records, Nieto obtained registration to work as a guard/patrolperson in June of 2007, and obtained a permit to carry a baton in September of 2013. Security guards must complete a 40-hour course of required training before registering with the state.

A report in the San Francisco Chronicle suggested that just before the shooting, Nieto was “acting erratically and threatening passersby,” quoting an unnamed witness who said a man had threatened his dog with a “pistol-type stun gun” and yelled profanities. It also referenced a past incident involving Nieto’s alleged use of a stun gun.

A person who declined to be named told the Bay Guardian that about half an hour before the shooting occurred, two men who were walking down the pedestrian pathway on the north slope of Bernal Heights Park alerted a jogger that there was a man ahead wearing a gun on his hip.

They told the jogger that they had called the police. The jogger, who was about 50 feet from the man and started moving away from him after receiving the warning, was too far away to see whether he had a weapon but noticed that he was “pacing back and forth” and “air boxing.”

When the Bay Guardian phoned the SFPD to ask what sort of weapon had been discovered, Sgt. Danielle Newman said she could not release that information.

“He was never arrested in his life,” Bac Sierra said of Nieto during the vigil. “He wanted to be a good person – and he was.”

Bac Sierra later told the Bay Guardian he’d first heard the news Saturday night, and spoke with members of Nieto’s family the following day. The family was not notified of what happened until 3pm the day after the shooting, he said. The report was that Nieto had been shot 14 times.

Sup. John Avalos, who represents the Excelsior District, said he had worked with Nieto in the past and knew him from Coleman Advocates for Children & Youth. “I was making sure that his life was going in a positive direction, and what we saw in Alejandro was that he had a really big heart,” Avalos said at last night’s vigil. “He gave it to a lot of people, and often probably didn’t give it enough to himself.”

He added, “Blood’s been shed, in this case, by people we’re supposed to trust. But … we have a lot of difficulty trusting our police, because from time to time these things happen.”

Avalos also mentioned that when it comes to dealing with subjects who are mentally ill, SFPD has an established protocol. Under a program that began in 2011, specially trained officers with the department’s Crisis Intervention Team are to be dispatched to the scene when calls involve a mentally ill individual.

At tonight’s meeting, Suhr is expected to answer questions from community members. Friends and supporters of Nieto are still in shock from the news.

“I don’t know what it’s going to take, but I think all of us here should call on the Office of Citizen Complaints, and make sure they do an investigation,” Avalos said. “We need to make sure that the officer who – I really hope, despite all the shots that were fired, are having trouble with their consciences right now. Because taking anybody’s life, or hurting anyone in such a way, is unconscionable. This young man, he deserves that from all of us, to make sure the senseless taking of his life was not done in vain, that it leads to something better.”

Avalos said he was also there on behalf of Mission District Sup. David Campos, who was unable to attend because he was in a hearing.

The SFPD town hall is scheduled for 6pm at Leonard Flynn Elementary School, located at 3125 Cesar Chavez Street.

Bac Sierra urged everyone gathered at the vigil to attend the town hall meeting. “Those cops have to feel this,” he said. “This neighborhood has to feel this.”

No charges filed against City College student protesters


The two formerly jailed City College student protesters can now breathe a sigh of relief, as this morning they learned that the District Attorney’s Office won’t be filing criminal charges against them.

Otto Pippenger, 20, and Dimitrios Philliou, 21, were detained by SFPD following a violent clash during a City College protest last Thursday. Their ideological and physical fight for democracy at their school is also the subject of one of our print articles in this week’s Guardian. Philliou’s attorney confirmed to the Guardian that charges were not pursued by the District Attorney’s Office.

“The charges have been dropped for now, in terms of the criminal case,” said Rachel Lederman, president of the San Francisco chapter of the National Lawyers Guild, which is representing Philliou. 

But, she noted, they’re not out of the fire yet. 

“The fight is not over for them,” she said, “as it’s possible they’ll face school discipline.”

Heidi Alletzhauser, Pippenger’s mother, told the Guardian that Vice Chancellor Faye Naples indicated the two would face some sort of disciplinary hearing, though Naples told Alletzhauser that Pippenger would not be expelled.

We called Napes to confirm, but did not hear back from her, and we’ll update this post if and when we do. 

Alletzhauser was concerned that the Chancellor Arthur Q. Tyler publicly pointed a finger at the two boys, shaming them for their actions in a letter he penned to the community and to the press. “I am saddened to see students engaging in violent outbursts,” he wrote. The letter as a whole seems to cast a shadow of blame on the protesters. 

“It sounded to me like they were sure Otto and Dimitrios were guilty,” Alletzhauser said.

The school hearing has not yet been confirmed. Alletzhauser was happy to see her son and Dimitrios get back to school.

“They both had classes at 10, so they went to school,” she said. “Which is adorable, I think.”

Democracy for none


Democracy is dead at City College of San Francisco. At least, that’s what student protesters allege.

At a rally on March 13, over 200 student and faculty protesters marched at City College’s main campus to call for the resignation of state-appointed Special Trustee Robert Agrella. When City College was told it would soon close, the city-elected Board of Trustees was removed from power, and the state gave Agrella the power to make decisions unilaterally.

Agrella is not beholden to board rules, and now makes policy decisions behind closed doors: No public meetings are held and no public comments are solicited.

His decisions have proved controversial. Students are concerned that fast-tracked decision-making and new billing policies will create new barriers for students with few other educational options. But with no public forum to express their outrage, students took to the pavement.

The protesting students were met by police aggression, and in the aftermath of the clash two students were arrested — one was pepper sprayed, and the other suffered a concussion, allegedly at the hands of a San Francisco Police Department officer.

Both SFPD and CCSF police were on hand for the protest.

Controversy is now swirling around Agrella, school administrators, and the students involved. But lost among questions about police violence are larger policy concerns. When will democracy, that critical right to have a say in significant decision-making on campus, return to City College?

Critics say City College is compromising its core mission in its fight to remain open and accredited, slashing access for students and curtailing democracy in the name of reform.

“To be excluded and ignored and disenfranchised is simply unacceptable,” said faculty union president Alisa Messer.


BEFORE YOU READ ON: Check out our beta multimedia version of this story.

(Or you can read the plain text version below)


The protest began as students marched across City College’s main campus in an open space designated by college officials as a “free speech zone.” They headed toward an administrative office building, Conlan Hall, where students freely conduct business every day. However, the administration locked the doors on the protesters.

In response, the students inside unlocked them. When the protesters tried to enter this public building, they were met with resistance from campus police and the SFPD.

Otto Pippenger, 20, who was at the front of the protest, was dragged to the ground by multiple officers and allegedly punched in the head by an SFPD officer, an incident caught on video and recalled in eyewitness accounts.

His mother, Heidi Alletzhauser, told the Bay Guardian that Pippenger had since received medical attention. She said he’d suffered a concussion, contusions from where his head hit the concrete, injuries to both wrists, and broken blood vessels in his right eye.

Dimitrios Philliou, 21, was tackled to the ground and pepper sprayed in the face. In a video interview shortly after the incident, he recalled what happened.

“I asked [officers] what law I broke and neither could give me an explanation. They proceeded to tackle me to the ground,” he said.

In the end, Philliou was charged with misdemeanor “returning to school,” described as trespassing by the Sheriff’s Department. Pippenger was charged with two misdemeanors: resisting arrest and battery on emergency personnel.

The students were released the following morning (March 14), before sunrise. Philliou was issued a citation and released, and Pippenger made bail and was released, according to the San Francisco Sheriff’s Department.

The City College faculty union raised over $1,000 towards Pippenger’s $23,000 bail. He will face arraignment March 19, two days after the Bay Guardian goes to press.

In an emailed statement, City College Chancellor Arthur Q. Tyler described the clash between protesters and police as the fault of the protesters who tried to enter the building.

“I am saddened to see students engaging in violent outbursts,” he wrote.

City College spokesperson Peter Anning said the school regretted the actions of the most violent officers. “There was one police officer with the SFPD, not [City College Police], whose behavior was more forceful than need be,” he said.

Philliou said he just wanted to be heard.

“We just want to have a conversation with Bob Agrella,” he said in a video interview with the college’s newspaper, The Guardsman. “It’d be nice if he would talk to us, like a real human.”

But so far, the students have been met with silence.



Agrella does not hold public meetings or take public comment on his decisions, but he posts public agendas in accordance with the California Brown Act. In the past, he’s called these posted agendas “meetings,” and dubbed email feedback as “public comment.”

Messer was critical of the practice. “Apparently these meetings are happening in the special trustee’s head,” she said, “and an email counts as public comment. No one agrees that [email] comment is public.”

In the past, public comment has meant speaking aloud at a meeting in a room where not only could everyone hear you, but every word was broadcast on television and on the web.

City College Board of Trustee public meetings used to be archived online for the world to see. Now only Agrella’s eyes see the concerns of the college community.

Pressed on whether these agendas and emails could count as public meetings, City College spokesperson Larry Kamer said, “I can’t answer that question because you’re getting into matters of legal interpretation. I’m not a lawyer.”

The Board of Trustee’s meetings were not always the most shining examples of democracy, he said.

“When Dr. Agrella was appointed as special trustee with extraordinary powers, it was precisely for the purpose of expediting decision making,” Kamer said. “The idea of expedited decision making and board meetings that go until one or two in the morning are usually incompatible.”

But City College Trustee Rafael Mandelman said some of the tension around the changes at City College could be diffused by letting the public vent, well, in public.

“I’d much rather have people jumping up and down in public comment than having an assault at Conlan Hall,” he said.

At a City Hall hearing held by Sup. David Campos the day after the protest, many students decried a loss of democracy at the school. Campos will soon introduce a resolution to the Board of Supervisors calling for the reinstatement of the City College Board of Trustees.

Students’ concerns about the college, voiced at rallies instead of public forums, have proven as diverse as the students themselves.



The same day protesters clashed with police at the main campus, Chinese Progressive Association lead activist Emily Ja Ming Lee led a student protest at the college’s Chinatown Campus.

The population there is traditionally older, with fewer English speakers than the general student body.

“We’re worried about the impact on the immigrant communities, the free English as Second Language classes, and vocational training,” Lee told the Guardian. “We partner with City College to run a hospitality training program so immigrant workers can get good jobs. We’re concerned about how City College will serve its immigrant workers.”

That concern has been intensified by a new restrictive billing policy that’s impacting lower income students.

The school has started to require up-front payment for classes, rather than billing students later. The change may shore up the college’s bank account in the short term, but many financially strapped students dropped their classes due to an inability to pay.

Itzel Calvo, a student who is an undocumented citizen, said at the City Hall hearing, “I was not able to enroll in classes this semester unless I paid thousands of dollars in tuition up front, even before the classes started. I can’t afford that.”

The Chinese Progressive Association has also raised concerns about changes to the college’s educational plan.

Over the course of four months, City College will formulate an educational plan to determine which classes deserve funding, and which don’t. This process usually takes a year. But with the accelerated process and lack of outreach, Lee’s worried that English language learners and vocational students will be sidelined.

“Our students don’t fit into a traditional model of what community colleges look like,” she said. “They’re not looking to transfer to a four-year university, necessarily.”

Focusing on transfer students moving from community colleges to four-year universities is part of a state policy known as the Student Success Initiative. In a lawsuit against the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges, City Attorney Dennis Herrera alleges that the ACCJC’s agenda of pushing this initiative was the driving force behind trying to close City College.

The college’s students rallied against those changes for years. Yet Agrella is enforcing the Student Success Initiative. “My job is to play within the rules and regulations of the ACCJC,” he told the Guardian in an interview a few months back.

On campus, concern is growing that changes made to appease the ACCJC may disenfranchise City College students in greater numbers. But worst of all, without public meetings or public comment, the college’s students may not get a chance to advocate against those changes before it’s too late.

CCSF students angered by class cancellations

Despite a day of misty downpours and gray skies, students, faculty members and their supporters gathered in the lobby of the City College of San Francisco’s Conlan Hall on Wed/28 in anticipation of a sit-down with the school’s chancellor, Dr. Arthur Q. Tyler.

The meeting had been requested to discuss increasing displacement at CCSF, with the number of eliminated classes on the rise every day. Yet questions were still swirling about whether college administrators had used much-needed funds to approve higher administrative pay scales without public notice.

Students and faculty delivered a petition signed by nearly 2,500 students opposing the recent course cancellations. When they unrolled the long list of signatures, it reached from the lobby all the way up the stairs to the chancellor’s office door, a physical display of growing dissent. And with the cuts’ affect already resulting in the cancellation of 27 foreign language courses alone, student anger over the course cancellations is building.

Matt Lambert, a CCSF student for several years, said he’d been informed just that morning that his photography class had been cancelled. He said he’d “spent all day this morning talking to people who were in a similar situation as I am, everybody has a class being cut somewhere. So how come classes are being cut, when supposedly City College is getting cash from Proposition A, how come with all that cash classes are still being cut?”

Proposition A, a special tax approved by voters in November of 2012, provides for a new channel of funding for CCSF with a $79 parcel tax. This tax was intended to help the relieve a bit of the struggle that’s burdened the college as of late, but now students and faculty are finding themselves fending off class cuts as enrollment declines under the ongoing threat that the school could lose its accreditation.

The meeting with the chancellor was intended to be an open discussion, but in the end, only three individuals were permitted to speak to Tyler face-to-face. A chancellor’s assistant informed the crowd the only three members–including faculty union AFT 2121 president Alisa Messer–were allowed to enter the office and represent the instructors and staff. While students were told they would have to follow the proper channels in order to arrange a formal meeting, many students regarded the move as a cop-out.

Following the meeting, Messer provided a recap. “They say they’re looking at the class numbers, and looking at what they did cut, and making sure they didn’t make any big mistakes,” she told the Bay Guardian. “And maybe they should reconsider or learn something from what they do cut. They did say that they will be setting up quite a number late start classes, which is all news to us. But we made it really clear about the quality of education, and the trust that students have in getting their education at City College, and that it is not the right time to be cutting classes.”

Despite an agenda item that was hastily withdrawn last week after being up for approval, recommending salary scale increases of 19.25 percent for certain administrative positions, Tyler is said to have denied the amount this increase, telling Messer, along with two colleagues, that “there was no intention to raise salaries by 20 percent,” that there was confusion about the lower approved salary ranges posted on the school’s website, and that Tyler is working to clarify this.

On Monday, AFT 2121 submitted formal records requests to learn the exact amount administrators are being paid.

Controversy still brewing over CCSF administrative pay raises

A string of recent emails have led City College of San Francisco faculty members to believe that college administrators are already being paid according to the higher salary ranges that were proposed and then hastily withdrawn from an action agenda last week. Now, they’re waiting for answers about a controversy that has only ballooned since Fri/24, when it seemed that a proposal to raise administrative pay had been brought to a halt and tabled for further discussion.

The retraction was made just as a protest by students and faculty members was getting underway. The recommendation called for increasing salary ranges for certain administrative positions by 19.25 percent, sparking an outcry from faculty members who have endured cutbacks in recent years. 

In an email that was widely circulated among CCSF faculty members, City College of San Francisco Chancellor Arthur Tyler seemed to imply that the recommendation was put forth to reflect current pay ranges – in order to comply with an audit requirement.

“We had not published an approved schedule that matched what people were being paid,” Tyler wrote in an email obtained by the Bay Guardian, which had a timestamp showing it was sent a couple hours after the Fri/24 protest and was addressed to Special Trustee Bob Agrella and several faculty members. “There wasn’t any intent to increase Administrative pay.”

In another email obtained by the Guardian, Tyler wrote, “The existing salaries did not match the schedule which was outdated. That inconsistency needed to be fixed before the audit.”

Tyler’s explanation seemed to imply that the proposed higher salary ranges, for the classifications Vice Chancellor, Associate Vice Chancellor and Chief Information Technology Officer, had already gone into effect – even though they were higher than the formally approved pay schedule that can be found on CCSF’s website.

As of 5pm today (Tue/28), faculty members and reporters were still waiting for Tyler, Special Trustee Bob Agrella, and other top administrators to offer a clear explanation as to what, exactly, what was going on with this supposed pay increase.

“This is what I surmise from your email and other comments: This outrageous increase in pay for administrators listed is a fait accompli because you say the old pay scale is outdated for the upcoming audit. The employee who published did so innocently, thinking it was already known by the employees, since in the past there was a great deal of transparency in the policy changes here,” faculty member Patricia Arack wrote in an email to the chancellor that was widely circulated.

“I think it safe to say we are all very concerned about this divisive situation,” she went on. “The release of this pay scale has incited very strong emotions among employees, and I hope that you and Dr. Agrella, in the [swiftest] and most transparent way possible, confirm that the true administrator pay scale is the one currently online on the Pay Roll web page, and clearly explain why that pay scale released last Friday exists at all. All explanations have seemed very ambiguous to me. Please provide clarity so the speculations will cease and harmony can be restored and we can move forward to restore the reputation of CCSF.”

The Bay Guardian also sought clarity on this situation, but we have not yet received a response from CCSF administrators. Last we heard, communications director Peter Anning had forwarded our questions to Chancellor Tyler and Special Trustee Agrella and they were planning to respond.

Faculty members and students are scheduled to meet with Chancellor Tyler tomorrow, Wed/29, to discuss recent class cancellations. “This is not the time to close the door to students eager and willing to enroll at City College,” organizers with AFT 2121 wrote in an email newsletter to CCSF faculty. “Displacing students undermines their confidence in our college and interrupts their educational progress.”

In related news, Assembly Member Tom Ammiano introduced legislation Mon/27 seeking to “end undemocratic power grabs,” specifically the sort that stripped CCSF’s Board of Trustees of its voting powers.

Under the new system, Agrella, in his capacity as special trustee, can unilaterally make decisions that previously required the approval of the entire board. Approving the salary range modification on last week’s action agenda is one such example of what the special trustee may approve independently.

“Under a vague section of California code, the 17-seat Community Colleges Board of Governors has taken over faltering community colleges and effectively deposed the elected trustees of those colleges,” Ammiano’s office wrote in a statement announcing the proposed legislation. “They appoint a special trustee to make decisions in place of the elected board.”

Ammiano’s bill seeks to eliminate arbitrary actions that can lead to the disempowerment of an elected board, by clarifying and restricting conditions under which the state’s Board of Governors may take control.

“Aside from being undemocratic, I think it’s pretty criminal,” Ammiano told the Bay Guardian in a phone interview. “People can vote people out, people can recall people, and acknowledge that they’ve made mistakes. But it’s very upsetting to think that some appointed board can capriciously remove duly elected people.”

Labor protests Postal Service privatization amid deal with Staples


Bearing blue T-shirts and banners stating “Stop Staples! The U.S. mail is not for sale!” 70-plus protesters from the United States Postal Service Union, along with members of the American Federation of Teachers and the National Union of Healthcare Workers, today [Tues/28] rallied outside the Staples store on Van Ness Avenue in opposition to USPS’s “Retail Partner Expansion Program” that began in November.

This program allows the creation of  postal counter centers in 80 Staples stores nationwide, which provide limited USPS services at the same rates as the post office. But the drawback — and a major point of contention among protesters — is that they are staffed by Staples employees, not unionized USPS workers.

The pilot program is seen as stripping jobs from postal workers and starting down a road to the privatization of the post office. This comes in a time when jobs at the USPS have been cut by 44 percent, according to Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe. This on top of the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ projection of a 26.8 percent drop between 2012 and 2022.  The protesters and affiliates, know these numbers all too well, and consider the matter all the more  imperative to allow Staples’ USPS service windows to be staffed by real postal workers.

Supporter Lynda Beigel was employed by the USPS for 33 years before retiring in 2002, and noted how the Staples counter centers could drastically affect workers locally. “Staples doesn’t pay as much as the post office, and the post office’s employees aren’t getting enough to live on in San Francisco,” she told us.

Beigel also described fear of being in competition with a private company that doesn’t have to follow the rules and regulations that burden the post office when “there is a Staples store in San Bruno right across the street from the post office,” she said, noted that she “was horrified to find there was no security for the mail, it was just sitting around.”

City College of San Francisco Professor Rodger Schott and his colleagues in the AFT stood with the USPSU members against potential privatization , stating “we support them very much because they’re, in a way, facing the same privatization threat that we are.”

Commenting on the issue of the service’s being staffed by private, non-union workers, he said, “If the postal service wanted to have its employees at Staples, we don’t have any problem with that. However we feel very strongly [opposed to] Staples taking postal [workers’ jobs] and giving people a much lower rate without any kind of bargaining process…The threat to the postal worker is very, very serious. It’s certainly a threat against minorities and the poor people of the country. The postal service has good jobs, and it’s something that we, the nation, need. We see them as comrades in a similar struggle and we will do everything we can.”

The Stapes employees themselves, looking out at the crowd from an almost empty store, were sworn to silence, and would only reveal the number to a corporate public relations office, where we left a message and we’re still awaiting a response.

Like the post office, Staples is also struggling financially, closing 40 stores in 2013. Whether or not the union can get a foothold, and possibly add much needed reforms to the program and fight the risk of possible privatization, is gathering momentum as the public becomes more aware of its danger.

Alerts: January 29 – February 4, 2014




“Flying Paper” film screening and discussion Mission Cultural Center, 2868 Mission, SF. 7pm, $5–$20 sliding scale. “Flying Paper” is the uplifting story of Palestinian children in Gaza on a quest to shatter the Guinness World Record for the most kites ever flown. It showcases the creative resilience of these children despite the difficult realities in their daily lives. The film was co-produced with young Palestinians in Gaza, trained by the filmmakers through a youth media program called Voices Beyond Walls. Featuring a discussion with co-director Roger Hill.

“We are Palestine” film screening ANSWER Coalition Office, 2969 Mission, SF. 7-8:30pm, $5–$10 donation (no one turned away for lack of funds.) “We are Palestinian” was filmed in 1973 and includes an excellent chronology of events leading to the establishment of Israel by using rare historical footage. The film also explains the role of Britain and the US in establishing and supporting the Israeli state, and documents the resistance by the Palestinian people against settlement and expulsion. A discussion will follow the film led by Richard Becker, author of “Palestine, Israel and the US Empire.”



International Day of Action Against Corporate Globalization San Francisco Federal Building, 90 Seventh St, SF. 4:30pm, free. Join a broad coalition of community, environmental and social justice groups in protest against Fast Track and the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade deal that has been described as “NAFTA on steroids.” Protesters will meet at Congresswomen Pelosi’s office, then peacefully march to Senator Feinstein’s office at One Post, SF.



Una Plaza Para la Comunidad/A Plaza for the Community Sixteenth and Mission BART Plaza. 1-3pm, free. This gathering, hosted by The Plaza 16 Coalition/La Plaza 16 Coalición, is being called to advocate for the use of the 1979 Mission SF site to supply much-needed affordable housing for the neighborhood, as well as more public spaces and a local ecosystem of mom and pop business that can meet the needs of the neighborhood. The coalition feels that the proposed $82 million development with 351 housing units does not meet the need for affordable housing.


What’s happening to City College of San Francisco? Niebyl-Proctor Marxist Library, 6501 Telegraph, Oakl. Gene Ruyle (510) 428-1578. 10:30am-12:30pm, free but donations are welcomed. CCSF has been under extreme pressure from a private accrediting agency that is threatening to close the college. Rick Baum, a part-time instructor of Political Science at CCSF for over 15 years, will give an overview of the current situation that CCSF is facing, and answer questions.

City College Special Trustee withdraws proposal for administrative pay hike

Students and faculty at City College of San Francisco staged an emergency protest today (Fri/24) after discovering that a generous salary increase had been proposed for top administrators and was headed to the desk of Special Trustee Bob Agrella for approval. 

Since he was appointed and infused with the voting power of the full board of trustees in the wake of CCSF’s threatened loss of accreditation, which the Guardian has covered extensively, Agrella can unilaterally decide on such matters.

But just as word of the proposed pay increase got out and angry protesters gathered to oppose it, Agrella announced that the item would be withdrawn from the action agenda.

The recommendation was to increase salary ranges for the college’s Associate Vice Chancellor, Chief Information Technology Officer, and Vice Chancellor by a generous 19.25 percent, “based on the positions’ level of responsibilities and duties.”

“This is absolutely outrageous,” said faculty union president Alisa Messer. “We have students being pushed out of classes, instructors losing jobs, and faculty are still 4 percent below 2007 level salaries. Giving 20 percent raises to the one per centers around here? This college administration’s priorities are upside down.”

Ona Keller, an organizer with the faculty union, said some classes had already been cancelled due to low enrollment. “Agrella came out and said it was a mistake,” Keller said. “I think it was because there were so many people contacting him.” She said roughly 100 protesters had turned out on campus between 2:30 and 3:30.

Student trustee Shanell Williams sounded a similar note. “The students aren’t making a San Francisco minimum wage. … Everyone at the college is suffering. This is outrageous.”

City College’s communications director, Peter Anning, said he’d first learned of the proposal from a reporter. Seems that was right around the time protesters and news vans turned up outside.

Anning insisted that the proposal had not originated with Agrella and that the special trustee had not even seen it prior to the alerts going out that he would approve it.

The agenda went out Thu/23 around 5:30pm, Anning said, with the deadline for community input set for 24 hours later, at which point Agrella would make a final decision. “When Bob received it and saw it, he withdrew it,” according to Anning.

However, the proposal seems to have been tabled for future consideration. Anning said he did not know whether Agrella had been holding any prior conversations about the proposed salary range increases before the recommendation found its way onto the action agenda.

Anning said the proposal originated with City College Associate Vice Chancellor of Human Resources Clara Starr. We called Starr’s office to find out more, but her assistant told us she was taking the day off.

State of the City speech filled with unsupported promises


It was maddening to watch Mayor Ed Lee deliver his annual State of the City address this morning. This was pure politics, from the staged backdrop of housing construction at Hunters Point Shipyard to the use of “regular people” props to the slate of vague and contradictory promises he made.

“This place, the shipyard, links our proud past to an even more promising future,” was how Lee began his hour-plus, invite-only address.

Later, he touted the housing construction being done there by Lennar Urban as emblematic of both his promise to bring 30,000 new housing units online by 2020 — the cornerstone to what he called his “affordability agenda” — and the opposition to unfettered development that he is pledging to overcome.

“A great example is the place we’re standing right now. This took us too long,” Lee said after decrying the “easy slogans and scapegoating” by progressive activists who place demands on developers.

But that implication was complete bullshit. As we and others have reported, progressive and community activists have long encouraged Lennar Urban (which has a close relationship to Lee) to speed up development on this public land that it was given almost a decade ago, particularly the long-promised affordable housing, rather than waiting for the real estate market to heat up.

That was just one of many examples of misleading and unsupported claims in a speech that might have sounded good to the uninformed listener, but which greatly misrepresented the current realities and challenges in San Francisco.

For example, Lee called for greater investments in the public transit system while acknowledging that his proposal to ask voters this November to increase the vehicle license fee isn’t polling well. And yet even before that vote takes place, Lee wants to extend free Muni for youth and repeal the policy of charging for parking meters on Sundays without explaining how he’ll pay for that $10 million per year proposal.

“Nobody likes it, not parents, not our neighborhood businesses, not me,” Lee said of Sunday meters, ignoring a study last month by the San Francisco Muncipal Transportation Agency showing the program was working well and accomplishing its goals of increasing parking turnover near businesses and bringing in needed revenue.

Lee also glossed over the fact that he hasn’t provided funding for the SFMTA’s severely underfunded bicycle or pedestrian safety programs, yet he still said, “I support the goals of Vision Zero to eliminate traffic deaths in our city.”

Again, nice sentiment, but one that is totally disconnected from how he’s choosing to spend taxpayer money and use city resources. And if Lee can somehow achieve his huge new housing development push, Muni and other critical infrastructure will only be pushed to the breaking point faster.  

Lee acknowledges that many people are being left out of this city’s economic recovery and are being displaced. “Jobs and confidence are back, but our economic recovery has still left thousands behind,” he said, pledging that, “We must confront these challenges directly in the San Francisco way.”

And that “way” appears to be by making wishful statements without substantial support and then letting developers and venture capitalists — such as Ron Conway, the tech and mayoral funder seated in the second row — continue calling the shots.

Even with his call to increase the city’s minimum wage — something that “will lift thousands of people out of poverty” — he shied away from his previous suggestion that $15 per hour would be appropriate and said that he needed to consult with the business community first.

“We’ll seek consensus around a significant minimum wage increase,” he said, comparing it to the 2012 ballot measures that reformed the business tax and created an Affordable Housing Fund (the tradeoff for which was to actually reduce the on-site affordable housing requirements for developers).

But Mayor Lee wants you to focus on his words more than his actions, including his identication with renters who “worry that speculators looking to make a buck in a hot market will force them out.”

Yet there’s little in his agenda to protect those vulnerable renters, except for his vague promise to try to do so, and to go lobby in Sacramento for reforms to the Ellis Act. While in Sacramento, he says he’ll also somehow get help for City College of San Francisco, whose takeover by the state and usurpation of local control he supported.   

“City College is on the mend and already on the path to full recovery,” Lee said, an astoundingly out-of-touch statement that belies the school’s plummeting enrollment and the efforts by City Attorney Dennis Herrera and others to push back on the revocation of its accreditation.

Lee also had the audacity to note the “bone dry winter” we’re having and how, “It reminds us that the threat of climate change is real.” Yet none of the programs he mentions for addressing that challenge — green building standards, more electric vehicle infrastructure, the GoSolar program — would be as effective at reducing greenhouse gas emmisions as the CleanPowerSF program that Lee and his appointees are blocking, while offering no other plan for building renewable energy capacity.

Far from trying to beef up local public sector resources that vulnerable city residents increasingly need, or with doing environmental protection, Lee instead seemed to pledge more of the tax cutting that he’s used to subsidize the overheating local economy.

“Affordability is also about having a city government taxpayers can afford,” Lee said. “We must be sure we’re only investing in staffing and services we can afford over the long term.”

How that squares with his pledges to put more resources into public transit, affordable housing development, addressing climate change, and other urgent needs that Lee gives lip service to addressing is anybody’s guess.  

Pelosi denounces City College’s accreditors


Rep. Nancy Pelosi denounced the accreditors seeking to close City College at a press conference held yesterday at the school’s Chinatown campus.

“You can be sure it will be subjected to harsh scrutiny in terms of how they do what they do, who they are and why is it the Department of Education cannot do more,” she said to the crowd of local luminaries and City College faculty. 

City College of San Francisco is one of the state’s largest community colleges, home to a student body of over 85,000. The school came under fire from its accreditors, the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges, last July, who moved to revoke the school’s accreditation. Such a move would force the college to close. 

Since then the ACCJC has been beaten back from many directions: it’s tangled in three lawsuits, as well as a state inquiry from the Joint Legislative Audit Committee. Arguably the highest profile thrashing the agency received was from Congresspeople Anna Eshoo and Jackie Speier in November.

“I think the ACCJC has run amok, they have lost their vision — if they ever had one,” Speier told the Guardian. “They are riddled with conflicts of interest and arbitrariness.”

Pelosi voiced support for those views yesterday.

“I want to associate myself with remarks Congresswoman Jackie Speier and Anna Eshoo,” she told the crowd, to cheers. 

Singing the praises of City College is all well and good, but the Guardian asked her directly: what can you do, and what is your next step?

Pelosi indicated that Congresspersons Speier, Eshoo, and George Miller, would review the role of the Department of Education regarding accreditors at a congressional higher education committee. This is something they’ve looked at before

“We’ll see what is recommended when we go there,” she said. “Suffice to say this is not something that will be ignored.”

Ignore less


CAREERS AND ED Often called the first feminist, Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz could well be your guiding spirit heading into this bright new year. Born in 1651 in colonial Mexico, Sor Juana defied societal expectations about women at the time to study herself into becoming one of the smartest people in New Spain. She became a nun rather than marry, and eventually amassed one of the largest libraries in the Americas.

One of Sor Juana’s enduring catch phrases was “I don’t study to know more, but to ignore less,” a prettily humble bon mot from a woman who constantly had to defend her right to learn. Sadly, threats of censure by the church slowed her educational roll — but nonetheless, her unlikely influence on the fight for women’s rights is still honored today.

Will you ignore less in the new year? Surely there are fewer obstacles in your way than Sor Juana’s. Here are some excellent ways to engage with the world around you in 2014.



So you say you’re a boor? For all the menfolk — or anyone, really — boggled by feminism, this monthly book club may be the ticket. Held at Noisebridge, the Mission’s tech learning center (check its calendar for amazing, mainly free classes and meetups), the club will start with bell hooks’ Feminism is for Everybody and feature conversations about how to be the best ally possible. All gender identities welcome.

Second Wednesdays starting Wed/8, 7pm, free. Noisebridge, 2169 Mission, SF.



The stand-up school with the most working comedians on staff of any similar institution in the country wants to get you in front of an exposed brick wall talking about your boyfriend’s crazy roommate.

Wednesdays Jan. 8-Feb. 12, 6pm, $239-279. SF Comedy College, 442 Post, Fifth Fl., SF.



Instructor Tika Morgan explores the hip-hop, dancehall, Cuban salsa, and other influences that create the pounding rhythms of reggaeton.

Wednesdays, 8-9:30pm, $13. Dance Mission Theater, 3316 24th St., SF.



Two-step, skiffle, country swing, and waltz your way through these inclusive country-western lessons and dance parties run by community advocates Sundance Association.

Thursdays 5:30pm, Sundays 7pm, $5. Sundance Saloon, 550 Barneveld, SF.



Learn about qigong, the Chinese chi-balancing practice that involves breathing, other physical movements, and mental exercises. This free class is taught by Effie Chow, a qigong grandmaster who founded her East West Academy of Healing Arts here in 1973, and has served on White House advisory boards concerning alternative medicine.

Fri/10, 7-9pm, free. Polish Club, 3040 22nd St., SF.



Support your local community college through its battle to retain its accreditation by enrolling in one of its class offerings — there’s no charge for non-credit courses (though you may have to buy books and materials). This class examines the hidden and explicit messages sent out through mass media, and helps students pinpoint how these cues affect the decisions that they and other members of society make.

Fridays Fri/10-May 23, 8am-12:50pm, free. City College of San Francisco, 1125 Valencia, SF.



Start at the Aquatic Center next to Fisherman’s Wharf where you’ll learn safety and equipment basics, then head down with this SF Rec and Park class to Lake Merced’s scenic bird estuary to get down on some core-strengthening, stand-up paddle boarding action. Bring your own wetsuit, kiddies — it gets cold on those waters!

Sat/11, 1-4pm, free. Aquatic Park, Beach and Hyde, SF.



To do anything these days, you need a website. To have a website, you need a web designer. So basically, you may need to sign up for one of the Bay Area Video Coalition’s intro courses on dynamic layouts and client interfaces so that you can continue living your life as a functional citizen in 2014.

Sat/11-Sun/12, 10am-6pm, $595. Bay Area Video Coalition, 2727 Mariposa, SF.



With 51 species of this lovely, placid bloom sprinkling the premises, the San Francisco Botanical Garden is the perfect place to learn about the majesty of the magnolia. The garden offers daytime walks if you’re scared of the dark, but we think the nocturnal stroll sounds divine.

Jan. 16, 6-8pm, $20. Register in advance. SF Botanical Garden, Ninth Ave. and Lincoln, Golden Gate Park, SF.



Sure the price tag is steep for this class on raising buds in bright indoor light, but you’ll be supporting your green thumb and your local pot movement institution, which has surfed the tsunami of federal persecution and will live to blow clouds right through legalization (we reckon).

Thursdays Jan. 16-March 20, 10:30am-1pm, $1,195. Oaksterdam University, 1734 Telegraph, Oakl.



Accessing the subconscious’s potential for healing is the name of the game in this extremely mellow yoga class, during which you’ll be put into a trance-like state through a hybrid method developed by a Reiki, yoga, and hypnotherapy professional. The dream state is said to be highly beneficial for psychic health -– and sounds hella fun.

Jan. 18, 2:30-5:45, $40-50. Yoga Tree Telegraph, 2807 Telegraph, Berk.



Each month La Urbana, the chic new taqueria on Divisadero, hosts fancy mezcal tastings. But you’re not just getting your drink on: A different producer of the agave-based spirit comes in each time to present a signature mezcal alongside tales of its production. Educated boozery, this is it.

5-6pm, $10-15. La Urbana, 661 Divisadero, SF.



Valentine’s Day (sorry for any unwanted reminders) is on its effusive, heart-shaped way, giving you the perfect excuse for you to drop in on this class with Sin Sisters Burlesque co-founder Balla Fire to learn how to swish, conceal, and reveal with the best of them for your sweetheart.

Jan. 21, 7-9pm, $30. Center for Sex and Culture, 1349 Mission, SF.



Does paying $40 to learn how to parse affordable wines make sense? Depends on how many bottles of Cab Sauv you’re consuming — and one would think that after partaking in this one-off seminar with Bar Tartine’s old wine director Vinny Eng, that tally will increase.

Jan. 22, 7-9pm, $40. 18 Reasons, 3674 18th St. SF.



A full weekend of learning about ways to cook fish from around the globe will go on at this friendly North Beach cooking school (which tends to book up its workshops early, so book now). On the menu: black cod poached in five-spice broth, brodo di pesce, and much more.

Feb. 1-2, 10am-3pm, $385. Tante Marie’s Cooking School, 271 Francisco, SF.



Do you have a staring problem? Fix your gaze on this 10-session course including anatomy tips, representational tricks, and a focus on the art of portraiture.

Thursdays, Feb. 6-April 10, 6:30-9:30pm, $360. California College of the Arts, 1111 Eighth St., SF.



If the only thing you can depend on in this wacky 2014 is yourself, it’s time to hone those financial security skills. This free class is held once a month at the LGBT Community Center, and should give you a couple things to think about when it comes to money management.

Feb. 11, 6:30-8:30pm, free. LGBT Community Center, 1800 Market, SF.



In addition to a more long-running courses and a by-donation, student-staffed herbal health clinic that is open to the public, Berkeley’s Ohlone Herbal Center offers practical classes in Western herbalism for regular folks. Your loved ones will thank you for brushing up with this one — it teaches preventative anti-cold and flu measures, and home remedies for when you inevitably catch something. Yes, tea is provided during classtime.

Feb. 12, 7-9:30pm, free. Register at Ohlone Herbal Center, 1250 Addison, Berk.



If you are looking for educational opportunites as to changing the face of culture, look no further than this public lecture hosted by the California Institute of Integral Studies. For two hours, Orange is the New Black breakout star Laverne Cox will discuss her journey to becoming the most visible black transwoman on television (not to mention the first ever to produce and star in her own program with VH1’s “TRANSForm Me”). The talk won’t be lacking in looks-ahead to the important activism that still remains for Cox and her allies.

March 19, 7-9pm, $25-75. Nourse Theater, 275 Hayes, SF.



You will finally be able to get that organic farmstand delivery service to sponsor your yearly watermelon seed-spitting contest (or whatever) after you take this crash course on getting money to hold events. The secrets to obtaining event sponsorships are divulged during this one-day class: how to pitch potential partners, going market rates, and more, all in a group discussion-centric format.

April 26, 9am-5pm, $300. San Francisco State University Downtown Campus, 835 Market, SF.


Injunction blocks City College closure


City College of San Francisco is safe from closure, for now. A ruling from San Francisco Superior Court Judge Curtis Karnow issued Jan. 2 would bar City College’s accreditors from terminating the college’s accreditation until after legal proceedings against it are done.

The loss of accreditation would make City College’s future degrees basically worthless, resulting in its closure or merger with another district.

“I’m grateful to the court for acknowledging what so far accreditors have refused to, that educational access for tens of thousands of City College students matters,” City Attorney Dennis Herrera said at a press conference announcing the judge’s decision.

Now Herrera and his team have time to save the school, and City College will keep its doors open for the duration of the suit — win or lose.

The ruling was the result of an injunction filed by City Attorney Dennis Herrera on Nov. 25 as part of his office’s suit against the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges in August for allegedly using the process to carry out an ideological agenda against CCSF. The ACCJC openly lobbied in public hearings and via public letters for education reform across the state, reforms which City College’s administration believed would harm San Francisco’s most vulnerable students: the poor, certificate seekers, and lifelong learners.

Only part of the injunction was granted by Karnow, however. The ACCJC is barred from shutting down City College, but it can still revoke the accreditation from any of the other 112 community colleges it oversees across the state.

The ruling also doesn’t stop it them from making preparations to close the college, Herrera said.

“It does not stop them from continuing their review and analysis and evaluation, it stops them from issuing a final ruling with respect to taking accreditation of City College,” he said.

Not everyone agrees with Herrera’s efforts.

“Court intervention is not necessary to keep City College open,” State Community College Chancellor Brice Harris wrote to Herrera in a Jan. 2 letter.

Harris argues that the lawsuit detracts from the efforts to save the school made by the special trustee Robert Agrella, who was assigned by Harris to replace City College’s Board of Trustees just after the accreditation crisis broke out.

City College saved, for now (update)


Update: This post has been updated with new information, after a 5:30 press conference held by City Attorney Dennis Herrera.

City College of San Francisco is safe from closure, for now.

A ruling from San Francisco Superior Court Judge Curtis Karnow issued this afternoon would bar City College’s accreditors from terminating the college’s accreditation until after legal proceedings against it are done. 

The loss of accreditation would make City College’s future degrees basically worthless, resulting in its closure or merger with another district.

“I’m grateful to the court for acknowledging what so far accreditors have refused to, that educational access for tens of thousands of city college students matters,” City Attorney Dennis Herrera said at a press conference announcing the judge’s decision.

Now Herrera and his team have time to save the school, and City College will keep its doors open for the duration of the suit — win or lose.

The ruling was the result of an injunction filed by City Attorney Dennis Herrera on Nov. 25. as part of their suit against the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges in August for allegedly using the process to carry out an ideological agenda against CCSF. The ACCJC openly lobbied in public hearings and via public letters for education reform across the state, reforms which City College’s administration believed would harm San Francisco’s most vulnerable students: the poor, certificate seekers, and lifelong learners.


Counsel for the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges, Andrew Sclar and Philip Ward, confer during a break at a preliminary injunction hearing regarding City College of San Francisco on Dec. 26, 2013. Photo by Sara Bloomberg

Only part of the injunction was granted by Karnow, however. The ACCJC is barred from shutting down City College, but it can still revoke the accreditation from any of the 112 community colleges it oversees across the state.

The ruling also doesn’t stop it them from making preparations to close the college, Herrera said.

“It does not stop them from continuing their review and analysis and evaluation, it stops them from issuing a final ruling with respect to taking accreditation of City College,” he said. 

Not everyone agrees with Herrera’s efforts though.

“Court intervention is not necessary to keep City College open,” State Community College Chancellor Brice Harris wrote to Herrera in a letter today. 

Harris argues that the lawsuit detracts from the efforts to save the school made by the special trustee Robert Agrella, who was assigned by Harris to replace City College’s board of trustees just after the accreditation crisis broke out.

“Characterizations that the cases before the court are a ‘last-ditch’ effort to ‘save’ City College are inaccurate and will do additional damage to the college’s enrollment,” Harris wrote.

And City College’s enrollment has taken a huge hit, down nearly 30 percent from last year, leading to the college’s new media campaign to get students back in City College seats. 

Though Harris criticized Herrera’s lawsuit as the chancellor of the state community college system, Harris has tangled ties with the accreditors — he was a commissioner on the ACCJC board some years ago

At the hearing to grant the injunction, Sara Eisenberg, the deputy city attorney, argued that real harm hit City College since the news of its closure hit. Students have left the school in droves.

We’re asking, your honor, right now for something that won’t happen until further down the road… but there’s real harm happening right now. Latest numbers show enrollment is down 27 percent,” she told Karnow. 

The ACCJC’s counsel, Andrew Sclar, argued that an injunction to stop City College’s closure would actually harm the ACCJC itself.

 “There certainly would be harm to us,” he told Karnow. “If we do not enforce sanctions or bring a non compliant institution into compliance within a two year period, we would be at risk of losing our recognition with the United States Department of Education.”

Karnow then asked if there was “evidence on the record” of that ever happening. Sclar said no.

The college is slated to lose its accreditation in July 2014. The college is trying to reverse its fortunes and is applying for an appeal with the ACCJC. 

Now, it has a chance to stay open while Herrera fights for its future. Two other lawsuits were filed against the ACCJC as well, one by the California Federation of Teachers and another by the Save CCSF Coalition. 

Lawsuits aren’t the only fire the ACCJC has come under lately. US Rep. Jackie Speier called for a forum on the ACCJC’s alleged misconduct in November, and the beleagured commission was recently reviewed by the federal government, and given one year to come into compliance with federal guidelines.

For our coverage of the court hearing that led to the injunction, click here.

Deputy City Attorney Sara Eisenberg discusses the hearing for the injuncton.

The full text of Herrera’s press release is below.

City College wins reprieve, as court enjoins ACCJC from terminating accreditation

Herrera grateful to court ‘for acknowledging what accreditors callously won’t: that the educational aspirations of tens of thousands of City College students matter’

SAN FRANCISCO (Jan. 2, 2014) — A San Francisco Superior Court judge has granted a key aspect of a motion by City Attorney Dennis Herrera to preliminarily enjoin the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges from terminating City College of San Francisco’s accreditation next July.  Under terms of the ruling Judge Curtis E.A. Karnow issued late this afternoon, the ACCJC is barred from finalizing its planned termination of City College’s accreditation during the course of the litigation, which alleges that the private accrediting body has allowed political bias, improper procedures, and conflicts of interest to unlawfully influence its evaluation of the state’s largest community college.  Judge Karnow denied Herrera’s request for additional injunctive relief to prevent the ACCJC from taking adverse accreditation actions against other educational institutions statewide until its evaluation policies comply with federal regulations.  A separate motion for a preliminary injunction by plaintiffs representing City College educators and students was denied.  

In issuing the injunction, the court recognized that Herrera’s office is likely to prevail on the merits of his case when it proceeds to trial, and that the balance of harms favored the people Herrera represents as City Attorney.  On the question of relative harms, Judge Karnow’s ruling was emphatic in acknowledging the catastrophic effect disaccreditation would hold for City College students and the community at large, writing: “There is no question, however, of the harm that will be suffered if the Commission follows through and terminates accreditation as of July 2014.  Those consequences would be catastrophic.  Without accreditation the College would almost certainly close and about 80,000 students would either lose their educational opportunities or hope to transfer elsewhere; and for many of them, the transfer option is not realistic.  The impact on the teachers, faculty, and the City would be incalculable, in both senses of the term: The impact cannot be calculated, and it would be extreme.”

“I’m grateful to the court for acknowledging what accreditors have so far refused to: that the educational aspirations of tens of thousands of City College students matter,” said Herrera.  “Judge Karnow reached a wise and thorough decision that vindicates our contention that accreditors engaged in unfair and unlawful conduct.  Given the ACCJC’s dubious evaluation process, it makes no sense for us to race the clock to accommodate ACCJC’s equally dubious deadline to terminate City College’s accreditation.”

Judge Karnow adjudicated four separate pre-trial motions in today’s ruling following two days of hearings on Dec. 26 and 30.  Herrera filed his motion for preliminary injunction on Nov. 25 — three months after filing his initial lawsuit — blaming the ACCJC for procedural foot-dragging and delay tactics, which included a failed bid to remove the case to federal court and its months-long refusal to honor discovery requests.  Judge Karnow granted in part and denied in part Herrera’s motion, issuing an injunction that applies only to the ACCJC’s termination deadline for City College’s accreditation, and not statewide.

Apart from Herrera’s motion, AFT Local 2121 and the California Federation of Teachers also moved for a preliminary injunction on Nov. 25, citing additional legal theories.  That motion was denied.  A third motion by the ACCJC asked the court to abstain from hearing the City Attorney’s lawsuit for interfering with complex accrediting processes largely governed by federal law; or, failing that, to stay Herrera’s action pending the outcomes of City College’s accreditation proceeding and ACCJC’s own efforts to renew its recognition with the U.S. Department of Education.  A fourth motion, also by the ACCJC, requested that the court strike the AFT/CFT’s case under California’s Anti-SLAPP statute, which enables defendants to dismiss causes of actions that intend to chill the valid exercise of their First Amendment rights of free speech and petition.  (SLAPP is an acronym for “Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation.”)  Both of the ACCJC’s pre-trial motions were denied.

The ACCJC has come under increasing fire from state education advocates, a bipartisan coalition of state legislators and U.S. Rep. Jackie Speier for its controversial advocacy to dramatically restrict the mission of California’s community colleges by focusing on degree completion to the detriment of vocational, remedial and non-credit education.  The accrediting body’s political agenda — shared by conservative advocacy organizations, for-profit colleges and student lender interests — represents a significant departure from the abiding “open access” mission repeatedly affirmed by the California legislature and pursued by San Francisco’s Community College District since it was first established.  

Herrera’s action, filed on Aug. 22, alleges that the commission acted to withdraw accreditation “in retaliation for City College having embraced and advocated a different vision for California’s community colleges than the ACCJC itself.”  The civil suit offers extensive evidence of ACCJC’s double standard in evaluating City College as compared to its treatment of six other similarly situated California colleges during the preceding five years.  Not one of those colleges saw its accreditation terminated.  

The City Attorney’s case is: People of the State of California ex rel. Dennis Herrera v. Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges et al., San Francisco Superior Court No. 13-533693, filed Aug. 22, 2013.  The AFT/CFT case is: AFT Local 2121 et al. v. Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges et al., San Francisco Superior Court No. 534447, filed Sept. 24, 2013.  Documentation from the City Attorney’s case is available online at:

No decision yet following charged hearing to stall City College closure


At a Dec. 26 hearing in San Francisco Superior Court, the City Attorney’s office argued that City College of San Francisco should not be shuttered, as long as San Francisco’s lawsuit against a regional accrediting commission remains in court.

The two-year community college, which serves roughly 85,000 students, was notified earlier this year that the regional Accreditin​g Commission for Community and Junior Colleges would terminate its accreditat​ion in July 2014, rendering the school’s degrees worthless.

It would be forced to close.

In August, City Attorney Dennis Herrera filed suit against the ACCJC, alleging the closure action was improper, unwarranted, and out of line with the agency’s prior actions. 

At yesterday’s court hearing, litigators from Herrera’s office argued for a preliminary injunction against ACCJC, to keep the college open at least for the duration of the court proceedings.

Stop, halt, cease, desist. That was the City Attorney’s goal yesterday: keep City College open until the case is decided.

While yesterday’s hearing was focused on the injunction, the substance of Herrera’s complaint against the ACCJC — alleging that its members were acting improperly as advocates for greater austerity, among other things — came into play many times.

The litigators argued from morning till late afternoon, taking only brief recesses. While Judge Curtis Karnow subjected viewpoints from both sides to microscopic examination, there was no decision by the end.

It’s not yet known when Karnow will issue a ruling. 

“Judge Karnow did not rule from the bench, he issued no tentative order, and he gave no indication of how he intends to rule before concluding today’s hearing,” City Attorney spokesperson Matt Dorsey noted in a statement following the hearing.

In the meantime, a few statements made in court could shed light onto the outcome. We’ve highlighted a few of them below, along with some key questions.

Attorneys Phillip Ward and Andrew Sclar represented the ACCJC, in opposition to Deputy City Attorney Sara Eisenberg and labor lawyer Robert Bezemek, who appeared on behalf of the California Federation of Teachers.

We thought we’d present the case a bit differently, and give background to some of the main arguments and then write the main arguments attorneys made to address them. Each argument is prefaced first, and links are provided for further reading:

1. Herrera’s suit alleges that ACCJC commissioners acted improperly as advocates. That would mean they not only went beyond their role as objective accreditors, but sought to advance a political agenda against CCSF’s inclusive approach to higher education. They address that here.

Judge Curtis Karnow: All of those expression of political views, if you will, by either the staff or the commission itself, are being cited as the “true agenda” that they’re trying to unmask.

ACCJC counsel Philip Ward: There are problems, big problems, at City College of San Francisco…. all of those problems are the product of the so called “open access” mission and the new educational priorities that they’re saying are being shoved down CCSF’s throat.

Innuendo, character assassination … shows us that is what’s being targeted by the plaintiffs allegations.

City College has been kicking the can down the road for six years.

2. Herrera’s motion for an injunction argues that, even as the case is being decided, the school will suffer harm in the interim. How would this injunction soften the blow?

Judge Curtis Karnow: The real thrust of the motion seems to be that the uncertainty has generated behavior by faculty [and] students to depart, and this all stems from uncertainty harm.

When did this uncertainty harm start? How will the actions of this court affect anything? If there’s another hearing in July, won’t there be more uncertainty, even if I issue an injunction?

CFT counsel Robert Bezemek: Declarations filed show that there have already been instances that harm has already been felt. 

For example, (City College’s) radiology program is top in the nation above John Hopkins University. They’ve been given an execution date, everyone knows that. There’s an order to remove the college’s accreditation in July 31. When it got that order, students started to leave the college in droves. 

Deputy City Attorney Sara Eisenberg: We’re asking, your honor, right now for something that won’t happen until further down the road… but there’s real harm happening right now. Latest numbers show enrollment is down 27 percent.

3. Can the ACCJC base its decision to close City College on fiscal issues, rather than educational shortcomings?

CFT counsel Bezemek: We do not deny that they have financial issues… the quality of education is what they’re here (the ACCJC) to measure. But you have to find that the harm from the financial issues warrants shutting the school down the only community college in San Francisco. That it is the fundamental part of accreditation. 

Judge Karnow: So your position is that no matter what bad things the college has done, the commission can’t withdraw its accreditation?

CFT counsel Bezemek: No, we’re saying they have to show substantial evidence. 

(The ACCJC’s) ‘internal review’ is a joke. An injunction would provide huge relief.

accjc counsel

Counsel for the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges, Andrew Sclar and Philip Ward, confer during a break at a preliminary injunction hearing regarding City College of San Francisco on Dec. 26, 2013. Photo by Sara Bloomberg

4. Is it within the ACCJC’s power to delay City College’s closure?

Judge Karnow: What if we just dropped the process now? 

ACCJC counsel Sclar: There certainly would be harm to us. If we do not enforce sanctions or bring a non compliant institution into compliance within a two year period, we would be at risk of losing our recognition with the United States Department of Education.

It’s going to have a chilling effect on all accrediting agencies.

Judge Karnow: Is there any evidence of that in the record?

ACCJC counsel Sclar: No, there hasn’t (been). 

Deputy City Attorney Eisenberg: If the people aren’t permitted to seek relief through an (injunctive) action, there’s no other recourse.

The ACCJC has demonstrated a very cavalier attitude in this case. We’re talking about closing the only community college in San Francisco. Many students don’t have access to other colleges otherwise. The relief that we are asking for here is quite modest. It has been granted before… and it didn’t do anything other than hit the pause button.

Alerts: December 4 – 10, 2013



Fight Richmond evictions Richmond Recreation Center, 251 18th Ave, SF. 7pm, free. The San Francisco Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE), the Housing Rights Committee, and Senior & Disability Action will host this forum to discuss strategies to fix the city’s affordable housing crisis, particularly as it affects in the Richmond District. Sup. Eric Mar is expected to attend.




Celebrate the Holidays! (With Less Stuff) Berkeley Fellowship of Unitarian Universalists Hall, 1924 Cedar, Berk. 7-10pm, $5-10 suggested donation. Join Transition Berkeley, Sticky Art Lab and Berkeley Fellowship of Unitarian Univeralists for a screening of Annie Leonard’s famous animated documentary, “The Story of Stuff,” about the environmental and social problems created by our excessive consumption patterns. The night will also feature a screening of “The Story of Solutions,” showcasing creative responses to these problems. The night will also feature talks by Allison Cook, from The Story of Stuff Project, and Rachel Knudson from Sticky Art Lab on University Avenue, who’ll speak about this innovative new center for art and creative reuse.




Book reading on migrant journeys Modern Times, 2919 24th St, SF. 7pm, free. El Salvadoran journalist Óscar Martínez, winner of Mexico’s Fernando Benítez National Journalism Prize and the José Simeón Cañas Central American University Human Rights Prize, will appear at Modern Times bookstore for a reading from his new book, The Beast: Riding the Rails and Dodging Narcos on the Migrant Trail, published by Verso Books. The writer spent two years riding freight trains between Central America and the Southern US border, and documented accounts of a mass kidnapping and other harrowing stories.  

Meet CCSF’s new chancellor Saint Philip Church, 725 Diamond, SF. 7:30pm, free. The Noe Valley Democratic Club, San Francisco for Democracy, and the Upper Noe Neighbors will host the new Chancellor of City College of San Francisco, Dr. Arthur Tyler, for a conversation with community members. Join in to listen to his remarks and participate in a question and answer session. MONDAY 9  

Talk with Chelsea Manning’s lawyer Humanist Hall, 390 27th St., Oakl. 6:30-8:30pm, $5-10 suggested donation. David Coombs, the attorney of Chelsea Manning, formerly Private Bradley Manning of the US Army, will speak about Manning’s status following her sentencing in August 2013. The whistleblower, who published classified information about US military activity in Iraq and Afghanistan on the website WikiLeaks in 2010, leaked the largest set of classified documents in US history. Coombs will discuss what’s being done to support the prisoner of conscience since she was sentenced to 35 years in prison for her actions, which were charged as violations of the Espionage Act and other offenses.

City College Trustee resigns, protesting state takeover


Democracy is a thing of the past at City College of San Francisco, and now one member of its elected board has had enough. City College Trustee Chris Jackson announced today that he is resigning from the college board to protest the state takeover of the school, and he explains his reasoning in an op-ed in this week’s Guardian.

“I came to City College to do good work,” Jackson told the Guardian. “At this point it’s impossible to do that work I set out to do. That’s why I’m leaving.”

Jackson was first elected to City College’s board in 2008, but in 2013 he was a trustee in name only. The day City College was told it would lose its accreditation was also the day it lost its Board of Trustees. Those democratically elected by San Francisco voters to lead City College were pushed aside by California Community College Chancellor Brice Harris.

It was a state takeover, and the board was rendered powerless.

The seven-member board holds no more meetings, drafts no more legislation, casts no more votes. The public cannot hold elected officials accountable when things go wrong — because the man in charge is no longer someone San Francisco elected.

Robert Agrella is the “super” trustee, appointed by the state chancellor to make unilateral decisions regarding City College’s future, something they say is necessary to save the school. Agrella holds no public comment sessions, and told the Guardian previously that personal emails to him would suffice. Agrella hardly ever answers his phone, we’ve found.

Paul Feist, a spokesperson for the California community college state chancellor’s office, said that the takeover was necessary to make the hard decisions needed to save City College quickly.

Tremendous progress has been made since July, with key positions having been filled, collective bargains agreements reached and fiscal controls implemented,” Feist told the Guardian. 

To Jackson, it’s a mockery of democracy.

“If my resignation can bring a light to this public policy issue, I hope it does,” he said.

In the last month a vote by the California Community College Board of Governors made Agrella’s stay indefinite. Legally, he won’t leave until the state tells him he has to.

There is not a formal timeline for returning governance of CCSF to local trustees, but it is hoped that this happens soon after the college demonstrates it has addressed the deficiencies identified by [its accreditors],” Feist said. “The state has no interest in running City College indefinitely under a special trustee arrangement.” 

To those who wonder what this all means, and to understand Jackson’s grievance, one look only as far as two of Agrella’s latest unilateral decisions.

A performing arts center long planned to be built by City College was canned by the super trustee, citing funding concerns.

“Clearly, the college is in no position to make this commitment at this time,” Agrella told the San Francisco Chronicle when he cancelled the project. It was $6 million shy of its estimated $95 million cost.

The school’s only performance venue is the Diego Rivera Theater. It is the lone theater serving a school of 85,000 students (and sometimes more) but it seats only hundreds, and is dilapidated and crumbling.

That was the first of Agrella’s motions to overturn decisions by the Board of Trustees, but his next decision was directly challenged by Trustee Chris Jackson.

Just last month the super trustee overturned a decision by the board to drop Wells Fargo as its bank. Last year, the board voted to find a more ethical bank to do business with, instead of one that foreclosed San Francisco homes and held questionable ties to the student loan industry.

An investigation by the San Francisco Examiner found that after Wells Fargo exerted pressure on Agrella and promised the school at least $500,000 in grants, the super trustee repealed the decision to shop for a new bank.

The unilateral decisions of Agrella make Jackson furious, but it’s not as if he didn’t see it coming.

In a September 2012 meeting, the Board of Trustees faced a decision: Does it ask the state for a special trustee? It was quickly communicated to the trustees that if they didn’t ask for one, one would be imposed anyway.

It was a false choice. A public relations move designed to make the board look like they sought help when newspapers and TV stations asked them about the super trustee. In the end, no matter what decision they made the state would take control of the school.

“This special trustee, while not ideal, I don’t personally like, I think it’s appropriate for right now. But we need to understand how long they’ll be there, and what position need to be in for them to leave,” Jackson said.

“I hope this board doesn’t just cede power to the special trustee,” he said.

That was a year ago. Now five months without the board, City College has lost the vision a local politician can bring.

“I’ve certainly called him the conscience of the board,” Alisa Messer, the faculty union president at the college, said of Jackson.

“Chris made himself accessible to those who felt besieged. He’s for the underdog, regardless of being black or brown,” former student trustee William Walker told us.

“I’m just really sad to see Chris go,” said the current student trustee, Shanell Williams, who first met Jackson while on San Francisco’s youth commission.

All of them mentioned Jackson’s work to secure childcare for the two City College campuses in the Bayview. When City College’s accreditors tasked them with scaling down its mission of who to serve, Jackson championed the college’s GED program and won. He also worked closely with the group Students Making a Change, which endeavors to close the achievement gap for students of color at City College.

Jackson’s departure leaves a seat open on the board which Mayor Ed Lee can make an appointment to fill. But the legality of an appointment while the board is effectively out of power is an open question. The Guardian contacted the mayor’s office to find an answer, but did not hear back from them before press time.

“I think the thing San Franciscans ought to be asking is: Do we even have a board, and when are we going to?” Messer said.

As for Jackson, he’s looking forward to concentrating on his family and his career. He currently works at a nonprofit which helps people in Africa and India find new jobs in tech.

“I’ll have more time to spend with my daughter,” he said.  “I’ll have more time to focus on my own professional career, and am looking to go to law school.”

The 30 year old Jackson said he wants to be an attorney to help young men like D’Paris Williams, who was stopped for a traffic citation at Valencia Gardens in a case of alleged racial profiling. Jackson, who lives in the Bayview, wants to defend the people in his community.

“I want to be a part of that,” he said.

Update: Commenters and sources that called the Guardian rightly asked what Chris Jackson’s Ethics Commission fines had to do with his stepping down. Jackson was late filing his campaign reports and was fined about $3,000 by the commission. When the Guardian spoke to them a few months ago about this, they told us it was a routine matter and that Jackson was complying with their requests for payment. Jackson had already reached a payment agreement well before his resignation, which does not affect the fine, he said. 

Why I’m resigning from the City College board


By Chris Jackson

When I worked for the state legislature, a member once told an overly ambitious guy that there are those who get into politics to be someone and those who get into politics to do something, and we have enough of the first type.

Serving on the City College of San Francisco Board of Trustees was always a means for me to work to connect underserved communities to education and eventually economic empowerment.

One of the first measures that I passed while on the board was to expand City College’s Community/Outreach Ambassador to the Mission and the Southeast campuses. Through this program, City College was better able to do outreach to underserved communities.

Be it by protecting CCSF’s GED program or child care sites, working with community leaders to continue to make the Mission campus an educational jewel to its residents, or working with Bayview advocates to ensure the Southeast campus’ survival and eventual growth, I came to the CCSF Board of Trustees on a mission to help ensure that our most vulnerable populations are given access to education as a means of equity.

Although I’ve had amazing success and even made a few mistakes along the way, I don’t want anyone to doubt my continued passion and commitment to the communities that CCSF serves. It is this passion to do something and not simply be a figurehead that has led me to the difficult decision to resign from the CCSF Board of Trustees.

The Accrediting Commission of Community and Junior Colleges, an unelected and publicly unaccountable organization, seeks to change the values and charge of City College from an inclusive, community-based and student-focused college to a simple junior college that serves the few and shares the values of the corporate education reform movement.

Even more disappointing has been our state Community College Board of Governors. Instead of performing its public-policy duties, the state Board of Governors, led by State Chancellor Brice Harris, has continued to allow itself to be bullied by the ACCJC to the point where there is a serious question of who really sets public policy for the 112 colleges in our statewide system: our publicly appointed Board of Governors or the unelected, unaccountable private ACCJC.

It pains me to see the scope of our class offerings pared back, our community-based campus continually threatened with closure, much-needed academic counselors laid off, and our Second Chance program for ex-offenders with an over 900-student waiting list. It pains me even more to be sidelined by Harris and our public Board of Governors and watch them shrink and cower to the power of Barbara Beno and her private ACCJC.

But in the face of this challenge to our public education, I see hope. Students like Trustee Shannell Williams, Student President Oscar Pena and former Trustee William Walker rallying students to stand up for their public education give me hope. The American Federation of Teachers Local 2121 and the Save CCSF coalition have become rallying points not just for the immediate CCSF community, but for the larger SF community. Their bravery in the face of the withering attacks on public higher education should be commended and be a model that others should follow. At this moment, there exists the base for a long-lasting coalition of students, educators, and community fighting for the high-quality, affordable education.

Thank you for the opportunity to do something to make an impact in people’s lives. Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to serve on the City College of San Francisco Board of Trustees.

Chris Jackson was elected to the CCSF Board of Trustees in 2008.


City and teachers seek injunction against City College closure


The plan to save City College of San Francisco took a proactive turn yesterday (Mon/25) as two separate-but-similar preliminary injunctions were being sought against the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC). 

The injunctions, filed for yesterday by City Attorney Dennis Herrera and the California Federation of Teachers (CFT), would seek to keep the embattled school open for at least the duration of the impending litigation. A judge will consider the requests next month. 

The two sought-after injunctions come in the context of the civil lawsuits filed by both groups back in August, and would prevent the ACCJC from stripping CCSF’s accreditation on July 31, 2014, in addition to keeping the school both accredited and open while the civil lawsuits are heard and legislative challenges play out. ACCJC representatives didn’t return our calls for comment. 

Both the City Attorney’s Office and the CFT lawsuits hinge on the August findings of the US Department of Education. The determination made then said that the ACCJC violated two separate provisions of federal law: Failing to maintain effective controls against conflicts of interest and failing to have reasonable academic representation amongst the evaluation teams tasked to evaluate the school. 

If those two violations are upheld in federal court, then the City Attorney’s Office will simply need to prove that the “balance of harm” is negatively swinging toward the students of CCSF. And that unjust balance isn’t an under-the-rug number: 80,000 students go to CCSF, while 19 board members work at the ACCJC, something they do whether or not CCSF is open. Conversely, it’s not like those 80,000 students have 80,000 places to go. 

Both the CFT and the City Attorney’s Office are confident that the injunction will be granted by a San Francisco Superior Court judge, an arena of equitable governing both groups say hasn’t been seen from the ACCJC.

“We were trying to figure out our options. How do we defend the college?” said Alisa Messer, AFT Local 2121 president and English teacher at CCSF. “So how do you get a fair hearing? How do you get due process? Unfortunately the courts are the only way to do that under this scenario.”

If either interim injunction is granted by the courts, the school wouldn’t be stripped of its accreditation on July 31 — the ACCJC-appointed Doomsday for an educational institution that contributes nearly $300 million a year to the local economy, among other things — pending conclusions of the underlying court cases, which could take years. That would allow CCSF to offer at least a fall course-load. The injunction would also put the recently-maligned accrediting agency’s authority on hold.

And while an injunction simply delays the final determination and extends the school’s accredited status, both the city’s and the CFT’s plan to hold up the final determination elegantly mirrors the strategy most assume the ACCJC is employing.  

“What we’ve seen is the ACCJC essentially engaging in delay tactics,” said Therese Stewart, chief deputy of the City Attorney’s Office. “This [injunction] isn’t to resolve the whole thing, but rather to freeze the situation so it doesn’t get worse.”

According to a press release from Herrera’s office, the injunction would also, “prevent the Novato, Calif.-based ACCJC from taking similarly adverse actions against other California colleges until its policies and practices fully comply with state and federal law.”

But even if they can implore the ACCJC to reinstate CCSF’s accreditation, Messer says that the injunction the CFT filed on Monday is about much more than “stop gap measures.”

“Actually, I see it as much more than that. It’s not just about getting an injunction for what happens on [July 31, 2014],” said Messer. “This about getting an injunction now, to stop the actions toward closing the college and toward taking our accreditation. Now. Not for July, for right now. Because what we’re seeing is harm being done to the college even as we speak.”

The harm Messer is referring to isn’t just accreditation-related. She says that the reputation of a school is as important as anything, and right now students are unsure of the status of CCSF.

“It’s not about sitting on our hands and waiting and hoping that some of these things will right themselves,” said Messer. “It’s about saying that right now, because of the harm being done to the college, that we need San Francisco to know, and we need everybody to know that this college will not be closing.”


Rep Clock: November 20 – 26, 2013


Schedules are for Wed/20-Tue/26 except where noted. Director and year are given when available. Double and triple features marked with a •. All times pm unless otherwise specified.

ATA GALLERY 992 Valencia, SF; $4-10. “Periwinkle Cinema: Smoke and Ruin,” short films, Wed, 8. “Double Feature,” two short films by Lawrence Rickford, Thu, 8. “GAZE #6: Luminous Impulse,” all-animation show, Fri, 8. “Other Cinema,” works about the “(no-zones) of the American West” by Jeanne Finley, Katherin McInnis, and others, Sat, 8:30.

BALBOA THEATRE 3630 Balboa, SF; $10. “Popcorn Palace:” The Iron Giant (Bird, 1999), Sat, 10am. Matinee for kids.

BERKELEY FELLOWSHIP OF UNITARIAN UNIVERSALISTS’ HALL 1924 Cedar, Berk; $5-10 suggested donation. JFK: The Case for Conspiracy (Groden, 2003), Thu, 7.

CASTRO 429 Castro, SF; (415) 621-6120, $8.50-12. Contempt (Godard, 1963), Wed, 4:45, 7, 9:15. •Rebel Without a Cause (Ray, 1955), Thu, 7, and Rumble Fish (Coppola, 1983), Thu, 9:05. “Happy 100th Birthday to Benjamin Britten,” Fri, 7:30. This event ($20) presented by the Asawa SOTA Instrumental Music Department; more info at “Peaches Christ Productions presents:” 9 to 5 (Higgins, 1980), with stage show premiere of Work!, starring Pandora Boxx, Heklina, and Peaches Christ, Sat, 8. More info for this event ($25-55) at The Wizard of Oz (Fleming, 1939), presented in 3D, Sun, 1, 3:30, 5:45, 8.

CHRISTOPHER B. SMITH RAFAEL FILM CENTER 1118 Fourth St, San Rafael; (415) 454-1222, $6.50-$10.75. The Armstrong Lie (Gibney, 2013), call for dates and times. Blue is the Warmest Color (Kechiche, 2013), call for dates and times. Running from Crazy (Kopple, 2013), call for dates and times. Persistence of Vision (Schreck, 2012), Thu, 7. The Singularity (Wolens, 2013), Sun, 7. Filmmaker Doug Wolens in person.

CLAY 2261 Fillmore, SF; $10. “Midnight Movies:” Oldboy (Park, 2003), Fri-Sat, midnight.

COPPOLA THEATER Fine Arts Building, SF State University, 1600 Holloway, SF; Free. “Hungarian Film Festival,” documentary and narrative films, Fri, 4-10; Sat, 9am-10pm; Sun, 5-10.

MECHANICS’ INSTITUTE 57 Post, SF; $10. “CinemaLit Film Series: Dark Star: The Films of Barbara Stanwyck:” Forty Guns (Fuller, 1957), Fri, 6.

PACIFIC FILM ARCHIVE 2575 Bancroft, Berk; (510) 642-5249, $5.50-9.50. “Alternative Visions:” Your Day Is My Night (Sachs, 2013), Wed, 7. “Behind the Scenes: The Art and Craft of Cinema with Randy Thom, Sound Designer:” Wild at Heart (Lynch, 1990), Thu, 7; Colors (Hopper, 1988), Sat, 6; The Incredibles (Bird, 2004), Sun, 3. “Fassbinder’s Favorites:” Vivre sa vie (Godard, 1962), Fri, 7. “Afterimage: Agnès Varda on Filmmaking:” Cléo From 5 to 7 (1961), Fri, 8:45. “Love Is Colder Than Death: The Cinema of Rainer Werner Fassbinder:” Lola (1981), Sat, 8:45; Veronika Voss (1982), Sun, 6.

ROXIE 3117 and 3125 16th St, SF; (415) 863-1087, $6.50-11. American Promise (Brewster and Stephenson, 2013), Wed-Thu, 6:15, 9. The Counselor (Scott, 2013), Wed, 7, 9:15. City College of San Francisco’s Festival of the Moving Image, two different showcases of student films, Thu, 7, 8:45. “SF Film Society’s Cinema By the Bay Festival:” Holy Ghost People (Altieri, 2013), Fri, 7 and 9:30; The Genius of Marian (Fitch, 2013), Sat, noon; Redemption Trail (Sjogren, 2013), Sat, 2:15; American Vagabond (Helke, 2013), Sat, 4:30; Along the Roadside (Lisinac, 2013), Sat, 6:45; “Street Smarts: YAK Films’ Dance Then and Now,” Sat, 9:30; “The SF State of Cinema: Shorts from SFSU Alumni,” Sun, noon; The Other Side of the Mountain (Jang, 2012), Sun, 2:15; “Essential SF,” honoring the Bay Area film community, Sun, 5; The Illness and the Odyssey (Minott, 2013), Sun, 7; Dear Sidewalk (Oelman, 2013), Sun, 9:15.

SWEDISH AMERICAN HALL 2174 Market, SF; $30-60. “The Invisible Lighthouse,” live music and film with Thomas Dolby, Thu, 8.

TANNERY 708 Gilman, Berk; Donations accepted. “Berkeley Underground Film Society:” Holy Ghost People (Adair, 1967), Sun, 7:30.

VICTORIA 2961 16th, SF; $5-50. “Save the Waves Film Festival,” docs about ocean conservation and surfing, plus live music and speakers, Fri, 6.

YERBA BUENA CENTER FOR THE ARTS 701 Mission, SF; $8-10. “Films by Fassbinder:” Why Does Herr R. Run Amok? (1970), Thu, 7:30. *




Federal politicians are blasting the commission that would close City College of San Francisco, calling the entire accreditation process a debacle.

At a forum US Rep. Jackie Speier (D-SF) and Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Palo Alto) convened at City College on Nov. 7, Speier trumpeted what local advocates have said all along: The evaluation of CCSF was bungled, lacked transparency, and violated federal education regulations, all pointing to a desperate need for reform of its accreditors.

Accreditation has been the means to check the quality of education in colleges, but now a growing chorus of critics says the process can be used to carry out an ideological agenda and usurp local control (“Whose college?” Aug. 13).

Yet upending the accreditation process could also have unintended consequences, perhaps letting corporate and conservative interests seize the chance to implement their long-simmering agendas.

Either way, it is beginning to look like the fight to save City College could end up being about more than just City College.



The Accrediting Commission of Community and Junior Colleges keeps a watchful eye on the community colleges of California, Guam, and Hawaii. After a six-year review, the ACCJC this summer rocked City College by terminating its accreditation, pending appeals before the sentence is carried out in July 2014.

At the forum, Speier said the debacle with the ACCJC signaled a need to reform accreditation on a national level, citing a lack of public accountability.

“I think the ACCJC has run amok, they have lost their vision — if they ever had one,” Speier said in an interview after the forum. “They are riddled with conflicts of interest and arbitrariness.”

Teachers, faculty, and education advocates packed City College’s Diego Rivera Theater, all cheering at every jibe toward the ACCJC. Pressure on the group is mounting. A third lawsuit against the body was announced the day of the forum, this one filed by the activist group Save CCSF.

But Speier sees the problems as stemming from the US Department of Education, which she said needs the tools to correct problems at the ACCJC, something she plans to meet with Education Secretary Arne Duncan to discuss.

“The Department of Education only has one hammer, and that is to deny the ACCJC certification,” she said.

The group is slated to undergo this evaluation in December, which could spell its end. But if the fight for City College sparks a change in accreditation nationally, what would take its place?

There are wolves at the door of the US education system, for-profit colleges with a history of taking vulnerable students to the bank with nothing to show for it. And they want accreditation reform too.



The ideological argument between the ACCJC and City College is taking place nationally.

President Obama called for a change to college accreditation in his last State of the Union speech, calling for higher graduation and transfer rates for community colleges (see “Who killed City College?” July 9).

One of the biggest cheerleaders of the president’s reform is the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank. At a conference it held on accreditation last month, AEI and its partners lampooned accreditation as it stands now.

“This is a system that is flawed, unable to deal with the rapidly changing higher education landscape,” Anne D. Neal, a partner of the American Council of Trustees and Alumni, a national education reform group, said at the conference. “If meat inspections were as loose as college accreditation… most of us would have mad cow disease.”

On the surface, the critique seems reasonable. More people should transfer, and more people should graduate. But how colleges get those numbers is the challenge. The ACCJC asking City College to jettison students not aiming for a higher degree was just the start, one higher education watchdog told us.

“There are people on both sides saying that accreditation is broken. The White House is pushing this, as are Republicans. You almost never hear that,” Paul Fain, a reporter for Inside Higher Ed, told the Guardian.

But the reform may lead to the transformation of accreditation, allowing tech companies and long distance online learning universities to bypass the process entirely.

Accreditation is seen as “holding back innovators who are trying to transform the Internet,” Fain said.

These “innovators” are largely for-profit colleges that want to offer single courses or shortened courses online, like the Minerva Project or Straighterline, both online universities lobbying Congress to loosen accreditation requirements.

But for-profit colleges have been attacked nationally for their abysmal job placement rates, and their graduation rates aren’t much better. A widely circulated 2010 report by the think tank Education Trust found that for-profits in the U.S. had a graduation rate of 22 percent.

And with many of those for-profits fighting for accreditation reform by Congress, it’s unclear how a push to reform accreditation from Speier would aid or stall them.



ACCJC President Barbara Beno said that City College is having problems facing reality. Beno would only speak with the Guardian by email through a representative. She defended the accountability of the ACCJC, saying that her doors were always open.

“Colleges don’t need a forum like that held on Nov. 7; they can write to the commission at any time, or ask to address the decision-making commissioners at one of their two meetings each year, or can call up the commission chair or president,” Beno wrote.

“Instead of joining forces to help improve City College, many purported supporters of the college are bent on disrupting the ACCJC operations. It is simple to blame the messenger of bad news,” she wrote. “People unhappy with the commissioners’ decisions are targeting [me] for doing [my] job.”

But Rafael Mandelman, a newly elected member of CCSF Board of Trustees, told those assembled at the forum that ACCJC was unprofessional and unduly punitive: “I went from ACCJC agnostic, to skeptic, to foe”

Dr. Sarah Perkins, vice president of instruction of Skyline College, told the forum that ACCJC is hard to work with.

“I came here to California after spending 25 years in the middle part of the country under the Higher Learning Commission,” she said, contrasting that accrediting agency with the bullying done by ACCJC. “That I even feel like I’m putting my college at risk by speaking at this forum speaks volumes.”

Indeed, the ACCJC even makes criticism of the agency or its methods grounds for a revocation of accreditation, making “collegiality” part of its “policy on institutional integrity and ethics.” CCSF Special Trustee Bob Agrella in September cited that as one reason not to criticize the agency.

Sen. Jim Beall and Assemblymember Tom Ammiano were also in attendance at the forum, and promised to continue the fight at the state level to preserve City College. The Joint Legislative Audit Committee is evaluating ACCJC at the request of those legislators and Sen. Jim Nielsen (R-Gerber).

“We will kick a lot of butt, with class, of course,” Ammiano said.

And would City College close down? “It’s not going to happen,” Speier said to the cheering crowd.