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This special edition resource guide contains information for all faculty members, including articles on collective bargaining, tenure, part-time faculty, campus climate, pension security, privatization, open access, accreditation, and academic freedom.


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Current Issue: Summer 2016

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Accreditation / Tenure

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By: Richard Hansen, Richard Mahon, and Wheeler North

The United States is unusual in its pursuit of a process called accreditation to maintain the quality of institutions of higher education. In most of the world, government agencies regulate colleges that receive public funds.

As first developed, accreditation of higher education was prompted by the desire for peer-reviewed quality assurance of colleges and universities. This atmosphere persisted for over a half century until the post-World War II era when the GI Bill injected large sums of money into postsecondary institutions. Support for veterans was followed by new strands of federal financial aid, and with it, new public attention. The stakes were up.

Practically applied, accreditation takes multiple forms. Many discipline-specific programs are subject to programmatic
accreditation, like CTE programs in law enforcement or nursing. There are accreditors that specialize in faith-based institutions. Others work with institutions whose courses are strictly online.

Regional accreditors serve in the primary role for the two- and four-year institutions. For the California Community Colleges along with two-year schools in Hawaii and Pacific Islands, the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC) is the regional accreditor. Of all the regions in the country, ours is the only one that separates between an accreditor
for two- and four-year institutions.

While regional accreditors are private organizations, they derive their authority from federal recognition. They need to demonstrate compliance with federal law to the U.S. Department of Education, just as they expect compliance with their standards by their member institutions. It’s a clear bargain. No accreditation? No federal funding.

Once a sleepy domain, the national context for accreditation has come under increasing scrutiny as ideology has come to prejudge what educational quality means. Both Democrats and Republicans have expressed displeasure with the current system, arguing from the political left and right respectively. Moving in either direction might cause our state’s community colleges to appear as failures or blur their role with proprietary schools whose raison d’être is profit.

Political pressure from both sides of the aisle ripples toward regional accreditors to “crack down” on low-performing
institutions, notwithstanding their public open-access purpose. Since the accreditors serve two masters, the federal government and peer institutions, keeping both satisfied is a challenge.

California Community Colleges have struggled even more as the protracted crisis at City College of San Francisco, among others, has caused an erosion of trust in the peer element of the ACCJC. Following a series of task forces, audits, lawsuits, and legislative proposals, no less than the Chancellor’s Office publicly declared that “The California Community College system and its member institutions have lost confidence in the ACCJC.”

There are currently two accreditation task forces of community college CEOs attempting to stabilize conditions and work toward a longer-term solution in our colleges. Achieving a solution will take time and need to encompass not only who our accreditor should be but also what is meant by accreditation. Leadership changes at ACCJC have resulted in a change in tone, but it remains to be seen if the longer-term controversies can be resolved.* Faculty organizations, including FACCC, continue to advocate a change in accreditor while at the same time working to address problems with the ACCJC.

While there may ultimately be a migration away from the ACCJC toward an integrated model with our fouryear
counterparts, we will also need to keep an eye on the multiple actors with varying agendas for which the
well-being of open-access two-year colleges is hardly a priority.

Richard Hansen is an emeritus math instructor at DeAnza College. Richard Mahon is dean of academic affairs at Allan Hancock College and a commissioner on the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges. Wheeler North teaches aviation at San Diego Miramar College.

*Editor’s Note: In August, CFT announced a settlement in its litigation against ACCJC, which should result in substantive changes by the Commission. Follow FACCC’s electronic, print, and social media for details and updates.

Current FACCC members can request a print copy of the edition by emailing their full name and mailing address.


By: Jonathan Lightman

According to the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), “[a] tenured appointment is an indefinite appointment that can be terminated only for cause or under extraordinary circumstances such as financial exigency and program discontinuation.” While the California Education Code makes passing references to “tenure” for community college faculty, its preferred term for the same concept is “regular.”

The principal purpose of tenure is to safeguard academic freedom. When correctly implemented, tenure will insulate faculty from political, business, religious, and other pressures to suppress or promote concepts based on their likings. The beneficiary of the tenure system goes well beyond the faculty members to society as a whole that advances from a free exchange of thoughts and ideas.

With roots in 19th Century American higher education where many faculty enjoyed “presumptive tenure,” the modern concept was initiated in 1940 by the AAUP’s “Statement on Principles of Academic Freedom and Tenure.” Jointly formulated by the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U), the “Statement” has since gained the endorsement of over 250 scholarly organizations and is widely adopted into faculty handbooks and collective bargaining agreements across the country.

Although commonly identified with faculty at research-oriented four-year institutions, tenure has also been a staple of academic employees at the California Community Colleges whose primary mission is teaching. In the landmark community college reform measure, AB 1725 [(Vasconcellos) of 1988], tenure was referenced as “an important prerequisite for the maintenance of academic freedom, continuity in academic and vocational programs, and development of a faculty committed to the long-term health of the community colleges.” In that bill, the tenure process was doubled from two to four years, noting that “the determination of standards for tenure, procedures governing tenure, and the actual granting of tenure determine in large part the substantive direction of the colleges.”

Despite acclamations of tenure as critical to the substantive direction of our institutions, our lawmakers have done little to address the paradox of 40,000 part-time faculty—deemed “temporary” by the Education Code—who lack tenure and basic protections of academic freedom (compared to only 18,000 regular). Legislative efforts to implement the AAUP’s recommendations on tenure for part-time faculty “including fully proportional pay . . . with proportional expectations for service and professional development” have been swiftly defeated.

In today’s market driven economy, with over three-quarters of workers deemed at-will, (where employers have near-total control to hire, fire and promote), it’s no surprise that tenure—associated today with just faculty and judges—has come under attack. In this regard, administrators, not faculty, are seen as stewards of the taxpayer investment, who should be given more authority to assign or remove faculty as needed.

Arguments against tenure nearly always overstate job protection while minimizing the rigorous path to achieve it. Hiring is never a guarantee of tenure. Contract (tenure-track) faculty must demonstrate performance through a structured process of committees, reports, and recommendations. What the anti-tenure arguments also ignore is that tenure protections are not absolute. Faculty can be dismissed for a variety of reasons, including financial emergency, unsatisfactory performance, and unprofessional conduct.

While this session of the Legislature has yet to feature a bill on community college faculty tenure, AB 1220 (Weber)—which would extend the teacher tenure process in K-12 from two to three years—has garnered tremendous attention and controversy. Despite the differences between K-12 and higher education, the attacks on tenure take similar forms from parallel types of organizations.

Needless to say, those pushing corporatization of education under the guise of improvement and accountability have made all faculty a target, regardless of what or where they teach. FACCC, faculty unions, and the Academic Senate are all on guard to defend tenure from those seeking to undermine the foundation of our institutions as vanguards of the public good.

Jonathan Lightman is executive director of FACCC.

Current FACCC members can request a print copy of the edition by emailing their full name and mailing address.