NAS Renews Its Call to Make Accreditation Contingent on Fair Hiring

On October 30, NAS wrote a letter to the Accreditation Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC) to inform the Commission about last year's Grand Jury Report that pointed to evidence that Santa Rosa Junior College (SRJC) was engaged in illegal discriminatory practices in its hiring. SRJC is up for reaccreditation by ACCJC, and NAS's letter urged the Commission to make "renewal of SRJC’s accreditation contingent on finding that it is in compliance with the Grand Jury’s recommendations and the civil rights mandates of California’s constitution." ACCJC President Barbara Beno replied to our letter, saying that the accrediting agency would take no further action based on our third party suggestions. Today, NAS responded to President Beno's remarks. Here is our second letter to ACCJC: 

President Barbara Beno

Accreditation Commission for Community and Junior Colleges
10 Commercial Boulevard, Suite 204
Novato, CA 94949

November 26, 2008

Dear President Beno,

I received your reply to my previous letter; thank you for your response. In your letter, you made five points, to which I would now like to respond.

First you noted that ACCJC has not yet received Santa Rosa Junior College’s Institutional Self-Study. We were mistaken in writing that SRJC submitted it to WASC on August 22; we now realize that the online pdf file is a working draft and is still under review. We recognized this error in a correction note in our online press release. Nonetheless, the language of the self-study draft still demonstrates, in the ways our letter noted, that SRJC is contradicting the assurance of compliance with Proposition 209 made to the Grand Jury.

Second, you wrote that the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges “does not enforce the laws or regulations of the State of California.” We marvel that the Commission can so easily brush off extensive evidence that a large, public community college has violated California law. We are also concerned by your statement, “Except in instances where an alleged violation of law would substantively affect an institution’s compliance with an ACCJC standard or policy, ACCJC would not investigate allegations of the type you have made.” This sounds as if ACCJC will wink at law-breaking as long as the infraction is consistent with the Commission’s policy. ACCJC guidelines strongly endorse diversity.   Are you implying that the ACCJC also favors racial discrimination in hiring in the name of “diversity” and is willing to abet a college in breaking a law that the ACCJC does not like? Would the ACCJC be willing to defend this position before the U.S. Department of Education when its federal recognition next comes up for review in 2012?  

Again, we quote the ACCJC Accreditation Reference Handbook, which under the heading Contractual Relationships with Non-Regionally Accredited Organizations, specifies, It is the responsibility of an institution to conform to the laws and regulations of each of the areas in which it operates or solicits students.” This statement, included in ACCJC’s guidelines, is a provision which seems to treat law enforcement as something the Commission takes seriously. 

Third, you did not find that NAS’s information “indicates that any clear violation of the law has occurred.” I encourage you to look at the content of the document, “Sonoma County Junior College District Staff Diversity/Affirmative Action Plan,” which was in active use until the SRJC district became aware of the Grand Jury investigation in early 2007— long after Proposition 209 became law. This document is enclosed. It is particularly incriminating in that it speaks of setting “goals and timetables” for “implementing procedures to increase employment opportunities for underrepresented groups.” Also, the Sonoma County Grand Jury attached the document “White Paper” as an appendix to its report. The “White Paper” was developed by Charles Prickett, the Distict Compliance Officer, and boldly outlines ways of circumventing the mandate of Proposition 209. SRJC claims that the district never used this document in any official capacity, and that it was only developed for and distributed to the members of the college's "diversity committee." Is the ACCJC merely taking this somewhat unlikely claim at face value, or does it intend to investigate it further? 

Fourth, in your letter, you asserted that “a grand jury’s findings have no binding authority over the organization it examines.” At best, we think this a legal quibble unworthy of an oversight agency serious about ensuring institutional integrity. The Sonoma County Grand Jury’s report—the result of a thorough six-month investigation—speaks for itself. It is based on under-oath testimony from several SRJC district employees and hundreds of pages of documentation, including district policy documents, which clearly point to a violation of California law. 

Fifth, you observed that after hiring a consultant to review the college (with regard to the grand jury report), SRJC told ACCJC that “it feels confidant that its practices do not violate the California Constitution.” But the so-called “independent” investigator was anything but independent. Miss Rhoma Young was hired and paid by SRJC and was employed sometime in February or early March of 2007 when SRJC had become aware of the Grand Jury investigation through the calling of witnesses from its administrative ranks. Miss Young's report was originally kept confidential. However, since the receipt of the NAS letter to the ACCJC, it has become available for viewing at the reserve desk in the college's library. To read it, one must sign in at the desk. The NAS has written to SRJC President Agrella to request that the report be made publicly available. In the meantime, ACCJC has far too readily accepted the college’s self-exoneration.

As a last note, I would like to point out that since NAS wrote to ACCJC and to President Agrella, SRJC has produced a third draft of its Institutional Self-Study. This draft, unlike the first two, includes references to the Grand Jury Report and the college’s response to it. The section on the Grand Jury Report, however, closes with this paragraph:

Clearly, the College believes that it is now, and has been, in compliance with Article 1 Section 31 of the California Constitution and all laws affecting public employment. The College maintains that it has not hired any employees who were not qualified for their positions, nor has the College given preferential hiring consideration to applicants of different races or ethnic backgrounds.

But it is not clear that the College has been or is in said compliance, for all the reasons stated above. 

In conclusion, the National Association of Scholars renews its call to the Accreditation Commission for Community and Junior Colleges to make Santa Rosa Junior College’s re-accreditation contingent on the assurance that SRJC practices only fair and legal hiring procedures.

Once again, I look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely yours, 

Stephen H. Balch





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