Pasadena City College officials announced last week that the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC) decided to maintain PCC’s accreditation while putting the school on probation for not being able to work together for the betterment of the students and the institution.
According to the ACCJC letter to PCC, an institution is placed on probation when the institution drastically strays away from the commission’s eligibility requirements, accreditation standards, or commission policies, but not to an extent that justifies the termination of accreditation.
When ACCJC met in early June to review the Institutional Self Evaluation Report and the report of the External Evaluation Team that visited in March, Assistant Superintendent and Senior Vice President Robert Miller, along with other school representatives, addressed the commission’s recommendations and their plan to improve the college’s community.
“I have full respect for the accrediting commission and for the recommendations they have brought forth, and I believe that this college will rally around those recommendations that we need to do in order to be successful,” Miller said the day after the report was released. “I think we need to come together as a college community to rally around the most important aspect of the institution, which is accreditation.”
Newly elected Superintendent President Dr. Rajen Vurdien of PCC said he is well acquainted with the work it will take to successfully move the school out of probation. When Vurdien first arrived at Fullerton College, they had just been placed on a warning and within a year, the school was fully accredited.
“The college fully embraces the recommendations of the ACCJC and will aggressively address these issues working towards quick resolution,” Vurdien said. “The college’s academic programs continue to be among the highest-ranked and well-regarded in the nation. The college’s commitment to providing a high-quality, academically robust learning environment that encourages, supports, and facilitates student learning and success will continue unabated through this process.”
Katherine Scott, associate vice president of academic affairs, took over as the accreditation liaison officer in February. Working alongside accreditation faculty leader Stephanie Fleming, they formulated the changes that needed to be implemented in order to address the recommendations that were made after the site visit.
“When we had a sense of what the recommendations were going to be last year, we started immediately to work on them and I feel that we have a really good start,” Scott said. “As long as we work collaboratively with faculty, classified, administration, and students, I think we’re going to be fine. We have over a year to make sure we have met the recommendations and it is our intention to do everything we have to, to make sure that happens.”
With the history of shared governance not getting along, and constantly working against each other to reach the same goal of serving the students, Vice President of Academic Affairs Robert Bell feels that the best thing to do is stand behind the new president.
“I think the correct thing to do is rally around the new president,” Bell said. “We need to talk collectively as a collected group with students, faculty, staff, administrators about what do we need to do to address the immediate concerns, such as the accreditation report. But not just to address the accreditation report, how do we make this community stronger going forward? We all just need to rally together to take a residual purpose for a common cause.”
Former Academic Senate President Eduardo Cairo has been vocal about the issues involving shared governance throughout the accreditation process and even went as far as refusing to sign the final draft of the Accreditation Self-Evaluation Report.
“The majority can be accomplished in one year, they are very simple,” Cairo said. “It’s my understanding that there’s nine recommendations but the reason we’ve been put on probation is because two of those were from six years ago … it’s their (ACCJC) way of saying six years ago these issues were highlighted so why hasn’t it been taken care of? If anything, shared governance has worsened and that’s what the report states.”
In the 2009-2010 school year, the college was put on a warning with two recommendations relating to the improvement of program review, planning processes, and shared governance.
Cairo believes that in order to really work together to overturn the probation, “we need to have a will and desire to actually do something and not just say you want to do something.”
As a result of being on probation, the school is required to submit a follow-up report in October 2016, which is followed with a visit by the external evaluation team in November 2016 to determine whether or not all necessary changes have been made to address the recommendations presented in the final report. The final report included nine recommendations issued by the ACCJC, which include the need for improvement in the areas of shared governance and communication, planning, adherence to institutional policies, and overall institutional effectiveness.