Thursday, May 25, 2006

Explaining Babs Beno?

Back on the 9th, the Berkeley Daily Planet published an article, "Accrediting commissions provokes critics", that might help explain “Babs” Beno’s curious behavior last month.

Babs, of course, is the president of the Accrediting agency, ACCJC, a division of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC).

Last month? Well, despite several public displays of trustee contempt for the ACCJC and its recommendations (No, it's macromanagement!), Babs declared that she saw "a lot of progress."

this is an audio post - click to play
(Babs' "progress" remark comes at the beginning.)


Evidently, our trustees listened closely to Babs' baneful babblery. They're feelin' mighty relieved about now. Those of you who attended Monday’s board meeting probably noticed the absence of any mention of the ACCJC's recommendations, which have occupied this body for months. It’s like the whole accreditation worry has magically disappeared! Poof!

What gives? Well, Babs and her close ACCJC associate Debora Blue are in retreat. Turns out they're in dutch with some districts, in part because the ACCJC’s harsh actions against those districts looks like payback. Here are some excerpts of the Daily Planet article:

A statewide education revolt is growing against the agency that accredits California community colleges in part because of recent actions the agency has taken against the Peralta and the Compton Community College Districts.

Linda Handy, the president of the Peralta Board of Trustees, said that ACCJC operates “without a lot of oversight,” and said that the accrediting organization backed off of its warning to pull the Peralta colleges’ accreditation only under the threat of a discrimination lawsuit by Peralta.

And Michael Mills, the president of the Peralta Federation of Teachers union, says that the leading administrators of the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC) have a vendetta against the Peralta college district, and that the ACCJC is “operating like a star chamber” with a “process that is out of control.”

The top two staff members of the ACCJC are former Peralta staff members who reportedly left under less than amicable circumstances. ACCJC President Dr. Barbara Beno is a former president of Vista College in Berkeley (now Berkeley City College). The ACCJC Vice President, Dr. Deborah G. Blue, is a former president of Laney College in Oakland.

…[T]he ACCJC commission is largely a self-appointed body, with the commission chair holding the power to appoint three of the seven-member body that selects commission members.

Last March, that led the California Federation of Teachers [the teachers union that competes with CTA] to pass a resolution at its annual convention calling the ACCJC “a private organization that is accountable to no one it serves” and charging that the organization “often causes colleges to implement changes that reflect the current biases of the accreditation team.” The CFT resolution called on the California Community College System Office and “other appropriate bodies” to “investigate the operations of AACJC-WASC and consider possible alternatives for evaluating and accrediting the state’s community colleges.”

A spokesperson for the CFT said by telephone that the “other appropriate bodies” was meant to refer to the state legislature.

Late last month, the California Community College Academic Senate passed a resolution “in support of the [CFT] and other . . . bodies who have expressed their unhappiness with the ACCJC,” and joined the call for an investigation into alternatives to the organization.

Representatives of the ACCJC could not be reached in connection with this article.

The lengthy article goes on to explain that ACCJC’s troubles began with its harsh action against Compton Community College in August of 05. Initially, in view of the very real problems at Compton (concerning trustees and top administration--fraud and corruption), State Chancellor Mark Drummond stepped in, replacing Compton’s trustees with a single state trustee.

Oddly, that was not enough for the ACCJC, which pulled Compton’s ticket anyway.

That led to the AFT and State Senate resolutions.

As near as I can tell--based on conversations I've had over the last year--the problem here isn't simply that ACCJC does not respond reasonably to meaningful efforts to fix what is broken. The problem is also that ACCJC takes harsh action against colleges that are working at the level of instruction--and that's what they're there for--but not at the level of administration or trusteeship. You know, the "Raghu" and the "Terrible Tom & Dandy Don" levels.

Why, some ask, are faculty and students made to pay the price for the failures of others—i.e., trustees, presidents, and chancellors? Why should a college that essentially works be shut down owing to the abject pinheadery of overseers? Surely, there is a better way to handle these situations!

You'll recall that the ACCJC had nothing but good things to say about instruction at Saddleback and Irvine Valley colleges. As far as teaching goes, our colleges are tops!

The Chancellor and trustees were another matter entirely. They suck, or so said ACCJC. Untl last month.

Evidently, a year before the Compton ticket-pulling, the ACCJC issued warnings against the four Peralta colleges. According to a Peralta official, the colleges were placed on warning status “because of unfunded medical liabilities by the district, for ‘micromanaging’ by the district board, and for not having a strategic plan.”

Micromanagement. Inadequate planning. Those are issues for us, too.

“None of these were accreditation standards,” said the official (according to the article).

Further, many community college districts are burdened by unfunded liabilities, but only Peralta was dinged by ACCJC on that score.

Even after a majority of Peralta trustees were replaced in elections, the “micromanagement” warning stood.

What's a college to do?

According to at least one Peralta official, the reason for all this is that Beno and Blue, who come from the Peralta district, have axes to grind.

You’ll recall that, during the time that our own SOCCCD board battled with ACCJC/WASC, a similar conflict of interest objection was raised re the involvement, in the accreditation process, of a former president of Saddleback College, Constance Caroll.

No doubt, our trustees are crowing about this Accredular brouhaha. ACCJC is retreating because it's been bad. Nya nya nya nya nya!

But let's not lose sight of the real issues in our benighted district. Sure, at the instructional level, our colleges work. Just like always. But micromanagement, inadequate planning, and a "plague of despair" are genuine problems, whether or not they are listed among the ACCJC/WASC's standards.

And whether or not the people who run ACCJC are real a**holes.


I went to lunch with my best friend today. I told him about the above. I said, "So the watchdog shot himsef in the foot. --No, that ain't right. What's the right metaphor?"

After about three seconds, my friend said: "The watchdog has chewed off his balls."

I rejected that one. "I can't write that," I said.

But now I'm thinkin' that, really, it's spot on.

I can't help it if these people do something to themselves as awful as that!


Anonymous said...

I like your friend's metaphor. A lot.

Aunt Bea said...

Chunk, I just want to say that your photos in this story are particularly gorgeous. That metallic blue sky! That adorable rabbit! That spooky, quiet campus! Really, really nice work.

Anonymous said...

I'll second Aunt Bea. That blooming tree is a jacaranda. I couldn't read the whole article about Wagner's conservatism because it/he seemed like a cross between a horror flick and a joke. I like the photos of young Chunk.

Anonymous said...

Wondering what you think about the ACCJC's recent actions threatening to revoke CCSF's accreditation. Beno is at it again, this time threatening to throw 85,000 students and thousands of employees out in the street, again - quality education, administrative incompetence, the school runs in spite of its administration, but she threatens to punish everyone.

Roy Bauer said...

I'm not opposed to Accreditation as a non-governmental regulatory mechanism run by institutions of higher learning. Unfortunately, the thinking of the existing Accreditation leadership and system reflects the pseudo-scientific and irrationalist thinking that pervades "education." At present higher education is "regulated" by the worst that academia has to offer. It's akin to the medical profession being regulated by homeopaths.

Anonymous said...

Rebel girl - there is a difference between inadequate planning and not having a 'strategic plan.' Can you imagine running a multimillion dollar business and not having a strategic plan?

The ACCJC is trying to hold these schools to a high standard. It's shameful that they are under attack for that.

Our college institutions may currently "work" but the ACCJC is there to ensure that they will still be working in another 10 years. They are there to protect students as much as anyone else in the institution.

Anonymous said...

Despite the bi-line, the author of this post of Roy Bauer.
Back ten or twelve years ago, the ACCJC announced its intention of formulating standards and requirements in terms of "student learning objectives" and the like. This approach reflected a particular strain of theorizing that, like many, was burdened by a failure to be supported with empirical evidence. When the state academic senate demanded empirical data to support this LO philosophy, the ACCJC produced nothing. It simply went about imposing a host of requirements built around this concept, devoting enormous resources to an untested and highly dubious philosophy. --RB

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