A decision by the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC) to put Los Angeles Southwest College on probation is being called puzzling and surprising by officials at the school and its governing body, and they are making plans to travel to Novato, Calif., in an attempt to try and change the commission’s action.

The ACCJC commission voted at its June 4-6 meeting to place the South Los Angeles college on probation on the basis of a progress report submitted in 2006 and a visit conducted in March of this year.

College officials said the probation status does not impact students, and the school is still fully accredited by the ACCJC.

According to Jack Daniels, president of Southwest College, the school received a full “no-problem” accreditation renewal in 2006. ACCJC also made four recommendations at that time and gave the two-year institution six commendations, added Gary Colombo of the Los Angeles Community College District (LACCD).

“We’re actually trying to figure out why it (being placed on probation) happened,” Colombo said.
“… There was no indication prior to the announcement of the action that the college was in serious trouble.”

That lack of warning particularly frustrates Daniels, who feels the team that visited the school in the spring basically ignored all the progress that had been made to address their four recommendations.

“Recommendation one was on the non-instructional review. At the time the team came in March, we were in the final throes of completing (implementing a procedure), and it was all given to me in June. This was just a progress visit, and we were making progress.”

The other three recommendations involved student success and retention; a plan for instructional technology; and the school’s relationship with the diverse community it serves, primarily recognizing and reaching out to the Latino population that now lives in the campus’ service area.

Daniels said he spoke with the president of the commission Barbara Beno and sent a statement of errors he felt were committed.

“It seemed what we were putting down looked good, and that they would take that into the commission meeting,” said Daniels of his conversation with Beno.

What frustrates Daniels, Colombo and LACCD Board of Trustee member Angela Reddock most is that the decision to place Southwest on probation bypassed the typical procedure of putting a college on warning status before going right to the probation penalty.

“If you look at the history of the ACCJC, generally if there are concerns, a college is given several warnings and given the opportunity to correct the concerns. Southwest was not given any warnings; they went straight to probation despite the fact that the college had met several of the issues (from 2006), and were well under way to satisfying several others.”

When Daniels, Colombo and the Southwest team arrive at the ACCJC headquarters in Novato, they intend to seek clarification of the commission’s concerns.

“What are the issues the association actually has? … I have to have some understanding of why we went from an institution with no problems and with six commendations onto probation? What happened to the steps in between? I want them to explain that,” said Daniels, who has himself been on accreditation visitation teams.

“We have a strong institution. But when you look at those elements (of the commission’s report), it says something completely different. I need to challenge that, and that’s what I’m doing,” concluded Daniels.