Pasadena City College placed on probation following accreditation review

Pasadena City College has been placed on probation by the panel that decides on accreditation for community colleges.
Pasadena City College has been placed on probation by the panel that decides on accreditation for community colleges.
David Mayerhofer/Flickr Creative Commons

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After visiting the campus in March, the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges found significant problems with how Pasadena City College is run and has now placed it on probation.

The shortcomings were not serious enough to shut down the campus.

“Well, we still have our accreditation. That’s very clear,” said Pasadena City College Trustee Ross Selvidge on Friday. There are no problems with PCC’s academic quality, he asserted.

“But what they pointed out is, you need to [do] better in these specific areas, and we need to make sure that we do.”

The commission said PCC must improve employee evaluations, fill open administrator jobs, and give employees a say in their professional development.

PCC and commission officials said students applying to four-year universities won’t be affected. Although the college is on probation, it remains fully accredited, said PCC President Rajen Vurdien, who stepped into the job this month.

“The college is ranked number one in most areas. Instruction is excellent,” said Vurdien.

But the accreditation commission has said the deficiencies found during the inspection will eventually affect both academic quality and the students.

“Deficiencies in institutional policies, procedures, practices and outcomes which lead to noncompliance with any standards will impact quality at an institution, and ultimately the educational environment and experiences of students,” Commission President Barbara Beno wrote in a June letter to PCC’s previous president.

The commission told PCC it must submit a report by Oct. 1, 2016 detailing what it's done to fix the problems. Afterward, the commission will schedule a follow-up inspection.

Pasadena City College had been beset by internal conflict between its faculty and the former campus president, Mark Rocha. Those tensions led to faculty protests and votes of no-confidence in Rocha.

Rocha stepped down last year at the end of August. Remarks made about him by Trustee Selvidge in a Los Angeles Times story led to concerns he could sue. The mediation that followed left him with a retirement payment of about $400,000, the Times reported in April. 

Despite college leaders' assurances, some students believe PCC's probation is a black eye for their institution.

Anthropology student Marshall Lewis said he is happy with the quality of education he received in the last three years. However, the administrative conflicts hurt the learning environment because “our professors are forced to endure poor working environments and it shows,” he said in an email.

Vurdien said he plans to call a meeting with faculty and staff as soon as the fall semester begins.

Disclosure: KPCC is operated independently by Southern California Public Radio under a public-service operating agreement with the Pasadena City College District.

This story has been updated.