Page 1



December 1, 2010 — Vol. 54, Special Edition


Faculty s l controversy : abbatic air due als up to sta in t he te bud get. F protes aculty t pote ntial c uts.


Reorganization I: Chopra cuts unfilled SWC positions reducing the college’s expenses by $500,000. Faculty accuse Chopra of violating state law AB1725, which states that community colleges must “consult collegially” with faculty and take input from them. The SWC Academic Senate, the governing body which represents faculty, pass a resolution to clarify shared governance to Chopra (April 22).

The Southwestern College Sun

the smallest summer program in years.


WeD . all know C

that r hopra came from a different system. He seems to be trying to run Southwestern as a K-12. He is autocratic. And when the union tried to say something, he just went ballistic.”

- Quote from former Academic Senator Joan Stroh

Feb. 25

Class Cuts Begin: About 175 classes cut from SWC summer session, representing

Property tax shortfall means SWC is out about $1.15 million short. California faces $13 billion shortfall. SWC classroom seats are at 85 percent enrollment.

Figure: Exc

erpts fr om the which ca n be foun d in Vol .

4.7 lishes a $ Chopra estaby plan, including chnolog , million te upgrades software e v ti a tr la ment p n adminis r replace te u p m o c nishment. a 3,000 ture reple c u tr s a and infr

printer refuses to print student newspaper because of a track record of unpaid invoices. Adviser learns Alioto had not paid invoices. Sun misses printing of one issue.


More Class Cuts:

10 percent cut to operating budget for each of SWC’s eight educational departments.

First Evaluation: Chopra

five days later, he calls us and he said,

There are 400,000 other people and

how many people in this difficult

you are going to have to go and talk to them about what attitude they have

Continued from Page 1

staff) not get their step increase or

“I’m not coming. I’m going someplace else because I got a better offer, $35,000 more than what you guys are paying me.’ So what I am saying to you...the board’s logic has been

their column increase?

that my salary has so much out of

believe you. your world exist like a

kilt and all the other employees have

frog in a valve.

been getting it, and

of these people you talk with these

financial time have lost their job?

receives a passing grade from the college’s governing board on his evaluation and accepts a 7.9 percent raise, totaling nearly $15,000, to the chagrin of faculty and staff. Governing board says the raise was justified to bring Chopra salary up to the average salary of local superintendents.

employees at

The sooner

we can replace the current Superintendent-President and the board members who lack vision and the willingness to work collegially with faculty, stage and students, the better our chances to preserve our college.”

- Quote from Anonymous Faculty Survey

SWC had been laid off Did the (faculty and

A step increase can be 4 to 5 percent. Everybody got all those increases in July of this year, or August this, except one person, that’s me. So the board, as a result of their evaluation, they came to the conclusion, that first off that my salary was among the lower in

other chancellors, my salary was

FALL 2008

the lowest.


Class Cuts: Extremely limited summer class offerings. ASO President Chris DeBauche leads a successful effort to prevent cancelation of summer school. He is assisted by Dean Dr. Cidhinnia Torres Campos, who is terminated by Chopra a few months later.

the district concedes to leave the link, contingent on a study of website users.

FALL 2010

sUMMER 2010

February SWC on Probation: Western Association of Schools and College’s (WASC) places SWC

(right) Geo Alva protests class cuts.

November GB Meeting: Students, faculty

on probation for first time in its 50-year history. College is given two years to fix 10 serious administrative deficiencies the commission finds. SWC has until March 2011 to establish a “culture of trust.”

and community continue to bombard governing board with complaints about class cuts. Board gives no response.

Recall Attempt: Faculty members take leadership roles in a community-wide movement to recall the governing board majority. SWC in the media spotlight: SWC subject of national media coverage after professors barred from campus. “Higher Education” magazine calls Chopra a “coward.” ACLU and the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) descend on SWC and declare its “free speech area” unconstitutional.

Sun p

Police come to arrest adviser and students: Under Alioto’s orders, four armed campus

ra’s ward chop march to students

Janet Mazza


Phil Lopez,

ss cuts. otest of cla office in pr

Rally against class cuts: About 300 students rally against class cuts in the college’s free speech area, then 100 march on Chopra’s office. Police block protesters. No arrests are made in the 15 minute standoff. Oct.22

Dinorah Gua

ew ez ar


d ernan rma H . d No n er an ectio Tim Nadating their el r celeb


Class cut s on t than 30 0 faculty he way: More a protest 26 percen nd students slated t class for spr cut ing sem speaker ester. A s fill bo ngry a rdroom Hundreds to capa are for city. ced to the mee listen t ting ou o t s ide. Dis that it trict ar funds m g u e o s re clas state is ses tha funding n t h e , but so of the s are the tate’s c rest ommunit y colle ges. CSEA “silenced”: Chopra’s new discipline and dismissal policy for classified employees approved by board. The classified union calls it an attempt to “silence” employees.

ed elcom

party to a

Accreditation: Faculty and employees describe a “culture of fear” to the state’s accreditation commission during its week-long visit.


Survey: A community survey conducted by The Sun

gives faculty high marks. Very few could name SWC superintendent.


Elections: Board incumbents Yolanda Salcido and Jorge Dominguez swept from office by union-backed challengers Norma Hernandez and Tim Nader. Terry Valladolid reelected in a nail-biter. Board majority flipped to an anti-Chopra majority.

ever: Dr. Chopra’s f shared 9 0 0 2 g in pr S ion o orial, SWC Sun Edit r decisions includes: eliminatrism, power o ia st of po ior, plag y, growing li ional behav ansparenc unprofess , e c lack of tr an , n es r c an n n gove io fi f at o d ent C Foun mismanagem of the SW n e io th at grabbing, f in o u r t , iniscen of students saga is rem s ’ a e r pr disrespect o o m h d C Dr. More an rdination. oby Dick.” ing a and insubo e novel “M ll vi el aptain chas M c man a crazed by d great Her f. o le g se bein sen e or make ke SWC is it seems li else can se one e that no white whal

Fall 2009

and improving perception.

I think, which I’m sure you have in your possession. They gave their reason and that’s why they adjusted the salary. But let me say this to you, please, quote me. I have no apology to make for my salary, to anyone...

You hear the voices

there is a much larger world than you ever imagine it is.

So you are like the

campus community, you know, that is my attitude.”


Prop R Passes: Chopra plays integral role in getting a $389 million bond passed for contstruction and needed technology updates

An excerpt from both the Kelly’s language and Chopra’s language

year is drawing towards its

close has been filled with the

blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies.’ the

On behalf of Southwest Family, I hope

Even during the dark days 1863 during the Civil War President Lincoln found much for which to be thankful: ‘The of

year that is drawing towards it close has been filled with the

blessing of fruitful fields and healthful skies.’

I hope your

year has seen fruitful fields and healthful skies.”

your own year has seen fruitful fields and healthful skies.”

Raj K. Chopra’s 2008 Thanksgiving message to

Southwest Airlines Chairman and CEO Gary Kelly

campus community


Blackwater Contract: SWC makes agreement with Blackwater Worldwide (Xe) to use its Otay Mesa firing range. While the range is


offered to the college in trade and is located conveniently across the road from the college’s police academy, the agreement draws the ire of community members. After 10 months of public pressure the board withdraws the agreement.

January Corner lot construction begins: Construction begins on the $55 million

San Ysidro HEC unveiled: Satellite campus in San Ysidro is rebuilt for $5.6

corner lot project paid for by bond money

Chopra helped to secure. The project will be home to a new art gallery, cafeteria, wellness center, college police center, culinary arts program, conference rental space, additional parking, new classrooms and administration office space.

million with a capacity for

2,000 students. The building could potentially make

SWC eligible for bonus funding from the state. visers ogram ad pers”: Pr ip D led as e le b b u “Do ector la ir d y r e ll emic rt ga for Acad VP and the a C SW y b g they ers” “double dipp Mark Meadows, implyinb. Their Affairs Dr. twice for the same jo heir t paid ated and are being e is elimin im t d me or e a n s ig e reass d for th e s a e r ial c d is in adversar workloa pawns an s e v ts o c m e y. The that aff lower pa process n io t ia t nego two-year ation. accredit

Theatre students Leroy Benitez and Geo Alva protest class cuts.

Shared Governance: SWC’s Academic Senate passes a second resolution to clarify state law AB1725 that requires the college consult with faculty “collegially” when making campuswide decisions.

No Confidence: Stakeholders on campus vote No Confidence in Chopra and the governing board. Art students march a prop coffin into the superintendent’s office and lay it on the ground.


Reorganization II: Chopra cuts $1.5 million by laying off five employees. • • • • •

But I don’t

people, you think this is the world. There is nothing. One should jump out of the valve and go out there,

press release,

employees is almost identical to one in a letter from Southwest Airlines Chairman and CEO Gary Kelly in the company publication, “Spirit Magazine.” Chopra says it was a miscommunication with his secretary. Chopra also names his newsletter “Spirit.”


I am doing out there

as a spokesperson for this college

this district well, and they said it in a

Even during the dark days 1863 before Civil War, President Lincoln found much for which to be thankful: ‘The

Sun exposes Alioto-builder-board payouts: “Babylon 5” and Spiderman writer J. Michael


about me and what

I have managed




interested in community at large.

Plagiarized: A paragraph of a Thanksgiving e-mail from Chopra to campus


lot builder money flowing into campaign coffers of governing board incumbents seeking re-election.

(l-r) Andrew Rem

later after accepting the position, or

Efficiency at an all-time high. Classes 95 percent full.

Professors suspended:

You (The Sun) are more interested in campus community than you are

become the only board member to disagree with Chopra. Agosto had earlier been named one of San Diego County’s worse elected officials by the San Diego Union Tribune.


Straczynski pays for printing of the first issue of the Sun. Articles expose Alioto’s involvement in corner



accepted the position...Three days

Aguilar takes board seat: Pro-Chopa Governing Board David Agosto loses to challenger Nick Aguilar, who has

police come to the journalism lab to arrest the newspaper adviser and three students the police wanted to question for attempting to take a journalism computer off campus. The adviser refuses to turn over the students and, following a two-and-a-half-hour standoff, the police leave. Police drop the investigation while under investigation themselves by The Watchdog staff of the San Diego Union-Tribune.

Chopra resigns: Three weeks after a pair of “emergency” board meetings, Chopra resigns via e-mail Tuesday afternoon – the day before the two new board members could be sworn in.

And they felt...You know

Trustee Nick Aguilar rint ing ion stop bloc p ed ked aft by SW : The S poli er resu cy t C adm un’s fir rre s i its p hat req cting a rint 20-yenistration t uire e s r a n gov appr r ews ern pape -old ove ing d by r to a “p boa ubli th have rd a adm cati nd f e colle inist on b ge’s orm r o a a tor repr s an rd,” co ation o es f repo entativ d stude nsisting es t nt g rts of h o on. com Sun a at the ne vernmen p prin ly with t th Mead dviser re wspaper t e Su ows prin n an ’ orde fuses to t th d jo ree r no rais u rn edit t to ed m ions alism s one tude with y at nt a Lo p s An rivatel s prin y g e ter. lesarea

Sun link in jeopardy: Alioto orders removal of the Sun’s link from the SWC homepage. After media inquiry,


C receiv e award : SWC n s Muzzle amed o of Am n erica’s 10 wors e violat t ors of the Fir Amendme s t n Jeffersot by Thomas n Cen ter.


Later that evening four faculty members, including former and current SCEA presidents, are put on paid administrative leave and banned from campus.


at that point.)


A history of Chopra at SWC: Money and Politics

al for Fisc zen: VP o r un’s f S s t e n h Sun accou las Alioto freezes t visor of m ad icho Services N nd accuses journalism” audit. The a o s rand account with a “ cooperperating ny nono e o d c h t t o o n tioning dean b er ques and his d n r u e s is v it d a ors to er adm he audit ioto lat t l A d e . t n c io e at he dir . ar that the Sun by Aguil a t rget


Sept. 30

we have new business manager?

the area, you know, if you compare

spring 2010


criticizes governing board for micromanagement and unethical behavior.

sUMMER 2008

Chopra Evaluation II: Faculty, upset that the superintendent’s evaluation includes no faculty input, creates its own survey. Chopra receives an “F” on 87 percent of the responses by the 160 full-time faculty who respond. Three months later governing board votes 4-1 for “full confidence” in Chopra, Aguilar opposed.

VP of Student Services resigns: Greg Sandoval, VP of Student Services,

“While you are looking at, in a I got 7.9 percent raise, $15,000 lousy dollars, why don’t you, at the same time look at

Buyout: Board pays embattled superintendent $100,000 to depart

critical way that

Former Trustee David Agosto on Chopra’s raise

resigns in the midst of a sexual-harassment case .

Grand Jur 52, Issue 1,y report, pg. 6

December 1, 2010 — Vol. 54, Special Edition

In his own words: Chopra on his Raise

We hope he will stay here for many years. This compensation package is the first step to bring Dr. Chopra’s salary and benefits package in line with other community college CEOs.”

Grand Jury report


spring 2008

Unpaid Invoices: Sun

1) Relations hip betwee n Administr ator: In on Trustee and Senior e district, a romantic re Trustee is lationship engaged in with relationsh a ip is ackn a senior administrat or. owledged by both p This arties. 2) Intertwin ed between co Trustee/Administrat mmunity co or relations hip llege distri school dist ct and a lo rict. cal high


The Southwestern College Sun

Nevada Smith, Director of Communication Fernando Poveda, Director of Outreach Elisandra Singh, Web Technologist Silvia Lugo, Communications Coordinator Linda Gilstrap, Director of Development



April 15


experience in higher education. He had served in the K-12 system for 33 years, including schools in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Texas, Kansas and Iowa. When he signed on at SWC he said he had high hopes. “As we look to the future, we must assess how we meet the challenge for preparing developmental courses as continuing waves of ‘under prepared and under achieving’ students come to college,” Chopra said in a 2007 statement. “The most significant answer lies in our psychic stamina, our determinations, and our cohesiveness.” Faculty said they had high hopes in Chopra. In December 2007 he had helped SWC employee unions dodge a health and welfare crisis that may have caused monthly dues to skyrocket. Disillusionment set in, though, about two months later when he reorganized the college without meaningful input. The Academic Senate slapped him with a resolution reminding him of a state law that said he had to consult with them “collegially” while making campus-wide decisions. This was the beginning of what would become a not-so-subtle war between the SWC employees and Chopra. By the next year California and the United States would begin its descent into one of the country’s worst recession since The Great Depression. Property values began to plummet and the state’s deficit began to grow. Chopra made cuts to the only part of the college’s budget that was not locked into employee contracts, which was about 20 percent of the college’s $85 million budget. Summer session 2008 had “dismal” offerings. That fall each of the college’s eight schools cut 10 percent from their operating budgets. Fliers signed by Chopra were posted on office copy machines telling users to conserve paper. Mid-year cuts were expected and 25 faculty sabbaticals were reduced by half. In October 2008 Chopra was praised by the governing board and after a passing performance evaluation he was given a $15,000 raise for “thinking outside the box” and taking on the work of two empty six-figure vice president positions. The raise put Chopra’s $203,391 salary on a par with other local superintendents. He also received a $24,000 housing allowance, health benefits and petty cash. Though he said he would not justify his raise to upset employee unions, he pointed at an 11 percent cost of living adjustment SWC employees had received months earlier and their yearly step and column raises. “[Chopra] Faculty, who h a d r e c e n t l y only knew fought a how to r e d u c t i o n t o shove. The their sabbaticals and who had community personally turned shoved away students due to class cuts, back.” saw the raise as a deal breaker. Editor-in-Chief It would later become a major John Carter talking point The SWC Sun when faculty refused to offer a pay reduction to save classes. Over the next two years more than 40 percent of the college’s classes were cut, including a 26 percent cut in the spring semester of 2010 alone. When Chopra took his seat at SWC he stated that “business as usual would not continue” and it did not. He froze hiring immediately, took on extra work, begun to tackle long-standing liabilities in the college’s pension fund. He claimed to be an integral part in getting a $389 million construction and renovation bond which would allow the college to put to use a acre empty lot in the front of the college that SWC had tried and failed to develop over the last 10 years. He built up the college’s reserves and paid off unfunded liabilities, which allowed the college to receive a good bond rating for the construction. Many faculty leaders said the development was good, they also said it could not come at a worse time because it cost the college needed classes when a community wrecked by high unemployment was most desperate for them. Faculty called the corner lot project Chopra’s legacy. And while Chopra made strides on the financial side of SWC, his heavy-handed leadership style lost him the support of his employees. A series of events in the spring and fall semesters of 2009 caused the faculty and staff to unite and galvanized a year-long campaign to “take the college back” from please see Buyout pg. 3


s uperintenDent -p resiDent anD the and insubordination “ double dippers ” by swC vp for a CademiC a ffairs d r . m ark m eadows , implying...


s uperintenDent -p resiDent anD the and insubordination “ double dippers ” by swC vp for a CademiC a ffairs d r . m ark m eadows , implying...