It came as no surprise November 30 when Southwestern College’s superintendent Dr. Raj Chopra announced his resignation, effective the same day. Chopra’s contract was not due to expire until June 2012, but according to a college press release, “The Governing Board and Dr. Chopra have agreed to end that contract approximately 20 months early.”
Chopra will receive the equivalent of six months’ base salary. His salary is $204,000. In addition to his salary, he had an automobile allowance of $1000 a month, an entertainment allowance of $14,000 a year, and a housing allowance of $28,000 a year.
Chopra issued a statement saying he believed “important objectives had been achieved. The College, in spite of unprecedented financial problems at the state level, remains in good financial standing.”
Two new boardmembers, Norma Hernandez and Tim Nader, were elected in November. The rumored reason for Chopra’s resignation was that the new governing board would be able to select a new leader.
Chopra received a lot of criticism in the past year. Under his administrative direction, three faculty members were suspended for two weeks for participating in a student demonstration, classes were cut although sufficient reserve funding was available to maintain them, and publication of the campus newspaper was imperiled.
In January of this year, the college was placed on probation by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.
More recently, Chopra and college vice president Nicholas Alioto have been criticized for holding fundraisers for board incumbents, soliciting funds from contractors who benefited from Proposition R, and spending Southwestern College Foundation monies on questionable and frivolous activities.
When asked if there will be more changes in the administration, Southwestern professor Phillip Lopez said, “More than likely — my guess is yes, but that will be up to the new governing board.”
At the time Southwestern was placed on probation, the Western Association of Schools and Colleges recommended “that the college set a priority of fostering an environment of trust and respect for all employees and students.” Responding to the question about what this resignation will mean for Southwestern’s accreditation efforts, Lopez said, “The thorniest issue is the climate of fear and mistrust. That’s still an open question.”
Southwestern student Robert Corcilius said, “The administration has ignored freedom-of-speech issues, and Chopra has taken raises while classes were being cut.” He believes Chopra’s departure “will affect the college in a positive manner.” But, he expressed reservations about what comes next: “Hopefully we’re not out of the frying pan [and] into the fire with a new administration.”
Pictured: Raj Chopra
Image source: swcboardmustgo.com