Like many community colleges, Southwestern College, located in Chula Vista, had to severely cut course offerings in the spring and summer of this year. At a June 2010 press conference, California Community College chancellor Jack Scott said, “Over the past year, about 140,000 students came to community colleges to take classes but were not able to enroll because those classes were not available.”
Despite budget problems, Southwestern’s superintendent/president Raj Chopra hired Trilogy PR using general fund monies for an unknown reason. According to Trilogy’s website, “Southwestern College called on Trilogy PR group’s expertise and contacts to ease media and community pressure during a critical period with a successful crisis management plan implemented by Scott Alevy.”
According to Southwestern College’s April 2010 purchase order, Alevy was paid $2491 for communication services. The purchase order names Chopra as the initiator of the agreement. Aside from being a principal at Trilogy, Alevy serves alongside Chopra on the South County Economic Development Council.
In a March 2009 Union-Tribune Q&A piece, Chopra identified wasteful practices that he was correcting at Southwestern. Among those practices, he mentioned, “Work was being outsourced when personnel from the college could have performed the services.”
Chris Bender is Southwestern’s "chief marketing, communications, and community and government relations officer." When contacted on July 19 to inquire what crisis Southwestern College was experiencing when Trilogy PR was hired and what services were performed, Bender was unable to answer. Bender said he was newly hired during the period in question and was unfamiliar with the situation. When asked in a follow-up email why the college could not handle the matter in-house, he said he would send an update later in the day. That didn’t happen. (On July 21, Southwestern College’s communications VP called to say he was still searching for the requested information.) Bender was hired in March 2010. His salary for the fiscal year 2011 is $95,772.
In an editorial last May, Southwestern College’s student newspaper, the Sun, suggested that money spent on consultants might have been better spent on classes. The editorial stated that the college had spent $99,468 on a pension consultant, $11,500 on a snack-bar consultant, and $122,000 on a technology consultant. Regarding the “snack-bar consultant” and “technology consultant,” the editorial stated, “Both of these consultants seem strange to spend money on since the college already pays a hefty salary to a Director of Food Services and a Director of Computer Systems and Services.”