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Southwestern College Superintendent Raj Chopra Resigns

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

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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

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Comments
12

More than anything, I am relieved. We have been working under an oppressive, heavy-handed, power-hungry autocrat. Now he is leaving. (He probably shouldn't leave town, though. He should be a "person of interest" to the DA's office shortly, now.) When the e-mail announcing his resignation was sent, you could hear the collective cheer over our campus..."Ding-dong, the witch is dead, the witch is dead, the witch is dead!". Yes, I felt like a happy Munchkin in Oz, right down to the "happy-dance". I am hopeful for the future of Southwestern College!

Dec. 2, 2010

Yippee!

Now its time to get rid of their old broom and get a new one that will sweep clean all the "Monkey Business" that still remains.

Perhaps now the Faculty, Staff and Students will join together to support real change in SWC's administration by starting to speak out about what remains to be "Fixed" or "Un-Fixed", depending upon whose side of the money you are no ...

BTW: SWC's employee's should award Susan with a Freedom of Information plaque for coming to SWC's aid in a time of dire need; without her stories they all would still be twiddling under Raj Chopra's thumb!

Dec. 2, 2010

Chopra is gone and hopefully more “resignations” will follow, finally putting an end to ALL of the corruption at the school. The new school board now has the opportunity to make some necessary changes. Here are a few to consider: Giving the college president $14,000 for “entertainment” invites corruption. All college business should be conducted at the college, not at restaurants, bars or wherever. As far as the $12,000 automobile allowance goes, do away with it. The IRS already allows a tax break for legitimate business related travel. Giving $28,000 towards the president’s rent is ridiculous. Housing allowances for military personnel who don’t make much money might be appropriate, but for someone making more than most of the country’s state governors, it isn’t. It’s time to reform the role and the salaries of community college presidents. I would suggest they earn what the highest paid teacher at the college does, and like everyone else, figure out how to survive. It just might make for a more community-minded college president.

Dec. 2, 2010

piledhigheranddeeper, Change is good. And it does say something about how a candidate, or an incumbent, can the stack the deck with money, yet not win. I agree, too, there is more to be done. Ethics....

Dec. 2, 2010

Founder, yes...what remains to be fixed....Thank you for your excessive :-) comment...

I think change has been a community, in the broadest sense of the word, effort.

Dec. 2, 2010

Susan

You deserve that complement and more because you have exposed the $WC rip off of it's Students, Faculty, Staff to the Taxpayers that have been footing the bill for all this WA$TE...

I'd like to see a "Road Map to Recovery" as the first order of SWC Board Business that makes getting the accreditation problems solved as Job #1 and if any of the old Board are dragging their feet then someone ought to sue them for dereliction of duty on the behalf of the all the students that will end up losing credits and educational time invested. + What is now happening with the SWC newspaper?

Dec. 3, 2010

I would like to see the departure of the arrogant Nicholas Alioto, CPA, Chris Bender for the next step. Then clean out the Foundation of the likes of Dan Hom and J.R. Chantengo and turn it into what it is supposed be - support for the students.

Dec. 2, 2010

Hopefully for SWC, the two-year last-chance WASC probation period is measured from the January 2010 letter referenced in your article.

I based my earlier estimate on August-October 2011 as the end of the two-year probationary period on the August 2009 publication of the WASC junior college committee report that stated Southwestern College was on accreditation probation almost half a year before the January 2010 WASC letter was sent to the College. The August 2009 report was what would have been available to perspective students preparing to enroll for the Fall 2009 semester.

In the updated WASC junior college list published in August 2010, I count perhaps 8-10 institutions on accreditation probation, with SWC leading the pack as to time on probation since publication of the previous August 2009 list.

http://www.accjc.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/accjc_directory_of_accredited_institutions_august_2009.pdf

In any case per the January 2010 WASC action letter to SWC, the last part of SWC's responses to WASC's recommendations for coming into accreditation compliance is still due in March 2011, only three months away... including holidays and vacations when no SWC accreditation committee work can be done.

Dec. 3, 2010

Another great factual post, Thanks.

Less than 90 days to No Accreditation...

Maybe someone can get SWC's Board to share their game plan, although I seriously doubt they even have one as of today!

Q. What does SWC need to do to regain it's accreditation? ...A. Allow more student freedom of speech. ...B. Allow Faculty more freedom of speech. ...C. Allow the Staff more freedom of speech. ...D. Add 2 students to the SWC Board. ...E. All the above.

One thing is for sure, building more Buildings is NOT THE ANSWER...

Dec. 3, 2010

A2Z, Founder is right, that is a great factual post. Some campuses were On Warning as opposed to Probation, I'm assuming that is a step before probation? I could count the list, but perhaps you know how many colleges are in the system? Thanks for the valuable fact finding.

Dec. 3, 2010

To the best of my knowledge, there are about 110 California community colleges, which are only part of the WASC junior college list for all western states...

We can look at WASC acceptance of individual college accreditation self-studies in this manner:

  1. No recommendations for improved compliance. This means that the campus aced it; there's nothing to do to be in better compliance with WASC accreditation standards. Gold Star!

  2. WASC numbered recommendations to be met by the end of the current accreditation cycle. This means that some standards are not fully met, which is what most campuses hear back from WASC. The successful campus concentrates during the five-year accreditation cycle on meeting each of the specified recommendations and makes adjustments to campus administration to reflect those considered recommendations. Accreditation is automatically extended for the campus to address the enumerated recommendations. Silver Candle Stand.

  3. WARNING. This means that previous recommendations from 5-10 years ago were not addressed in ways that brought the campus into WASC compliance, and a WARNING note gets appended to the full accreditation listing for the campus. Accreditation is automatically extended for the campus to address all remaining unmet enumerated recommendations. Brass Bathroom Fixture, with Tarnish.

  4. PROBATION. This means that somebodies on campus have been asleep through WASC's recommendations from 10-15 years ago, WASC's warning in the last 3-5 years, and a failed WASC site inspection in the last 12 months. A PROBATION note is appended to the campus' full accreditation listing. TIME TO GET DAMN BUSY, as accreditation is extended ONE LAST TIME for no more than two years. At the end of probation, if ALL recommendations have not been met, then US Department of Education will insist that WASC terminate campus accreditation. NO PROBATION EXTENSION POSSIBLE; NO ACCREDITATION EXTENSION POSSIBLE. Lead Balloon containing Academic Kryptonite and an alarm clock.

The fact that Chopra is out is a big black eye on any SWC attempt to get off of accreditation probation in an effective, timely manner; it speaks volumes about the competency of the SWCCD's governing board to manage the people's money as to community college education in Chula Vista. It's about the same as Lincoln firing Meade before finding Grant as the commanding general of the Union Army in the Civil War... except SWCCD lost some major electoral battles last month instead of winning at Gettysburg.

Dec. 4, 2010

I believe that Chopra was paid off to leave town and he agreed to be used by the $WC Board as their escape goat in exchange for lots of money, which was a great deal for him and it probably kept himself and others out of jail.

Dec. 5, 2010

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