The latest at Southwestern College is the sudden resignation of trustee William Stewart, who gave an exclusive interview to the student newspaper, the Sun, on March 1. He told news editor Thomas Baker that he was quitting in protest; he said he is frustrated with the district’s lack of transparency and lack of shared governance.
Stewart, who is a realtor and a professor of philosophy at San Diego City College, was elected in November 2012 and began serving in December; his campaign rhetoric was optimistic. He told the Sun in October, “I think I bring to the board a very student-centric perspective because the questions are: how are the students being served? Is our budget best focused on meeting the needs of our students?”
Barely four months later, in his letter of resignation addressed to the faculty and staff of Southwestern, Stewart wrote:
“I hoped to bring a level of board oversight that was unprecedented in this district…to provide you, the stake holders, with a true sense of assurance that the numbers with which you were provided were real and reliable. I wanted to provide you with a board member that with certainty could tell you that income projections were reflective of most likely case scenarios, and not worst case scenarios, which can lead to significant underestimations in projected funding.
“I wanted to provide you with assurance that the information on our college expenses provided accurate information on real time savings, and did not look artificially inflated due to positions that were on the books but were not filled. In my judgment, such accurate numbers should not be withheld from anyone and certainly should not be withheld from the scrutiny of the board. Such real numbers should be used as the proper framework by which to plan the future and to work with its employees and their bargaining units. It is my opinion that Southwestern has a precious resource in its employees, not dangerous adversaries.”
Last week, faculty members protested to the board that incorrect data was being used to drive the education plan — which in turn is driving the Proposition R facilities plan.
Prior to Stewart’s resignation, a special board meeting — which many fear will pertain to pink slips — was called for March 4
Southwestern articulation officer Veronica Burton commented on Stewart’s resignation and on the state of the campus: “Losing Bill Stewart is very discouraging. He brought a positive perception to the governing board and the overall college. One of the many things I liked about Bill was that he was not a career politician looking for a stepping-stone to the next appointment or seat. He is an honest man who believes in community service and that was his reason for running for the board.
“We have all worked so hard to make positive change and this is a huge setback. We are once again making news because of questionable practices at Southwestern. This further perpetuates the atmosphere of lack of transparency and trust. This is disgraceful and another of many sad days for our campus.”