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Thursday, November 5, 2009

Let's Talk About This "Riot" at Southwestern College (An Open Letter to the DA's Office)



To Whom it Does Concern:

Two weeks ago, out of a desire to watch a bit of student activism at work, I went to Southwestern College in Chula Vista. Students were rallying to protest budget cuts. I went, took a few photos with my cell phone, and watched as the students decided to march on the president’s office. He wasn’t there; campus police stopped the students from getting near the office. I took a few more pictures. Three professors – at least one of whom wasn’t even present at the rally – spoke to the police, and were informed that no one would be allowed to pass into the administration area until they (campus police) decided.
Frustrated, the students chanted, asking President Chopra to come out. Not realizing that he wasn’t even present, they remained until another the Dean of Student Services, Mia McClellan, came out and told them they couldn’t be there. She opted not to tell them he wasn’t around. Had she done so, she could have short-circuited their anger quite neatly. She didn’t. Instead, she demanded they leave.

The professors had left the ‘conflict area’ before that, and only watched over their students from the back of the crowd. The only people near the police were students – and none of them did anything more than launch entirely-justifiable questions and complaints at Ms. McClellan.

Apparently fed up with those folks exercising their Right to Assemble, Ms. McClellan told them again to leave. She walked off, leaving it in the hands of the campus police. The police very calmly asked the students to leave – and most did. A few students stayed behind, asking “What would happen if…” and “Why can’t I…” questions. After another few minutes, the crowd drifted away, and even the police went their own way.

I was there. I arrived before at least one of the professors, and remained within a few feet of the police at all times. There was no riot; I saw no conflict.

Two days ago, the administration of the college apparently completed their “investigation” and referred their situation to the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office. They have asked the D.A. to file charges on three professors: SCEA President Phillip Lopez, Andrew Rempt, and Dinorah Guadiana-Costa.
The claim is that the professors:

1. Incited the students to move outside the “free speech area” and to violate SWC policies,

2. Ignored the warnings and directives of the campus police, and

3. Had physical confrontation with the police.

These are bogus charges. None of the professors ever had contact with the police. Had they, I doubt the police would have simply waved them away – which they did. When the police told them that they were not allowed into the administration area to do their jobs, the three of them left. There was frustration in their voices, yes, but I’d not even go so far as to call it anger. Hardly the behavior of police-assaulting rioters, is it?

Furthermore, I was also present at the rally. By happenstance, I was standing near the faculty when one of the students ran over and breathlessly informed them that they were going to march. The professors raised eyebrows and wondered aloud about this decision. A minute or two later, when the students began to march, a few of the faculty followed them – and some simply chose to walk on to their next class.

At no point did any member of the faculty incite this lawful action. The students of SWC chose to do so – and, personally, I applaud their decision to do so. But to claim that any member of the faculty beat the drum to start this action is ludicrous, dishonest, and wrong.

Lastly, I must point out that the SWC police peacefully met the students face-to-face. When one young female student held a sign up in front of one of the officers, he pulled it down and quite reasonably explained that she simply could not block his line of sight; it was unsafe for him to not be able to see. When she had follow-up questions, he patiently explained that his safety and the safety of his fellow officers must be paramount.

I agree with that; as, I suspect does most everyone else – including these professors whom the school has asked you to railroad. Don’t let this happen. Don’t give this administration – an administration which appears to be drifting from unremitting incompetence toward earnest corruption – another tool to attack its faculty. They get enough of that on a daily basis from President Raj K. Chopra.

If you need, I have more details, and I’m happy to put this on the record. My email is nickolasfurr (at) yahoo (dot) com. I thank you.

14 comments:

  1. It does. You should be here for this; it's similiar to living INSIDE a joke. We've got a college pres who is striving for new levels of incompetence, dishonesty, and base chuckleheadedness; a Board that is willing to look bad just to keep paying Raj Chopra (who yes, is Deepak's brother) his oversided salary; and a local press that is split - about 75% of them are acting as journalists should, and the other 25% are so deep in Raj's pocket that they can see how many 100-dollar bills he's carrying.

    Yep, the drama continues. Believe me, I'd be happy to let the drama END. But that won't happen until Raj gets his walking papers.

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  2. LOVE IT Nick...Nothing like a bit of honest rebellion to get the blood circulating on a cold November morning, pinsharp independent witness to events like this is what the internet is all about, great photos , great reporting. Looks like Deepaks bro will have karmic issues to deal with in the next life.
    While we are on the subject of rebellion, my favorite hobby, last night Nov 5th was what is known as Guy Fawkes night (Bonfire night) in the UK. All fireworks and the burning of an effigy of poor old Guido Fawkes (surely the greatest Englishman that ever lived)...who was unfortunately caught red handed trying to blow up the houses of Parliament back in the 1600's..The kids love Nov 5th like Halloween, making a 'guy' from old clothes stuffed with newspapers to throw on the fire...Its not so much a celebration of Guido getting toasted, roasted, tortured and stretched but a reminder that the rebel is alive and well and lives amongst us....thats my story anyway...keep writing those barrels of gunpowder and firing them salvos.

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  3. Thanks, Tom. I wish I knew if anyone in the county government has read this. I suspect someone WILL, but I don't know.

    Brian, I remembered Guy Fawkes Day, believe it or not - not all Americans are ignorant of our friends' and neighbors' customs; just those who tend to vote for AMERICA FIRST YEEHAW! policies. :-)

    You know, Chopra is so hated right now that we could probably find a few thousand people to burn him in effigy. Him being the master of buffoonery he is, though, he'd probably try to have the D.A. file charges for "attempted character assassination."

    Thanks, guys!

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  4. Black is white and white is black. Up is down and down is up. Those and other opposites are what Choppies minions are trying to have all of us believe. WHO DO THEY THINK THEY'RE DEALING WITH?? Why must they prove their stupidity and their dearth
    of personal values over and over again? WE ARE SWC! OUR STUDENTS ARE SWC! Raji and his lackeys will come and go, but we are here to stay in spite of their lies and false accusations. I applaud you Nick for your integrity. Humm...integrity...what a wonderful word!

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  5. Deepak's brother? Yeah, that's right! ...but...from anotha' motha'n anotha' fatha'!

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  6. Chopra, the Governing Board, and even the Union-Tribune are NOT used to have folks disagreeing with them. The best thing that Average Joe and Josephine can do is to KEEP STANDING UP.

    It's clear to everyone who's not blatantly anti-education that the faculty is on the side of right. Keep standing up for what you know to be right.

    Thank you for the comment about my integrity, but everything I learned about integrity I learned from two places - from my parents, and from a few very good teachers.

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  7. And what about Mr. Incommunicado? Why is no one outraged?

    Let's just pretend that he's already looking out his other water-front penthouse in Mombay...he then learns about what's raging in his beloved Kingdom in the SouthWest. Wouldn't any third-rate leader be on the first plane back? second? third? f...!!!

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  8. Normally in these cases, they are required to perform an independent third-party investigation as a basis for disciplinary action. This involves the testimony of not only police officers, attendees of the protest, but also witnesses. This has to be made available for anyone brandishing a Freedom of Information Act request. It's not just for media either. It would be interesting to see what it says.

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  9. Nick--

    You might want to request a copy of the District's independent, third-party investigation. It should be available under the Freedom of Information Act and Public Records policy. It may have been released already to the U-T.

    I'll bet the mortagage that it says something different than your first-person account of the rally and the "riot" afterwards.

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  10. I hereby call ANY investigation the college claims to have done, "crap." It's clear to all and sundry that I was the highest-profile eyewitness there that wasn't a student, member of the faculty, police, or administration.

    My photos have been public record since Day One, and my name is on this blog. NO INVESTIGATION that failed to speak with the members of the faculty or myself was an investigation.

    I'm more curious about the legal ramifications of a patent whitewash on the part of the administration.

    I may try to get a copy. I've already attempted to get something else, but the school refused me.

    Does anyone know the EXACT figures for lawsuits against the school? For some reason, they don't feel like sharing that information with me.

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  11. A link to a copy of the investigator's report is available on the Save Our Southwestern College blog.

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