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.