Thursday, November 26, 2009

Note to the Parents of Southwestern College Students (Something to Think About Over the Thanksgiving Weekend)

This is addressed solely to those people who have children attending Southwestern College. I know some of you read this regularly. I also know some of your kids will make you read it (at least this one post).

...Sorry about that.

In the past few weeks, I've had a couple of conversations with parents who have children going to school there. In each case, the parents say they know their students have told them about the troubles at the school. But they've also heard - usually by reading the San Diego Union-Tribune, it must be noted - that President Raj K. Chopra denies these charges levied against him by the students and faculty members.

Just this week, I spoke with a man who is a respected member of the community. He told me that his child had told him about President Chopra's continued attempts to quell free speech, and about the student protest that Chopra dishonestly referred to as a "riot" that was inspired by several members of the teaching staff.

This man (who is, yes, remaining nameless) reported that it is hard to justify what his child told him with what Dr. Chopra continues to say, again and again and again.

He didn't say why, but I suppose I can understand. It is in a child's nature to lie to his or her parents. "No, I didn't break the window. No, I didn't take the car out. Yes, I did my homework."

As such, it's in a parent's nature to take what a child tells them with a grain of salt.

On the other hand, one expects people in authority to be honest. We expect that the president of the college the child attends to be honest. We need him to be honest.

Your son or daughter has likely told you that the students held a rally to protest budget cuts, and then decided to march on the president's office to be heard. They will tell you they (the students) met the police, spoke with them, and after half an hour or so, went their own way. No one was arrested, no one was harmed, and no one assaulted anyone in uniform.

Raj Chopra has said that members of the teaching staff incited a riot, by going on the microphone and urging the students to march. He has said that his students followed the professors, attacked the police, and threatened the safety of all and sundry on the campus. In fact, here he states (and I quote): "Then there was a faculty member who went on the microphone and said they should march with the students and incited them."

Parents, understand, that is not true.

Again, as I have said here and here, and in other places, I was present at the students' protest, and at the administration building when the police stopped the march. At no point did the professors incite the students to do anything, and at no point was there a riot.

I am no young student. I am a middle-aged man likely older than many of you parents reading this. I know some of you have wondered if what your children have told you is true, and I know that many of you assume that if the college president says it, it must be true.

Please stop. Raj Chopra has been dishonest about this situation from the beginning, and now he has no choice but to continue to do so. He has to continue to call this a riot, and to blame the professors, because if he admits to any of it being a lie, then his entire house of cards tumbles. He has more to lose than anyone - his position, his power, his pension, and his local prestige. Of course he'll do anything to keep that.

As SWC president, he has a voice in the media that no one else has. He is able to simply make a statement and to some members of the press (the Union-Tribune, for instance), it is true. For some readers, because it's in print, it's automatically true.

It's not. Listen to your children. They may likely tell you something different than the newspaper has. Listen. Because they're right.


  1. Hey Nick,

    Up till now I thought you were 100% on the mark, but now I'm going to disagree--just a little. Not all kids lie to their parents. Not all parents go on thinking their kids are pulling a fast one. However, everything else on your entry is true. Thank you for your committment to fairness and justice and rooting for the underdog--just be careful of how you present your argument.

  2. I am perfectly happy to have someone disagree with me about this - it's a good sign that not all is lost. :-)

    Actually, I don't REALLY believe that all kids lie, any more than I believe that all parents disbelieve them. What I DO believe is that it makes it easier to frame an impassioned plea to the 95% of the families where these things ARE true, if one just sort of addresses it to everyone.

    So, don't call it cynicism, but I'll admit to making a blanket statement to get your attention.