Sunday, January 31, 2010

Cowardice Defined - Southwestern College Governing Board and Raj Chopra's Evaluation

On Thursday evening, January 28, the more and more ill-named Governing Board reached quite possibly its newest low. It held an emergency meeting to let the public know that they were about to begin evaluating Dr. Raj Chopra's job as Chancellor-President of Southwestern College.

The evaluations, of course, would be done behind closed doors - as is right. What's wrong is how the board is doing it. They are shoving through this evaluation to get it done as quickly as possible; it is being treated as an emergency - hence the reason for this sudden meeting.

You see, the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC), are expected to release their accreditation report on SWC tomorrow - Monday, February 1. It is believed by all that the school will be blasted for several failures (most of them rooted in the administration and its inability to work with any non-administration types, i.e. faculty, contract staff, students...)

Go here for more on WASC and the reasons accreditation may be at risk. (From the November 14 Washroom post.)

By ramming Chopra's evaluation through before the accreditation report comes out, the members of the Governing Board who continue to prop him up - Pres. Yolanda Salcido, Vice-Pres Terri Valladolid, and recent President Jean Roesch - are attempting to clear him from having to shoulder any responsibility for WASC's findings. With the evaluation done and complete, they don't have to address any failings that WASC shines a spotlight on, and they, in their warped minds, are in the clear.

As far as I'm concerned these actions have redefined cowardice at the upper echelons of higher education. I'm calling that the Example of Cowardice Number One.

Example of Cowardice Number Two: Raj Chopra's evaluation was actually due in October 09. But whenever board member Nick Aguilar tried to get his evaluation put on the monthly board meetings, it never made it.

Who is the gatekeeper for the agenda? Who decides what goes on it? Raj Chopra does.

Yes, you're reading this right. Raj Chopra was able to prevent the board from evaluating him, simply by not putting Nick Aguilar's request to do so on the agenda. And of course Trustees Salcido, Valladolid, and Roesch stood behind that every time, because he's their boy, yo.

With his evaluation clearly not important enough to have been done for months (I've been told that Trustee Aguilar attempted to put it on the agenda for seven months, but I don't know that for certain), it is an act of gross cowardice to try to sneak one through the goal moments before a report appears that must affect that evaluation.

What was unimportant enough to be blown off for months suddenly becomes an emergency only if Raj Chopra might look bad. That's your Governing Board at work, folks.

Cowardice Example Three: Had the members of the Board who decided to host this charade chosen to, they could have given written notice to the members of the staff, faculty, students, and the public; and given plenty of time for people to respond.

You may now laugh.

Of course they don't want the public, the faculty, and the students to respond. They know how disgusted the lot is with them, and with Dr. Chopra. So instead of doing anything close to "the right thing," they announced the meeting at around 4 p.m. on Wednesday, only about 25 hours before the actual "emergency" meeting was held.

You saw the photo at the top. People simply couldn't come. It was a near-empty room. Many people didn't know, and many others simply couldn't make arrangements. One instructor who did come brought his children. Besides Phil Lopez, the Union President, and Valerie Goodwin-Colbert, the Academic Senate President, there was a mere handful of instructors, two children, and yours truly.

Why, even one member of the Governing Board failed to show up...

Cowardice Example Four: Trustee Terri Valladolid chose not to show up at the public meeting, but according to a witness standing outside the closed-door session, she "slipped in the back door just as it started."

She could do this. She helped set events in motion before the public meeting. When Trustees Aguilar and Jorge Dominguez attempted to slow the process, they were unable to. To do so required a majority of five, and a tie vote of 2-2 does nothing. Valladolid knew this, and she is fully aware of the petition drive to recall her, so she played the coward card.

By not arriving at the public meeting, she has set herself up to deny fast-tracking Raj Chopra's evaluation. She can say, "I didn't vote against Nick and Jorge! I wasn't even there!" Of course she wasn't. She didn't have to be. But she did have to be there to actually discuss the evaluation. So it's no surprise that she had to skulk in the back to take part in this sham she helped create.

Cowardice Example Five: For the first time in known history, the Governing Board has decided to evaluate its Chancellor-President with no input from the faculty. This is quite simply unheard of. Again, this is as egregious as it is because the board members doing this know that the faculty has voted Raj Chopra no-confidence in the past, and because his grasp of leadership continues to slide.

I could go into this much deeper, but someone else has already done so. Please visit our chums at Save Our SWC for much more on this issue - then hurry back!

It also has to be added that the Board has created an evaluation that is impossible to grade. In the words of Trustee Dominguez: "It's all 'I think,' 'I feel,' 'I wish' statements. You should see it."

But we can't. The Board has decided that not only is the evaluation process a closed-door issue, but that the evaluation form is, also.

I asked Trustee Dominguez this: "Is there any way to quantify it?" He answered, "There's no way."

In other words, no matter what they say about Raj Chopra, there is nothing to measure it against; there is no quantifiable data being gathered. It's a series of "I think he's doing okay" statements. This is another egregious decision - and another transparent attempt to prop up his position.

Cowardice Example Six: With the expected sanctions that WASC will likely levy against SWC, it should be expected that the Governing Board and its administration would try to find some way to spin this so it's not entirely negative.

You're going to love this.

After the sham public information meeting, I was told that Our Good Friend Nick Alioto was heard saying - earlier that day - that the members of the faculty wanted those coming sanctions.

Yes. He's claiming that the professors want WASC to levy sanctions against their school and their programs.

I believe this (and I'm on the record before WASC's report is due), that Chopra's administration is going to try to spin his failures, and his administration's failures, as the fault of the faculty. I believe he is so disgustingly desperate to hold onto his job that he would go so far as to do this. He will likely say it was the professors who wanted those sanctions as a way of making him look bad.

He doesn't need the professors to look bad. He's got himself, and Alioto, and his pocket Board members to do that.

Don't be fooled. This will fall on him, but much of the damage will miss him. Board members Salcido, Valladolid, and Roesch will have seen to that. They have twisted and warped the system to shine up a man who will only ever be known for destroying the reputation of a good school. This man, who is so incapable of admitting his errors and faults, that he will attempt to blame his own victimized professors for errors and faults that the accreditation committee will lay at his doorstep.

The public wants Chopra gone. The staff, the faculty, and the students want him gone. Two members of the board want him gone. Only three want him to stay.

This is just another reason why we're going to have to work to force Salcido, Valladolid, and Roesch out of office. This concerned majority can't touch Chopra, but we can touch them.

Recall them. Give them a reason to be cowards. It's no better than they deserve.


  1. Looks like they are already moving to address the issue of the bond rating officially.

  2. Nick, right again!