Revelations of searches conducted by the San Diego District Attorney on the homes of two former college administrators and the contents of the search warrants released a few days later were startling and unnerving. The effect on our community has been profound.
Southwestern College’s governing board and administration will continue to extend its full support and cooperation to the District Attorney’s office as this investigation runs its course. The college governing board began communicating with the District Attorney in March of this year when concerns about contract procurement were first brought to our attention. In April, the board directed the college’s legal counsel to hire an independent forensic auditor to investigate the concerns and to work with the district attorney. The auditor was asked to look into two areas, construction contracts and the Southwestern College Educational Foundation. We expect to receive the first portion of the report related to construct contracts this first week of January, and the portion focusing on the Foundation later in the same month.
All findings will be shared with the District Attorney and released to the public.
Since December 2010, when a new board majority assumed the helm of Southwestern College, board members and staff have been evaluating district policies related to contracting, election conduct and ethics. Dozens of policies have been rewritten and updated to strengthen them and close loopholes. The “pay for play” era at Southwestern College is over. The current board is fully committed to developing a college culture that is transparent, community-oriented, responsible to our taxpayers and a paragon of ethical behavior. We will tolerate nothing less.
We would like to assure our community that on January 9 Southwestern College will be open for business and rededicated to its primary mission, which is to serve our students and elevate our community. Nothing that has happened this December will have any effect on our strong academics and award-winning programs. Our faculty, counselors, staff and administration are standing by to welcome back our community’s richly diverse scholars and to serve as conduits to their dreams.
Southwestern College is the only institution of higher education in our region, serving five cities and several unincorporated communities. Perched on the edge of the Pacific Rim and the international border, SWC is an inspiring blend of citizens of the world who come in search of the skills and knowledge they need to achieve their personal version of The American Dream. We continue to have excellent programs in nursing, law enforcement, journalism, biotechnology, chemistry, visual and performing arts, international languages, fire sciences, political science and many more.
Southwestern is home to the world’s best collegiate mariachi, America’s #1 ranked community college newspaper, a nationally-ranked debate team, a state champion cross country team, an acclaimed dental hygiene program and top-tier programs in STEM education, to name just a few signature programs. We are America’s #1 college for Latino degree earners and transfer students.
Southwestern College has already demonstrated its resilience and its devotion to its students. Earlier this year our faculty, staff, administration and community worked together for months to help the college regain its full accreditation and receive an excellent evaluation from our accreditation body. Our administration and employees have a productive and professional working relationship that is inspiring and has allowed the college to weather the very difficult economic times all higher education is facing. We have kept our focus — and our resources — directed toward our students.
Southwestern College will likely be in the news again in the weeks and months ahead as the District Attorney’s investigation continues and runs its course. We will work with investigators in any way we are asked to until this chapter of our history is behind us. In the meantime, our talented faculty and dedicated staff are free to continue to do what they do so well, educating our community’s college students and building a better future for our region.