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Southwestern College president quits Allison K. Sampite | Sat, Dec 04 2010 12:00 PM

President Dr. Raj K. Chopra sent a letter to Southwestern College staff announcing his resignation Tuesday.

Chopra's contract was to expire June 30, 2012.

The news comes eight days before the next governing board meeting with newly-elected members Tim Nader and Norma Hernandez.

In his letter, Chopra said, "I believe some important objectives have been achieved... The college, in spite of unprecedented financial problems at the state level, remains in good financial standing. With the accreditation visit completed this month, construction of the new facilities on the corner lot, the central HVAC and Field House well under way and Proposition AA projects almost completed, it is the right time."

Vice President Nick Alioto will serve as administrator-in-charge until the next governing board meeting Wednesday, Dec. 8. At that time, the incoming board will select the new president.

"Whoever they choose, that person must be able to address the accreditation issue and they must get it fixed," Southwestern College journalism professor and newspaper advisor Max Branscomb said.

In the three and a half years under Chopra's administration, the college has experienced a free speech controversy, budgetary concerns, slashed classes, protests from faculty and students, and questions regarding his administrative leadership. In addition, the campus newspaper said Chopra ordered them to stop printing. Ultimately many feel Chopra and the current governing board are at fault for the college's current accreditation probation status.

Branscomb is a faculty member who's had a tumultuous relationship with Chopra.

"I'm still kind of numb," he said. "It's one of those little moments in the history of the college that people will look back on 50 years from now."

Branscomb said Chopra's resignation was a direct result of Nader and Hernandez coming on board. "Once the election went the way it did, I knew it would be his end," he said. "If he didn't resign he would have been fired."

Hernandez said she expected Chopra would resign in the near future. "One of the things we really need to address is the whole issue of shared governance," she said. "We need to refocus the college's resources to support the students - to give a priority to offering the classes they need."

Branscomb said he hopes the future of the college can be redirected. "I hope we can refocus on academics and get back to teaching and learning, which is what the college is here for," he said. "We've gotten away from that."

According to Chris Bender, spokesman for Southwestern College, Chopra will receive the equivalent of six months' salary or $102,000, which the governing board and Chopra arranged in a written agreement. Monthly payments will be made between Dec. 10, 2010, and May 11, 2010.

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