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The controversial president of Southwestern College announced his resignation today, leaving roughly a year and a half before his contract was set to expire. Raj Chopra, whose resignation is effective today, will get the equivalent of six months’ salary, according to a press release issued by the college.

From the release:

“I believe some important objectives have been achieved,” Chopra said. “The College, in spite of unprecedented financial problems at the state level, remains in good financial standing.”

To understand what Chopra meant to the school, read this terrific piece written by Southwestern College students and voiceofsandiego.org contributors Sean Campbell and Lyndsay Winkley earlier this year. It explains why Chopra was so controversial, calling it “an almost constant battle since Chopra was hired in August 2007.”

The president has acted unilaterally to enact massive budget cuts in the face of deep financial troubles, breaking course with previous administrations who involved faculty in decision-making. Now, three pro-Chopra board members are facing a recall, faculty is complaining of a culture of fear and California’s college accreditation commission is threatening to shut the whole place down if the campus environment does not change.

The blunt and confrontational Chopra has a long history of turning around troubled districts and educational systems — and of igniting brutal labor clashes. And he’s drawn more scrutiny here for accepting a pay increase while laying off long-time employees, cutting classes and for apparently boosting a paragraph from Southwest Airlines’ CEO in his Thanksgiving letter to employees.

Hundreds of college employees have united against Chopra and are taking out their frustrations on three members of the Southwestern board. In the crosshairs are trustees Jean Roesch, Terry Valladolid and Yolanda Salcido.

Salcido lost her spot on the board in the November elections; Valladolid kept hers and a third trustee, Jorge Dominguez, lost his spot as well. The press release from Southwestern College said that Chopra stepping down would allow the new board, which comes in next month, to choose a new leader.

Please contact Emily Alpert directly at emily.alpert@voiceofsandiego.org or 619.550.5665 and follow her on Twitter: twitter.com/emilyschoolsyou.

Emily Alpert

Emily Alpert was formerly the education reporter for Voice of San Diego.

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