Fear of More Retribution at Southwestern College
November 4, 2009
by Adam Kissel
Yesterday FIRE sent a letter to Southwestern College (SWC) Superintendent/President Raj K. Chopra explaining that SWC not only maintains unconstitutional "free speech zone" (actually, I call it a "free speech patio") and freedom of speech policies, but also applied its policies unconstitutionally when it banned three professors from campus for participating in a protest that strayed beyond the patio. The protesters were met by police who, according to several eyewitness reports, also told protesters that their perfectly legal assembly was "unlawful." That night, the professors were personally handed letters written by Chopra instructing them that they were banned from campus and were not permitted to use campus e-mail or other resources.
Azhar has pointed out the additional coverage that our efforts have brought to the case. After news of FIRE's letter appeared on the protesters' blog, http://saveourswc.blogspot.com/, we learned that some students also have reported being suspended by SWC for doing nothing other than exercising their First Amendment rights.
Of course, FIRE is investigating—and so far, not a scrap of evidence has been produced to suggest that the accused have done anything worse than stray beyond the Free Speech Patio.
We also received this note this morning from a professor who fears for his or her job if his or her name were to be released:
Thank you for taking an interest in the suppression of our right to free speech by Superintendent/President Raj Chopra after a protest at Southwestern College. This is a story that the local news media has not always been interested in hearing. The persuasive and articulate letter you sent Dr. Chopra today brought a sigh of relief to demoralized employees at this college.
Unfortunately, I must ask you not to publish my comments in any shape or form. I don't have tenure, and we aren't out of the woods yet.
Looking forward to the day I can comfortably speak my mind,
The professor subsequently permitted us to reprint the note anonymously. It's looking more and more like Chopra's regime in Chula Vista, California, is one of fear and intimidation, which apparently uses the police and suspensions from campus in order to tame protesting students and faculty who are merely exercising their constitutional rights.