Andrew Rempt was correcting composition papers at his home when the doorbell rang.
Earlier that day, the Southwestern College English professor had stood with students protesting against class cuts. Now, the college’s human resource director was standing on his doorstep alongside an armed campus police officer. Their message: Rempt and three other professors were banned from campus that night.
Three of them later learned they were being investigated for inciting students and not cooperating with campus police.
The incident enflamed the already volatile relationship between the South Bay community college’s employees and Superintendent Raj K. Chopra. It has been an almost constant battle since Chopra was hired in August 2007, and there is no sign of letting up, even after the state’s accreditation agency put the college on probation on Tuesday.
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.