In the recent 18 months there have been numerous examples of SWC’s institutional capacity becoming restricted, stagnant and, in some cases, losing ground in its ability to serve students and to create and sustain an evolving learning environment that is vibrant and defined with best practices and innovation. The state’s fiscal crisis has been an excuse for reorganization efforts to emerge, however, it is evident that fiscal and operational efficiency and effectiveness are greatly absent from the intentions of the plan that was created by Dr. Chopra and his Cabinet. In fact the outcomes of the recently approved reorganization will have long reaching negative effects on the capacity to fulfill the potential of Southwestern College and to continue to serve the higher educational needs of the residents of southern San Diego County.
The following two examples represent approximately $1 million in funding that has been lost since Dr. Chopra began recklessly restructuring departments without regard to process and shared governance:
Southwestern College Foundation (SWCF)
In February, 2008 the SWC staffing resources that had been assigned to assist the Foundation were eliminated; the ten year old Office of Institutional Advancement was eliminated and with it so was the Chief Advancement Officer, the Foundation Coordinator and the Advancement Specialist positions. While the Coordinator position had been vacant for four to five years, the Advancement Specialist was 100% devoted to serving the Foundation and the Chief Advancement Officer served at 25% capacity. Since staffing resources have been cut from the Foundation, that entity has not held a gala event (which was their primary fundraising event); in fact the Foundation has cancelled two galas and has incurred thousands of dollars in penalties for mismanaging the contract cancellation deadlines with Loews Coronado Resorts.
Gala events that were managed under the purview of Institutional Advancement raised, on average, 200,000 per year;
Institutional Impact: Due to lack of institutional support, the SWCF has not been able to conduct an annual gala event for two years and has lost approximately $400,000 in fundraising dollars. This funding is used to help support the margin of educational excellence that cannot be sustained through the state operating budget of the college. This underwriting for students and faculty has helped to fund a variety of educational experiences such conferences, international education, speaker series, and faculty development and student leadership. Recently, the SWCF has drastically cut back in awarding funding to college projects, students and faculty because the available funding has not been replenished.
Please note that while the economic downturn has negatively affected SWCF’s endowed scholarship assets, the Foundation’s ability to generate liquid funds through special events has been grossly compromised by the District’s decision to take away staff resources from this important fiscal resource that has served the college since 1982.
In 2008 the staffing of the Grants Office had been reduced from three people down to one. The Grants Technician and Admin Secretary I positions were vacated and not replaced. The Director position was eliminated in April 2009 thus closing down the Office of Grants and Development which had been in service of the college for the past 25 years. The past 13 years, under the leadership of the last director of grants and development, this office has secured over $70 million in funding for SWC’s academic programs and services.
Institutional Impact: It is important to note that during the past 18 months many vacant positions have not been filled leaving the respective services to be provided by other programs/staff. This approach to managing the college has often doubled and tripled staff’s workload and has greatly diminished the organization’s infrastructure. This limiting capacity to respond to and sustain newly created programs has been disastrous for faculty to be able to fund innovation and best practices in support of program development. The Grants Office and its comprehensive services acted as a mechanism for faculty and staff to learn about funding opportunities and to have a partner in writing proposals that yielded much needed funds for SWC. As an example of grant opportunities that represent the first round of Federal Stimulus funding as well as state-sponsored economic development funding, the following listing are grants that SWC considered applying for but did not submit applications due to lack of organizational infrastructure to support programming and/or lack of human resources to support the development of grant applications. This listing represents approximately $600,000 in lost funding potential for the college and is a direct reflection of the collapse of well-being for the organization at-large.
- Industry Driven Regional Collaborative funding – State Chancellor’s Office
- Teacher Quality Enhancement Grant – Federal Stimulus funding
- Environmental Protection Brownfield initiatives/community collaborative –Federal Stimulus funding
- Dr. Chopra demonstrates fear-based leadership style that is defined by retaliation and absolute power; heavy-handed management style has demeaned administration and staff and created a culture of fear that results in the destruction of a healthy organization;
- The essence of this approach is contradictory to shared governance;
- While it is prudent to not fill certain key positions during a fiscal crisis, Dr. Chopra/Cabinet have made consistently dangerous decisions regarding collapsing departments and services and creating impossible jobs for staff; the results of this management style is manifested in poor quality of service to students, negative effect to reputation of college, high turnover/burnout and missed opportunities for external funds…some examples:
- Financial Aid backlog,
- Federal Stimulus bill grant funding not being pursued,
- SWC Foundation’s diminished funding capacity.