Roesch defends Chopra, rips Sun in rare interview

Southwestern College’s Governing Board is working together to fix the school’s problems, including strategies to get the college off of probation, said trustee Dr. Jean Roesch in a rare sit down interview in her Coronado home.

Roesch also defended the board’s decision to stick by embattled superintendent Dr. Raj. K Chopra and criticized the Southwestern College Sun student newspaper for “negative rudeness.”

 

Roesch said she was deeply concerned about the school’s wounded reputation and expressed her hopes for a healthy recovery. SWC’s probation is the result of issues that have lingered for a decade, she said, and a “revolving door of campus leadership” was a major reason the college is in trouble with the state.

“The board is there to hire and fire a superintendent,” she said. “The other presidents didn’t work out. Those that didn’t work out totaled four during this current decade.”

 

Board members are taking the probation seriously, Roesch said.

 

“I worry about the future of the college,” she said. “All of this is not affecting me personally, but it is affecting the image of the college in the community. I strive to do my best on the board.”

 

Critics have said Roesch often seems inattentive and lost at board meetings, but she insisted her health is fine. She has endured personal tragedy the past year, she said, including the death of her son and a serious illness suffered by her husband.

 

“I have had a difficult year when I took over the board,” she said. “I lost my son from cancer in December 2008.”

 

Roesch was dismissive of a faculty survey that scorched Chopra as being ineffective, arrogant and non-collaborative. Faculty who completed the survey gave Chopra an F on 87 percent of the questions. Roesch said Chopra is a strong leader and that the sample was too small.

 

“Only 159 surveys were returned,” she said. “Not all of the faculty filled out the evaluation because they did not know Chopra very well and the questions were mostly about him. They didn’t realize until later how critical the evaluation would prove to be.”

 

Roesch expressed disappointment with the Southwestern College Sun, saying the newspaper’s tone was rude and that it fed students false information.

“I am anxious to see more positive things being said in the newspaper,” she said. “We don’t need to continue with this negative rudeness. I’ve never been treated like this. They think they can say anything they want. They have been cruel, disrespectful and I want to see this stopped in board meetings and in the media.”

Student journalists have been too negative, Roesch said.

 

“Scores of negative articles in the Southwestern Sun has stripped the paper of the dignity it once possessed and we want to restore the confidence in the quality of education,” she said. “The quality of the newspaper is indicating the need for better direction from the editors and staff. They have a responsibility to put the college first. The writing needs to be more professional. If they feel they have to write something negative, let them do it with respect.”

It is important to rebuild SWC’s reputation, Roesch said.

 

“It is really a difficult time and we all need to work together,” she said. “Now we have been working together to fix the problems. I want to stay positive and not negative. That is what the board wants. The board has tried to rise above all this and continue to do their jobs. They need the support from the entire college.”