Southwestern College

Location: Chula Vista, California
Website: http://www.swccd.edu
Type: No Type Yet
Federal Circuit: 9th Circuit

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  • Teachable Moments: Chula Vista campus charged with violating student rights

    May 18, 2010

    The following press release came in Friday from the American Civil Liberties Union via Californians Aware [1]. CalAware is a resource center supporting open government, First Amendment rights, free speech, an active press, and compliance with the Brown Act and the California Public Records Act. ACLU, FIRE: Public College Still Abridging Speech Southwestern College limits free expression on its San Diego campus to a single “free speech patio” and has proposed a new policy that unconstitutionally restricts expression, according to letters released yesterday by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of […]

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  • Southwestern College pushed to the brink by brutal power struggle

    February 7, 2010

    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 […]

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  • Criminal charges possible for professors’ role in protest

    November 5, 2009

    by Staff Editorial 10News San Diego   The president of Southwestern College is facing criticism for placing four professors on paid academic leave following a protest over budget cuts, 10News reported. A hearing with the teacher’s union and the San Diego Community College District was set for Monday, but it was cancelled, amid talk the situation may soon become a criminal matter. The protest was held Thursday on the Southwestern College campus to dispute the college’s decision to cut classes next semester. It was peaceful, and school officials did not dispute that. They say it’s what happened after the rally […]

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  • Professors suspended at Californian college for peacefully protesting outside of “Free Speech Patio

    November 4, 2009

    If speaking your mind about issues facing the college where you teach–or even just joining a group of students doing the same–sounds to you like a reasonable thing for a professor to do, then you might want to stay away from Southwestern College in California. That’s the best conclusion I can draw regarding the situation at Southwestern College (SWC), which has banned three professors from campus and denied them the use of campus e-mail and other resources after they did nothing more than join a group of students who was peacefully protesting against recent budget cutbacks at the college. Making […]

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  • Southwestern College’s New Freedom of Expression Policy Eliminates Unconstitutional ‘Free Speech Patio,’ But Problems Remain

    September 29, 2011

    Nearly two years after three faculty members at California’s Southwestern College (SWC) were suspended from campus for their presence at a peaceful campus demonstration, SWC has finally reformed its unconstitutional free speech policy. SWC’s Freedom of Expression policy previously had confined expression on campus to a tiny “free speech patio.” Both FIRE and the American Civil Liberties Union of San Diego & Imperial Counties (ACLU-SD) submitted comments to SWC over the past two years regarding proposed revisions to the policy, and on September 13, SWC passed a new version of the policy stating that free speech will be subject only […]

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  • New Board Vindicates First Amendment Rights at Southwestern College, Rescinds Punishment for ‘Free Speech Patio’ Protest

    February 23, 2011

    Three faculty members at Southwestern College (SWC) in Chula Vista, California, have had formal reprimands removed from their records, following a vote by the new Governing Board that vindicates their First Amendment rights. Last academic year, the three professors were banned from campus, placed on leave, and formally reprimanded because they had joined with students who had strayed beyond the college’s unconstitutional free speech zone—a single patio. Now that the reprimands have been lifted, Southwestern must complete its revisions of its unconstitutional protest policy as soon as possible. FIRE and the ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties (ACLU-SD) have been working […]

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  • Southwestern College Probation Continues

    February 9, 2011

    Inside Higher Ed noted yesterday that the accrediting body for the California Community Colleges has continued with the probation of Southwestern College. As we wrote here almost exactly a year ago, SWC’s accreditors cited a “culture of fear and intimidation” at SWC, which had thoroughly demoralized the campus. This culture of fear was nowhere better exemplified than in Superintendent/President Raj K. Chopra’s suspension of four faculty members for their mere presence at a student rally. That SWC’s blatant disregard of free speech has played such a significant role in putting its accreditation at risk stands as a warning that should be […]

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  • SPLC Warns College Presidents: Don’t Mess with the First Amendment

    December 7, 2010

    Last week we reported that both Raj K. Chopra of Southwestern College (SWC) and Darrel Hammon of Laramie County Community College (LCCC) abruptly resigned as presidents of their institutions in the midst of First Amendment controversies. We were pleased to see that the steps taken by faculty members and others who thought they were not being treated fairly on campus came to fruition, paving the way for what we hope is a new era of robust free speech at both schools. We hope this is a signal to college presidents everywhere that free speech should be taken very seriously on […]

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  • Spirits Rising at Southwestern College after President Resigns under Free-Speech Cloud

    December 3, 2010

    We reported yesterday that the president of California’s Southwestern College (SWC), Raj K. Chopra, abruptly resigned on November 30 under a cloud of free-speech controversy. His administration shamelessly suspended four faculty members (later reduced to three) for their part in a protest that strayed beyond the school’s unconstitutional “free speech patio,” and then refused either to abolish or to suspend enforcement of the policy, despite numerous letters from FIRE and the ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties warning him that he had subjected SWC to increasingly likely litigation. Following Chopra’s resignation from SWC, Professor Elizabeth Smith captures the spirit of the season in a […]

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  • Embattled Southwestern College President Resigns Under Fire for Free Speech Violations

    December 2, 2010

    The president of California’s Southwestern College (SWC), Raj K. Chopra, abruptly resigned on November 30 under a cloud of free-speech controversy. His administration shamelessly suspended four faculty members (later reduced to three) for their part in a protest that strayed beyond the school’s unconstitutional free speech zone, a small patio area. Then, for more than a year, Chopra refused either to abolish or to suspend enforcement of the “free speech patio” policy, despite numerous letters from FIRE and the ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties warning him that he had subjected SWC to increasingly likely litigation. The Chronicle of […]

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  • Change Has Come to Southwestern College’s Governing Board; Will It Come to Southwestern’s Policies on Expression?

    November 5, 2010

    This week, elections at Southwestern College (SWC) in California brought some change to the composition of the college’s Governing Board. According to the blog Southwestern College Board Must Go!, candidates Norma Hernandez and Tim Nader defeated their respective incumbent opponents, and together with incumbent Nick Aguilar, now give the “pro-student” faction a majority on the Governing Board. This is big news because as the blog’s website argues, the previous Board was responsible for a litany of problems seen at SWC. The website states in pertinent part: SWC’s accreditation is at risk. This Governing Board has caused this. They have created […]

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  • FIRE and ACLU Hammer California’s Southwestern College for ‘Free Speech Patio,’ Unconstitutional Policies

    May 13, 2010

    Southwestern College (SWC) in California limits free expression to a single “free speech patio” in a badly named “Freedom of Expression” policy dating back to 2007. To get a sense of the size of this tiny free speech zone, take a look at this campus map. FIRE and the American Civil Liberties Union of San Diego & Imperial Counties (ACLU-SD) challenged the policy more than six months ago, but the college has failed to produce a new policy that is constitutional. Meanwhile, the “free speech patio” policy remains in force, violating the First Amendment every day, which FIRE pointed out […]

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  • FIRE and ACLU of San Diego: California College’s ‘Free Speech Patio’ Chills Expression

    May 13, 2010

    SAN DIEGO, May 13, 2010—Southwestern College (SWC) limits free expression on its California campus to a single “free speech patio” and has proposed a new policy that unconstitutionally restricts expression, according to letters released today by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) and the American Civil Liberties Union of San Diego & Imperial Counties (ACLU-SD). The deadline for input on the new policy is this Saturday, May 15. “Last fall, Southwestern College suspended four faculty members and banned them from campus for allegedly violating an unconstitutional free speech zone policy,” said FIRE Vice President Robert Shibley. “Despite taking […]

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  • Greg in ‘Huffington Post’ on Southwestern College’s Muzzle Award

    April 14, 2010

    Yesterday, FIRE President Greg Lukianoff posted his “congratulations” to Southwestern College in The Huffington Post, since the college’s achievements in censorship have earned it a 2010 Jefferson Muzzle Award. Though Greg thinks Yale and Bucknell may have been equally worthy candidates, Southwestern College not only banned three professors from campus after their participation in a peaceful protest, but also continues to keep speech restricted to a small “Free Speech Patio.” As Greg writes: Yale, Bucknell, and Southwestern College all need to get back to the fundamentals: our colleges and universities are supposed to be the centers of innovation, debate, and […]

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  • Muzzle Tov, Southwestern College & Your ‘Free Speech Patio’!

    April 13, 2010

    by Greg Lukianoff The Huffington Post   Congratulations to the administration, and President Raj K. Chopra, of Southwestern College (SWC) in Southern California for being awarded a 2010 Jefferson Muzzle Award for achievement in censorship! The “honor” was bestowed by the Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression, which “annually recognizes those who in the preceding year committed some of the more egregious or ridiculous affronts to the First Amendment right of free speech.” In 2009 Southwestern College, as I’ve been covering since November, not only banned three professors from campus after they participated in a peaceful protest, […]

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  • Southwestern College Receives Jefferson ‘Muzzle’ Award for Egregious Censorship

    April 13, 2010

    The Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression has awarded a 2010 “Jefferson Muzzle”—a dubious distinction reserved for “egregious or ridiculous affronts to the First Amendment right of free speech”—to administrators at California’s Southwestern College. The public college earned its Muzzle by “consistently refusing to heed and apply such clear principles of free expression in the governance of an institution of higher learning” in dealing with a peaceful student and faculty protest over budget cuts, going so far as to ban from campus faculty members participating in the protest. As Torch readers know well, FIRE has been extensively […]

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  • ‘Southwestern Sun’ Keeping Heat on SWC Administration

    March 9, 2010

    Despite all the attention focused on the state of affairs at the University of California, San Diego, which languishes under a student media freeze amidst a series of racially charged incidents, FIRE hasn’t forgotten about the serious fight for free speech going on nearby at Southwestern College (SWC). SWC’s students and faculty aren’t forgetting anytime soon, either, as shown most recently by a recent slate of articles in the Southwestern Sun student newspaper. The Sun‘s reporting gives a broad and deep look at the current climate at SWC, reporting on the recent faculty senate survey giving overwhelmingly failing marks to […]

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  • Student Artwork Too ‘Controversial’ for Southwestern College

    March 8, 2010

    The blog Save Our Southwestern College reports that a student at Southwestern College (SWC) in Chula Vista, California, “was prevented from rendering her drawing of the three professors suspended this past October” because “[c]ollege authorities … found it controversial and said that it didn’t relate to the festival’s theme of Women’s History Month.” FIRE is investigating the case. The drawing, given below, portrays three professors who were banned from campus and suspended because they were with students who were protesting beyond the college’s unconstitutional free speech zone. According to Save Our Southwestern College, the student artist said: “The events that happened last October […]

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  • Faculty Survey Gives Southwestern College President an ‘F’

    February 15, 2010

    The hits just keep coming for Southwestern College (SWC) President Raj K. Chopra. First, SWC was placed on probation by its accreditors, who cited among other things a “culture of fear and intimidation” on the Chula Vista, California, campus. Now the results of a Faculty Senate Survey give even more weight to the accreditors’ report, showing a devastating lack of confidence in Chopra by the SWC faculty and giving him failing grades across the board. As Adam wrote here previously, the climate has been deteriorating for some time. The Evaluation Report of the accrediting body is blunt in its assessment: […]

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  • A Scorching Study of Chopra’s Troubled Tenure at Southwestern College

    February 9, 2010

    The nonprofit news site voiceofsandiego.org had an illuminating piece yesterday about the crisis of confidence gripping Southwestern College (SWC) in California, where the suspension of four professors for taking part in a peaceful protest has exacerbated a community already tightly wound by fiscal straits. SWC students Sean Campbell and Lyndsay Winkley, of the Southwestern Sun, also give the best portrait I’ve yet read of the leadership of SWC Superintendent/President Raj K. Chopra, whose blunt style has alienated the college’s faculty and staff and resulted in, among other things, no-confidence votes from three of the college’s main faculty and staff bodies […]

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  • Southwestern College Accreditation in Jeopardy; ‘Culture of Fear and Intimidation’ on Campus

    February 5, 2010

    Earlier this academic year, Southwestern College (SWC) in California banned three professors from campus and put them on administrative leave because they joined with students who took a campus protest outside of SWC’s unconstitutional free speech area—a mere patio (see map)—to a more visible and audible location. Free speech zones such as this one are plainly unconstitutional and have been soundly defeated in court time after time. The professors were reinstated just two days after FIRE intervened in the case. Nevertheless, this case is not over so long as the “free speech patio” remains in place and SWC violates the First Amendment […]

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  • New Video Highlights Free Speech Troubles at Southwestern College

    January 7, 2010

    A short new video from San Diego-area artist Katherine Sweetman offers a nice snapshot of the free speech troubles that have plagued Southwestern College for the last two months, attracting widespread media attention, public outrage, and the intervention of FIRE and the ACLU of San Diego and Imperial Counties. In Sweetman’s video, SWC English Professor and faculty union president Phil Lopez—who taught his first class at Southwestern College in 1973—discusses the October 22 rally that ultimately led to his unjustified suspension, along with three other faculty members: The video is also online at the blog Save our Southwestern College. Torch […]

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  • Is Southwestern College’s Board Going to Take Free Speech Seriously?

    December 8, 2009

    Last week, Peter reported here (reprinted in The Huffington Post) on the latest developments at California’s Southwestern College (SWC), which applied its unconstitutional speech code and even the California Penal Code to ban four (later three) professors from campus after they and many students left the school’s “free speech patio” in order to make their voices heard elsewhere on campus. Among other developments worth knowing about, Peter noted, is an effort to recall five members of SWC’s Board of Governors: As yet another Sun article relates, even the Board of Governors may not be immune from the fallout: a community group has initiated a campaign to recall five of the […]

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  • At Southwestern College, Backlash Against Bullying, Unaccountable Administration

    December 4, 2009

    A batch of articles this week in the Southwestern College (SWC) student newspaper The Sun are further testimony to the turmoil at the California college, where a financial crunch has begotten a full-blown free speech crisis. SWC’s wholly avoidable clash with the First Amendment began on October 22, when a group of students assembled on SWC’s “free speech patio” to protest various class and budget cuts at the college. Yes, it’s as bad as it sounds: this “patio” is the one place for free speech and assembly on campus, and it must be reserved ahead of time. Frustrated by the […]

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  • Southwestern College President Defends Unconstitutional ‘Free Speech Patio’ and Contradicts Himself

    November 20, 2009

    Southwestern College (SWC of Chula Vista, CA) President Raj Chopra defends the school’s utterly indefensible “free speech patio” in a one-sided interview published today in The San Diego Union-Tribune. He says that SWC’s free speech zone is in line with state policy. It’s there so it doesn’t disturb class. I am going to establish a task force, which will look at this existing policy and see where changes need to be made. No state policy, however, calls for SWC’s unreasonable restrictions on campus expression, which relegate free speech on campus to a single patio. As FIRE wrote in our letter […]

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  • FIRE in ‘San Diego Union-Tribune’ on First Amendment Challenges at SWC

    November 12, 2009

    FIRE’s letter to Southwestern College (SWC) President Raj Chopra has drawn the attention of at least one member of the California college’s Governing Board, as Leonel Sanchez reports today in The San Diego Union-Tribune. The article summaries the case this way: What’s Happening: Southwestern College created a national uproar over free speech when it placed four teachers on paid leave [and banned them from campus] while it investigated their roles in an Oct. 22 march to the president’s office. Union officials said three of the four have been reprimanded. What’s next: Two free-speech advocacy groups [FIRE and the ACLU of San Diego] have urged the college to […]

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  • ACLU of San Diego Intervenes in Southwestern College ‘Free Speech Patio’ Case, Seconding FIRE’s Concerns

    November 11, 2009

    David Blair-Loy, Legal Director of the American Civil Liberties Union of San Diego and Imperial Counties, has sent Southwestern College (SWC) President Raj K. Chopra an excellent letter regarding SWC’s failure to uphold its free speech and free assembly responsibilities under the U.S. and California Constitutions and California law. SWC, in Chula Vista, CA, banned three professors from campus and put them on administrative leave after they and a group of students left SWC’s unconstitutional free speech zone and were met by a line of police officers as they approached the courtyard leading to Chopra’s office. Blair-Loy’s letter re-emphasizes and extends […]

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  • Rights in the News: FIRE’s Campaigns in Texas, California, and Georgia Get Results

    November 6, 2009

    FIRE has been working hard to keep Torch readers up to date on the progress of our many cases this week. First and foremost is our case at Tarrant County College (TCC) in Texas, where a federal district court issued a temporary restraining order today prohibiting TCC from censoring an “empty holster” protest to be held next week. Finally, after being prevented from doing so for two years in a row, the TCC members of Students for Concealed Carry on Campus will be able to stage their week-long peaceful protest. News of this victory for free speech comes just a […]

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  • Illustrated Eyewitness Account Backs Up Southwestern Professors’ Stories

    November 6, 2009

    A few days ago, my colleagues and I at FIRE were remarking that campus life has increasingly taken a totalitarian turn this year, with one nonsensical restriction after another and an increasing tendency to engage in Kafkaesque procedures that attempt to manufacture guilt out of innocence. Southwestern College has given us yet another example of this petty totalitarianism by banning three professors from campus because of their supposed incitement of students to express themselves outside of the college’s free speech zone (which is itself not any kind of offense, since Southwestern’s “free speech patio” is blatantly unconstitutional). Thanks to cellphone […]

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  • Southwestern College Professors No Longer Banned, But ‘Free Speech Patio’ Still Violates Constitutional Rights

    November 6, 2009

    FIRE has confirmed that the three Southwestern College (SWC) professors who were banned from campus on October 22 have been allowed back on campus. The professors had been banned and put on administrative leave because they joined with students who took their protest outside of SWC’s unconstitutional free speech area—a mere patio—to a more visible and audible location. The professors were reinstated just two days after FIRE intervened in the case. Nevertheless, this case is not over so long as the “free speech patio” remains in place and SWC violates the First Amendment in both policy and practice.

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  • Greg in ‘Huffington Post’ on Southwestern College

    November 5, 2009

    Greg’s most recent article for The Huffington Post, entitled “Professors Suspended At Californian College for Peacefully Protesting Outside of ‘Free Speech Patio,’” highlights FIRE’s recent struggle with Southwestern College in California. The case, about which we have written a lot this week, deals with the school’s suspension of professors for participating in a peaceful student-run protest about the school’s recent budget cuts. As Greg points out: President Chopra needs to understand that dissent and protest are signs of a healthy university, not an infirm one, and that limiting free speech to a patio is not only unconstitutional, it is an […]

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  • San Diego’s Channel 10 Covers FIRE’s ‘Free Speech Patio’ Case

    November 5, 2009

    Yesterday evening, San Diego’s Channel 10 covered FIRE’s case at Southwestern College (SWC), which maintains a single “free speech patio”—making the rest of campus effectively a “censorship zone.” Two weeks ago today, a few dozen students and faculty members left the patio after a protest rally in order to have a conversation with the college’s president, Raj Chopra, but they were stopped by police, and that night, the three faculty members (as well as a fourth who was merely passing by) were banned from campus. As Channel 10 reports on 10News.com,   The case is getting a lot of attention, […]

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  • Fear of More Retribution at Southwestern College

    November 4, 2009

    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 […]

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  • Media Picks Up on Insanity at California’s Southwestern College

    November 4, 2009

    FIRE sent a letter yesterday to Superintendent/President Raj K. Chopra of California’s Southwestern College (SWC) over the college’s decision to ban three professors from campus after they did nothing more than join a group of students who were peacefully protesting against recent financial decisions by the college. FIRE has also received reports that campus police have been used to intimidate SWC faculty members and students and that students are being declared guilty of offenses for exercising their constitutional rights on campus. Finally, our letter takes SWC to task for maintaining an absurdly small “free speech zone” as well as an […]

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  • FIRE Intervenes in Case of Professors Suspended at California’s Southwestern College for Assembly Outside of the ‘Free Speech Patio’

    November 3, 2009

    FIRE has written a letter to the Superintendent/President of California’s Southwestern College (SWC), Raj K. Chopra, regarding SWC’s suspension of three faculty members who were with a group of students who strayed beyond SWC’s “free speech area” in order to speak with Chopra after their scheduled protest of various SWC actions. The letter draws attention to the several violations of the speech, assembly, and due process rights of the professors, who were banned from campus and ordered not to use campus e-mail or other campus resources. The letter also analyzes the unconstitutional provisions of SWC’s speech policy. Free speech at SWC is restricted […]

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  • FIRE Letter to Southwestern College Superintendent/President Raj K. Chopra

    November 3, 2009

    November 3, 2009 Dr. Raj K. Chopra, Superintendent/President Southwestern College Office of the Superintendent/President 900 Otay Lakes Road Chula Vista, California 91910 Sent via U.S. Mail and Facsimile (619-421-0346) Dear Superintendent/President Chopra: As you can see from the list of our Directors and Board of Advisors, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) unites civil rights and civil liberties leaders, scholars, journalists, and public intellectuals across the political and ideological spectrum on behalf of liberty, legal equality, freedom of religion, freedom of speech, due process, and academic freedom on America’s college campuses. Our website, www.thefire.org, will give you a […]

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