College President Accused Of Targeting School Paper

A student-run newspaper is upset over recent decisions made by the president of Southwestern College in Chula Vista.

As a part of budget cuts, The Sun newspaper's faculty advisor, Max Branscomb, was not given "reassigned time" this year to advise the paper. Several other professors also lost their reassigned time -- which is paid time given to professors who advise extracurricular activities.

However, Branscomb said the school's president, Dr. Raj Chopra, is punishing him for several critical articles printed in The Sun. Branscomb said he thinks Chopra wants him to quit.

"I think he would like to have a non-tenured person in here that would be more vulnerable to pressure from the president's office," Branscomb said.

10News spoke with Chopra, who said, "What we are doing is being consistent and uniform for all employees in this college."

The Sun published several articles earlier this year about Chopra's school budget cuts, a 7.9 percent pay raise he received, a plagiarism scandal Chopra later apologized for and a vote of no-confidence in his office.

The Sun's editor in chief, Shannon Pagano, said taking away Branscomb's reassigned time "is a pathetic attempt at retaliation ... And it's really pathetic when the administration of a school is more childish then the students that go here."

Chopra denied targeting Branscomb, and said, "I am proud of the newspaper. I am proud of their accomplishments."

Chopra explained taking away the reassigned time from the professors was a part of the overall budget cuts at the college. He added that the move did not violate the faculty's union contract.

Chopra said, "Our interest is not to go out there and punish people who happen to disagree."

Branscomb said, "To try and intimidate the student newspaper is wrong; it's offensive."

The Society of Professional Journalists disagreed with the Branscomb decision and wrote a letter to Chopra asking him to reconsider. They said the critical coverage in The Sun partly played a role in his decision, but Chopra said it did not.

Branscomb said he would continue advising the newspaper on his own time.