[media-credit name=”Carlos Magana/Staff” align=”alignright” width=”300″][/media-credit]Southwestern College has Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Though incomparable to a war-worn veteran, this college is still haunted by demons of past battles. Muddy trenches and explosive issues have battered this school, wounding many faculty and employees. For the past nine months SWC has fought to regain its accreditation and rid itself of the oppression of incompetent board members, a brutal and bumbling superintendant, and a supplicant administration. Wounds are deep, but it is time to heal.
But even with the promise of a new future ahead, much of the school’s faculty, staff and students seem to be stuck in the shadows of past wrongs, unable to let go.
Jaded and hurt, SWC declares rebirth, promises new beginnings and parades in garments of a false peace. How long will it take this campus and its leadership to realize that there is a difference between claiming to move forward and actually making a conscious decision to heal? Many of the people and businesses that participated in the misdeeds of the old regime are still here, bopping around campus like nothing ever happened.
Putting the painful memories on a shelf where they can be pulled out at a future time when things seem to be going badly again is not moving on. It is merely putting a bandage on an unclean wound and letting it fester.
The “toxic environment” that the Western Association of Schools and Colleges cited SWC for is not just a dust cloud that follows Raj K. Chopra and his cronies around like Pigpen from “Peanuts.” It has settled into the cracks of our spackled walls and still hovers in the air.
Cruelty, freedom of expression violations, corruption, heavy-handedness and betrayal that once dominated this campus are not entirely gone and forgotten. Why are construction firms that tried to buy the governing board election still here? Why is the dishonest auditing firm that worked closely with VP Nicholas Alioto to close down the student newspaper still here? Why was a controversial VP given a dean position in the middle of a hiring process? These and other unanswered questions are left hanging and need resolution.
Survivors of trauma, those living with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, have difficulty perceiving the beauty and peace rising after tragedy when they face constant reminders. With scarring visions of battles from the past, many at SWC still hear the echoes of horror from last year. Some of us are still mourning friends lost to imperiousness and shaking our heads that their talents are now lost to us.
It is essential to battle for ideals worth fighting for, and the Chopra regime needed to be fought and defeated. Freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, freedom to redress your government, fairness, integrity and reputation must always be defended. These principles far outweigh the local and transitory issues of the day.
Wounds can heal. Many have. SWC has an excellent new governing board, protective new freedom of expression and student media policies and procedures, and soon a new president. All constituents on campus are welcomed to become involved in the college’s future, the way it should be.
This college cannot afford to cling to ghosts of the past. It only drains the promise of a sunny future by letting its energy and spirit flow out of open wounds.
Alan Paton, the South African writer who endured the tragedy of apartheid, told his countrymen “When a deep injury is done to us, we never recover until we forgive.” Forgiveness, as South African President Nelson Mandela knew, happens only after there is a process of coming clean and acknowledging misdeeds and injustices. That is the missing step so far at Southwestern.
Finish the housecleaning and do it quickly. A lot of time has been wasted easing out the people who came too close to destroying a 50-year-old institution of higher learning with a rich and diverse history. Finish the job so SWC might truly embrace a new attitude and a renewed way of thinking. Only then can we really move on.