Southwestern College, a community college outside San Diego, has been under fire since last week's suspension of four faculty members, following a protest that criticized the administration. With professors saying that they are being punished for expressing their views, the college late Monday issued a new statement -- but that statement (while noting that one suspension has been lifted) only further angered the professors. The statement says: "Four faculty members were placed on paid administrative leave on Thursday, October 22, 2009, and three faculty members remain on paid administrative leave at this time, pending the outcome of the investigation. Please understand that no formal charges or allegations have been made against any College faculty member or employee at this time. The student rally held between 11 a.m. and 12 p.m. on October 22, 2009, is not the focus of the investigation. The college is investigating safety and security issues that arose after the approved organized student rally. The college respects, values and is committed to lawful free expression and the student rally provided an opportunity for our students to voice their concerns and to underscore the challenges that all community college students, and community colleges, are experiencing. The college is committed to maintaining a safe environment for our students and staff, which is the focus of the investigation."
College officials did not respond to requests for clarifications on the statement. But Philip Lopez, an English professor who is president of the faculty union, said that the statement only added to the questions about the incident. If the college is now on record as saying that there are no charges or allegations, why is it appropriate to remove faculty members from their classes and ban them from campus, he asked. Lopez said this action violates basic due process rights. "If there are no charges, why were we placed on leave?," he asked. "Rumor? Reputation? Union-busting? Poor personal hygiene?"