Board cancels divisive contract -- Unanimous vote reverses pact with controversial Blackwater/Xe
Southwestern College Sun (2009-10-14) John Carter
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Board cancels divisive contract
Unanimous vote reverses pact with controversial Blackwater/Xe
Issue date: 9/25/09
Blackwater Worldwide found itself in the bull's-eye of public opinion when the SWC Governing Board voted unanimously to cancel a contract with the notorious international security company that has roiled the college in controversy since January.
Protesters and elected officials put immense pressure on the board to rescind a January agreement that allowed SWC police academy cadets to use the Blackwater/Xe shooting range in Otay Mesa in exchange for use of classrooms and other SWC facilities.
Blackwater Worldwide has been the target of intense global criticism for its involvement in the slaying of 17 Iraqi civilians in 2007 and numerous other incidents across the international stage. Blackwater founder Erik Prince has said that he favors the global extermination of Muslims.
Board member Terri Valladolid said Blackwater is not the type of organization a community college should be involved with under the pretense of mutual benefit.
"They [Blackwater] are trying to use the college to clean up their image," she said.
SWC's board voted 5-0 in January to approve the Otay Mesa firing range deal. Following intense demonstrations from faculty, students, community members and Congressman Bob Filner, (D-Chula Vista), Valladolid changed her mind and asked the board to reconsider. Other board members agreed to reexamine the pact in the wake of community outrage.
Waynee Lucero, representing Filner, said he has repeatedly stated that it is the board's responsibility to consider the effect the contract could have on the college's reputation and urged its elimination. Filner called Blackwater "mercenaries" and "killers for hire."
Superintendent Dr. Raj. K. Chopra, who approved the deal with Blackwater, said the college was exploring other options for the police academy. SWC is currently in talks with the County of San Diego to secure an agreement to resume use of the sheriff's firing range in Mira Mesa.
Filner has said Blackwater was trying to establish itself in the South County to work on acquiring a Homeland Security contract.
Board member Yolanda Salcido said she was concerned with the efficiency of the police academy program, but that "traveling to Miramar is not an inconvenience."
"I had to do the same thing," said Salcido.
Ray Lutz of Citizens' Oversight Projects Committee (COPs) led monthly protests against the Blackwater pact.
"The idea that the board can't find another site is bogus," he said.
San Diego County Sheriff William D. Gore had extended offers to solve the shooting range problem, Lutz said, but was ignored by Chopra and the board.
"Blackwater targets the weak and inept and tries to take advantage of them," said Lutz.