College Approves Vaccination, Weekly Testing Options For Fall

Taking feedback into account, the board modifies the resolution as requested

Board+President+Jay+Chen+discusses+how+important+this+resolution+is+to+the+safety+of+the+campus+on+Aug.+13.

Joshua Sanchez

Board President Jay Chen discusses how important this resolution is to the safety of the campus on Aug. 13.

Following a passionate four hour meeting on Aug. 11, the board took under an hour on Aug. 13 to give the campus a clear message that they heard faculty concerns.

In continuation of the apology to counselors on Aug. 11, the college returned with a resolution to ease concerns regarding the return to campus by instituting safety measures to keep students and staff safe after the board was alarmed by statistics that Mt. SAC President William Scroggins provided them.

“I’m really troubled – because up to tonight – I thought that all employees were vaccinated. Or substantially all,” Trustee Gary Chow said on Aug. 11. “I’m shocked. I’m stunned.”

Scroggins described other groups on campus as having a “high” vaccination rate on Aug. 11, and he reported that CSEA 262 is at 80 percent, CSEA 651 is at 30 percent and the faculty are at 65 percent. It was also noted that the faculty number is likely higher than stated, as the figures were limited to voluntary self-reporting from a group of well over a thousand professionals.

At the prior meeting a number of options were provided:

Enact and encourage a “vaccine passport” of sorts and have students voluntarily submit that data to be attached to their A# for Human Resources.
Have the unvaccinated with a twice a week vaccination site.
Encourage testing every other week, with the plan of having unvaccinated people test to get the campus atmosphere to promote vaccinations.
Promote blood testing and “IgG and IgM rapid testing results” to find antibodies.
Having a voluntary disenrollment on campus for the unvaccinated.

The voluntary drop option could only be enforceable through discipline, which complicated matters of how the campus wants to promote restorative justice.

The board opted instead to combine the vaccine requirement with a weekly testing alternative for those who are not vaccinated. Although the specifics and deadlines are not known at this time, the college is working on providing more details. This much was shown in a new email sent out to students and staff, which was accompanied by updates to the college’s COVID-19 resource page.

The board also, at the request of librarians who would be interfacing with people of questionable vaccination status, redefined “quick” regarding visits on campus for online students and staff (who are not required to test or get vaccinated at the present time) to allow for more restrictions to all visits on campus from that group.

The language was changed to specify a few specific tasks that online students could come to campus for, and provided the administration with enough discretion to limit those types of interactions further.
The final change to the resolution was one that had been requested by several speakers.

The college policy was to follow three agencies and to change course as the guidelines changed, but for extra assurance a few faculty members requested that the college set in place a semester-long mask mandate independent of outside agencies.

This was the last change to the resolution.

Although the amended resolution was approved in one unanimous vote, the path to get there was not easy.

College administration had previously explained the situation as safer than described by the faculty speakers, while acknowledging that there was some risk.

Faculty concerns ranged from wanting more online offerings to follow student demands, desires to keep counseling in a hybrid model, fears about possibly bringing the coronavirus to work or back home to their families and requests to protect faculty and students better by providing them with PPE and additional equipment.

The requirement of five LHE units being stipulated as for “in person instruction” had also led to an 80-20 percent breakdown of “in person” to online classes, which did not track with enrollment figures.

Of these issues, the college has sent out emails to faculty asking which “in person” classes they think would best transition online and have spoken of changing the requirement to let SPOT certified teachers teach more online. The counseling department issue is to be renegotiated in a side letter, but has Scroggins’ commitment to working with the Faculty Association, and all classrooms are to receive a small kit of PPE with masks, wipes, hand sanitizer and other essentials.

What is to come of these developments is still unknown at this time, however.

Many faculty are left with the same concerns they shared on Aug. 11, but the actions by the board have been considered a good step by both Faculty Association President Emily Woolery and Academic Senate President Chisa Uyeki.

It is a different response than was initially received on and prior to Aug. 11 when faculty outlined statements similar to this one:

“Like Stacy, I’m also a mother and there are other parents in this department. I am blessed with three beautiful strong young beautiful girls, none who are at the age of vaccination,” counseling faculty Chan Ton told the board on Aug. 11. “I’m concerned about exposing them to the Coronavirus and in turn affecting my elderly parents and students that I encounter.”
The response at that time was that a “breakthrough case” of a vaccinated individual getting COVID-19 after being vaccinated against it would be around 1 in 300,000 cases. The college president added that because of the concept of “viral load,” vaccinated individuals would not have as much virus, should they get it, to spread to others.

“The risk is slight,” Scroggins said in assurance.

The Board of Trustees’s approved resolution was planned as an effort to mitigate risk further.

“The easiest solution is that everyone’s vaccinated,” Board President Jay Chen said. “I think that this is happening anyway. We are not ahead of the curve by doing this. LA Community College has done it. So many different colleges have done it. Cal State has done it. UC has done it. We’re actually behind the curve.”