Faculty Advocate For Uncleared Students

Opinions diverge on whether vaccinations should be mandated for students


Photo Credit: Abraham Navarro/SAC Media

After threats of losing access to in-person classes since Sept. 12, the college sent out emails to faculty members with uncleared students telling them students must be administratively dropped by Oct. 8.

The email, which was verified to have been received on Oct. 7 by at least one faculty member, also offered faculty members the opportunity to provide students with one final warning before this drop. It also included a rough template for faculty to use when notifying the students about this administrative drop.

The Academic Senate held an emergency meeting on Oct. 7 to discuss how the governing body feels about how the mandate that students must be vaccinated or tested weekly for fall changes in the upcoming semesters.

The resolution being debated, which was previously passed on Aug. 13, requires students to be vaccinated in order to attend in person classes for Winter 2022 and Spring 2022. The current testing option would only be extended for religious belief or medical condition going forward.

Some professors have argued in favor of the mandate for the safety of everyone.

“Trust would be completely lost among many of the faculty, most of the faculty perhaps is what I think, if this mandate gets rescinded,“ Art History Professor Mary McGuire said before speaking of potential dangers from rescinding the mandate. “If they see that an institution of higher learning rescinds a mandate to get vaccinated, that sends a message – a big message – that we don’t believe in vaccines.”

Other faculty members, however, do not want to turn away students because they do not want to test or vaccinate.

Adult Basic Education professor Donna Necke had her statement read in by Senator At-Large Emily Versace.

“There is a community that does not trust the government,” Versace said on behalf of Necke. “I think we need to be the beacon for these students.”

Assistant Aquatics Coach Lani Ruh told the Academic Senate that she would lose six players on the women’s water polo team and seven on the men’s water polo team.

Football Head Coach Bob Jastrab even told the Board of Trustees that there are over 10 players on the football team who would leave the team should a vaccination mandate go forward.

Those in favor of the mandate cited feeling safer.
Pride Center Coordinator Melinda Bowen reported that a survey of 15 students in the center yielded unanimous support for the vaccine mandate. Students told Bowen that they were afraid of school getting canceled again and losing the Pride Center as a safe space.

Forensics coach Roger Willis also echoed that although he liked the student focus, that safety of faculty should also be prioritized.

“Sometimes it’s important to think about the safety and working conditions of the faculty,” Willis added. ”We would strongly support, as a department, a vaccine mandate because clearly the current system of Cleared4 isn’t working. We’ve heard comments like that in this meeting here. Moving forward, this is going to be generally a standard for most colleges in California.”

McGuire remained more blunt in her comments.

“This is an anti-educational stance to rescind the vaccine,” McGuire added. “If you’re for education, you should be for the vaccination mandate.”

Outside of the meeting, one other faculty member felt it was not equitable to turn students away for objecting to the upcoming mandate.

Robert Piluso is a vaccinated English professor who supports students having the ability to choose. He was not among the 200 faculty names that pushed for the vaccination and testing mandate for fall although he does support vaccination and testing – just not requiring students to do so.

Piluso told SAC.Media about how much he took from the equity training the college paid for him to attend, and how he is now mindful of marginalized populations and the historical inequities that have happened to such groups.

For a group of around 1,000 possible objectors, he said that many of them may have good reasons and that he wants them to know that he – as a vaccinated professor – wants to serve them. He has been teaching in-person this fall without fear as his students have complied with masking guidelines. He opted against becoming SPOT certified so that he could teach students that were unable to learn online.

“Our job here is to serve the greatest number of students possible,” Piluso added. “I want to serve ten out of ten students. I don’t want to serve nine out of ten students, I want to serve ten out of ten, wherever they come from.”

Another individual in his department said they felt it is difficult to cultivate a sense of community during this time as people are fragmented into camps and views on the subject.

Piluso describes that as a false dilemma of two camps where everyone on campus wants to reach and help as many students as possible but just disagree on the implementation steps along the way.

Despite all of the discussion on campus, the Academic Senate supported the resolution in a 43-3 vote. They will take this resolution in support of the mandate to the Board of Trustees meeting on Oct. 13.