Student Vaccination Requirement Starts Winter 2022, Remains Controversial

Unions and staff have mixed feelings on how equitable it is to require every student to get vaccinated


Joshua Sanchez

Adult Basic Education Professor Donna Necke spoke passionately at the Mt. SAC Board of Trustees meeting on Oct. 13 about how her students could not just go online with their home life and technological struggles.

The Board of Trustees’ resolution on Aug. 13 which required students to be fully vaccinated in order to attend in-person classes for Winter 2022 and Spring 2022, has caused controversy between faculty and staff members.

After Mt. SAC implemented administrative drops on Oct. 8 for uncleared students, the controversy surrounding the vaccine mandate has led to staff to publicly voice their concerns.

With around 3,500 individuals testing per week, several individuals are concerned about students dropping once the option to test is removed and the effectiveness of taking such an action.

“I encourage you to do more research and reconsider this decision,” Health Fitness Coordinator Karyn “K.C.” Kranz said. “The COVID shots do not prevent transmission of SARS COVID-2, a vaccine mandate will not stop the spread of COVID on campus, therefore it is pointless to mandate it.”

Others stated they wanted to have their voices heard.

“Diversity means to also welcome and celebrate diverse opinions and preferences and that includes creating a supportive environment within Mt. SAC,” Supplemental Instruction Program Coordinator Gizelle Ponzillo added. “Allow students, faculty, managers and classified staff to be offered the saliva test on campus and not have a hard vaccine mandate.”

Should the college choose to not reverse course, those staff members warned of adverse consequences.

“You will lose students, athletes and employees,” Kranz added. “A decision whether or not to get vaccinated should continue to be a personal choice.”

Not every speaker shared negative views towards the vaccine mandate.

“I was a little troubled a few months ago when we received a message from Mt. SAC [that] vaccinations and testing may not be feasible. We are here to teach. It’s our job to educate our students,” Business Administration Department Chair Edwin Estes said. “We have an opportunity to save lives. Student success cannot be achieved if a student is on a ventilator or dead. What we need are vaccinations.”

“I’m here today to urge the board to uphold the plans to require vaccinations for all on campus students starting in the winter term,” astronomy professor Michael Hood said. ”Requiring that everyone on campus be vaccinated is one of the best tools we have as a college to ensure that we can continue teaching in-person classes and meeting the needs of our students.”

This followed discussion from an emergency meeting of the Academic Senate on Oct. 7 to discuss supporting the aforementioned resolution. One widely discussed subject was also the vaccination requirement for students who are planning to attend the upcoming winter session.

While mask mandates are going to continue for the remainder of the fall semester, the new push for the vaccination requirement comes as L.A. County approved a new proof of vaccination health order that went into effect on Oct. 7.

“A vaccine mandate with accommodations will protect those who are most vulnerable and fulfill our duty to the public trust,” art history professor Mary McGuire said on behalf of faculty who had submitted feedback for the vaccine mandate.

Similar to the board meeting, not everyone is in favor of the vaccine mandate and some professors have shared their students’ concerns about receiving their vaccine.

“Many of my students have expressed real fears about receiving the vaccines and have also stated that it’s unfair that Mt. SAC changed the rules on them two weeks prior to the term starting – leaving them with minimal options since online classes filled up quickly and there weren’t many online classes available to them.” Academic Senate Secretary Sarah Nichols read on behalf of counselor Daisy Gutierrez. “Don’t create hurdles for our students by mandating a vaccine that we don’t know is fully effective.”

As the Senate continued to debate about a vaccine mandate, many brought up the issues surrounding the Cleared4 app.

The Senate has voted to continue to use the Cleared4 app, citing that other schools will use the same method to clear students and acknowledging there are issues impacting professors and students in classrooms regarding the clearing students.

Professors had been tasked with checking their rosters daily to check for uncleared and cleared students, creating an impact on uncleared students who were advised to one of five testing locations.

The senate voted to support the board’s vaccine mandate for the winter and spring sessions with testing being required for students and staff who are medically exempt and those who hold deep religious views.

It is up to Mt. SAC’s Board of Trustees to determine whether they will uphold their resolution or modify it based on other considerations.