Individuals Voice Concerns Regarding Expiring COVID-19 Mandates

Faculty and classified remain divided on what to do after spring


Screenshot of Sarah Nichols speaking before the Board of Trustees on April 13.

Several classified and faculty members went before the Board of Trustees on April 13 to discuss their views regarding the vaccination and masking requirements that are set to expire after this semester.

Academic Senate Secretary Sarah Nichols spoke before the board regarding her personal position as a physics department faculty member. After reading aloud the college’s mission statement, she spoke on how future COVID-19 variants are expected to be highly transmissible if they become widespread.

“If they are highly communicable variants, that means that anyone who is unmasked and in close proximity to another unmasked person is susceptible,” Nichols said. “In many cases, even if they are fully vaxxed and boosted.”

Due to the nature of her coursework, students would not be able to maintain social distancing and operate the necessary lab equipment.

Nichols also encouraged the board to keep the vaccination and mask requirements going forward and to not be persuaded by short term pressures.

“I know that we’ve had enrollment questions. I know there is a worry that if we continue a vaccine mandate that perhaps some students will be discouraged from taking classes on campus,” she said.

Prior reports have indicated that there has been a significant downward trend, including a 15 percent decrease in credit enrollment due to the pandemic.

“BUT, I have spoken to many many students who only feel safe coming to campus because we have this vaccine requirement in place,” Nichols added.

Pride Center Coordinator Cara Tan also came forward to discuss the results of a poll completed by 29 individuals who use the Pride Center online and in person. With the limitation of only finding out about the meeting an hour before it started, Tan said the response rate was still strong and that she will continue to keep polling students.

Of the 29 responses:

  • 22 students said they strongly agree with keeping the vaccination requirement in place.
  • 13 students said they would feel uncomfortable but would consider coming back if the vaccination requirement was removed.
  • 10 students said they would not come back to campus if the vaccination requirement was removed.

Of the seven qualitative responses:

  • Six were strongly in favor of having a vaccine mandate.
  • The compromise these students came to was:
    • If the vaccination requirement was removed, the masking requirement should stay in place.

Geology and oceanography professor Tania Anders also voiced concerns regarding the potential end of the student vaccine mandate after the spring semester ends.

After agreeing that everyone is concerned about declining enrollment, Anders raised another point.

“We do not have the data to support whether more students are attracted to enroll at Mt. SAC because we offer the safety a vaccine provides us, (although apparently we do have data), or by not requiring a vaccine,” Anders said.

“What we do know is that putting people in harm’s way is not the right approach. We are all happy to support efforts that help with enrollment, but only efforts that do not come with the price of our and others’ health,” she added.

Dance Department Chair Michelle Shear then spoke on how these requirements have impacted her program and how masks impeded beginners from performing at their full capacity.

“As a discipline that embraces both the grace and performance of arts and the athleticism of sports, wearing a mask is challenging,” Shear said. “It obstructs our vision, makes it difficult to breathe, affects our coordination and has limited our performance and artistic expression in the classroom and on stage.”

She offered a different perspective from the previous faculty members.

“We have already been hit with low student enrollment, as we are rebuilding our programs post-pandemic,” Shear added. “Having a mask mandate – when other community colleges are lifting and are following L.A. County guidelines – can be detrimental to our kinesiology, athletic and dance programs.”

California School Employees Association Chapter 262 President Robert Stubbe also provided a personal opinion on the mandates. He clarified his comments were as a classified staff member in the IT department and not in relation to his duties as chapter president.

After recounting how he had a backpack full of protective equipment influenced by his emergency medical technician training, he mentioned that he brought that gear at the outset of the pandemic because there was no reliable data at the time.

“I’m not a fearful person, but I’m a cautious person,” Stubbe said. “Over the last two years, I’ve been tracking the data on this and graphing it out and making decisions based on that data. The current trend is bottoming out.”

He clarified that although the state department of health and Los Angeles County’s numbers do not always align, they do follow the same trend.

He added that wearing a N-95 respirator minimizes the chance of dying of COVID-19, then continued to say that he thought the vaccination requirement was curbing student enrollment when masks can be used as a mitigation measure.

The board, after hearing a lengthy report from the vice presidents of the college, decided to let the resolution expire.

There will be no vaccination requirement for summer.