Community college students, staff discuss vaccine mandate management


Ventura County Community College District students and staff expressed frustration and anger over handling a COVID-19 vaccine mandate at Tuesday’s board meeting.

The feeling comes as the district has stepped back in fully implementing the mandate. Speakers’ opinions were mixed, but they took district leaders to task, whether they supported or disapproved of the mandate.

The majority of around 30 speakers – from Oxnard, Ventura and mostly colleges in Moorpark – addressed the term. 50 other written comments were submitted on the matter.

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In August, administrators approved a vaccination mandate, which would have ensured that only verified vaccinated students and employees would be allowed in person at district facilities. The deadline was originally set for Friday.

At a board meeting on September 14, trustees gave district staff the flexibility to adjust the terms of reference as needed.

The district announced last week that it would allow students and employees to be vaccinated or tested for COVID-19 twice a week in order to attend classes in person. School leaders have expressed concerns that students have to withdraw from their classes during the semester.

Some details of the tests were still being worked out on Tuesday with shortly before the Friday deadline, especially if students could test off campus.

For the spring semester, however, only verified vaccinated students and employees will be allowed in person on campuses. Exemptions will be available, but all other unvaccinated students will need to register for online courses to continue their courses.

Unvaccinated employees will not receive spring schooling, Chancellor Greg Gillespie said on Tuesday.

The verified vaccination rate among employees and students was around 60% at Oxnard College, 65% at Ventura College and 70% at Moorpark College, Gillespie said.

Mixed reaction

About two-thirds of written comments on the warrant were in favor of retaining a COVID-19 testing option for unvaccinated people in colleges, Gillespie said. Others supported the immediate start of the mandate rather than postponing it until spring.

Brendan Purdy, a math professor at Moorpark College, called the tenure immoral.

“It takes away our autonomy to make the best medical choice for ourselves and our right to keep this decision private,” said Purdy, whose comments were echoed by several other speakers.

He said the warrant “attempts the impossible to eradicate the risk of contracting COVID at the expense of medical and religious freedoms.”

Chemistry professor Tiffany Pawluk, who teaches at Moorpark College, explained that even though the district tells students to register for online classes after the term goes into effect, they don’t always have the option to do so. to do. Many math and science classes are taught in person, Pawluk said.

Moorpark student David Katz said he was concerned about how the online format is particularly affecting science, technology, engineering and math classes, known as STEM.

“With a STEM class, it’s more crucial to have peer-assisted learning and to have the teachers in front of you to help you,” said Katz, who is a math graduate. He explained that the mandate would restrict opportunities and learning for unvaccinated people.

Sandy Bryant, professor of microbiology and physiology at Moorpark, explained how contagious the delta variant is and that the current option of testing COVID-19 is not viable. He said that while it may reduce the number of affected students coming to campus, it does not replace the need for vaccination.

Moorpark anthropology professor Rachel Messinger was also against the option of testing and in favor of the immediate implementation of the mandate.

We are educators, she said, adding, “If we don’t stand up for facts and science, who is going to stand up for it?

“Yes, you have the right to do whatever you want with your body, but you are not allowed to infect another person in the same way that you are not allowed to drive while intoxicated. and injure or kill another person. ” she said.

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Erin Lawley, a health and physical education teacher and softball coach at Oxnard College, spoke out against the disrespect the district has shown in communicating with its students and employees. In March of last year, she learned from her softball players that the district was getting remote instead of the officials.

“And again, last week I got texts from two student-athletes who felt they had been lied to about needing to be vaccinated because of your extended deadline,” Lawley said.

She asked how to trust leaders given the last minute changes.

Dianne McKay, vice-chair of the board, asked why students were so hesitant to be vaccinated against COVID-19, referring in part to Oxnard College’s confirmed vaccination rate.

Newly elected student councilor Bryan Rodriguez said he believed there was confusion about the vaccine.

“It has been politicized, unfortunately,” he said. “… A lot of (young) are now on TikTok and social media where it’s hard to have that media education and understand what real news is and what fake news is.”

He said it would be helpful to focus efforts on helping students understand the verified vaccination process.

Coverage of the vaccine mandate:

Shivani Patel covers education for The Star as a member of the Report for America corps. Contact her at [email protected] or 805-603-6573. She is also on Twitter at @shivaaanip.

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