California Community Colleges chancellor addresses fall 2021 plans, racial violence

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By Cheetara Piry

The head of the California Community Colleges system provided state updates on campus reopenings, vaccinations and hate crimes against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. 

Eloy Ortiz Oakley, California Community Colleges chancellor, said during a teleconference March 25 that fall 2021 goals aim to get students back into classrooms, considering enrollment has dwindled across the state over the past year. 

“It’s no surprise that there’s been an enrollment decline,” he told student reporters. “But it is concerning. We want to do everything we can to re-engage with those students and get them back enrolled so that they can get to their educational goals as quickly as possible.”

The Riverside Community College District has announced it intends to return to in-person instruction as it was pre-pandemic: face-to-face instruction at 80% and online instruction at 20%.

Oakley, however, proposed that campus reopenings in the fall would be a “gradual return” with hybrid class options available.

“I don’t care which college we’re talking about, they will have to have some sort of hybrid opportunities because not every faculty member can come back, not every staff member can come back,” he said. “Certainly, not every student will be able to come back. Given that there’s going to be some type of physical distancing guidance, not every classroom can accommodate 100 students at once.”

Faculty across the district have raised concerns over the past few weeks about a return to instruction as it was pre-pandemic resulting in fewer class sections offered. Some have proposed a shift to a more equal mix of in-person and hybrid offerings, while others have asked for the data and dialogue that would get that shift rolling.

RCC sent a survey to students March 23, though, asking for student input on the type of courses they would be more inclined to register for this upcoming fall.

Oakley said a return to campuses would largely entail student vaccinations. RCCD announced that Norco College will be vaccinating people March 30, RCC on April 1 and Moreno Valley College on April 2. 

Although the vaccine cannot be mandated at this point due to the way it was approved, Oakley said the state’s preference is to eventually make it a requirement for students. That decision will become clearer over the next few months, he added.

The argument for a student vaccination requirement, according to Oakley, would be approached as if it were any other inoculation requisite. 

“There’s lots of vaccinations that are required in order to attend college or other public employment settings,” he said. “That would be no different than the COVID-19 vaccine. There are processes available for that.”

With clarity in reopening guidance expected to start coming in, Oakley insisted students begin enrolling for the summer and fall terms as soon as they are able to.

“I’m confident that over the next couple of months we’ll see more and more guidance and we’ll see more and more access to the vaccine,” he said. “So the certainty around what fall will look like will become more and more clear.”

The state chancellor also knuckled down on safeguarding the Asian American and Pacific Islander communities. He stated there will be no tolerance for anti-Asian or Pacific Islander violent actions in any shape or form.

“There is no connection between our brothers and sisters in the AAPI community and the causes of COVID-19, or the connection to China, or anything else,” Oakley said. “We all need to come together to make sure that we are doing everything we can to protect the Asian American and Pacific Islander community on our campuses in our community.”

For more information on vaccine eligibility, visit myturn.ca.gov.

Eloy Ortiz Oakley, California Community Colleges chancellor, speaks to student reporters from across the state via Zoom on March 25. Oakley has provided updates to student media throughout the pandemic. (Screenshot by Leo Cabral | Viewpoints)
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