By Jennipher Vasquez
As students prepare for the return to campus on Aug. 23, some are reluctant to follow the recently implemented mask and vaccine mandates by the Riverside Community College District.
The RCCD board of trustees passed a resolution Aug. 10 requiring all students, staff and faculty to provide proof of partial vaccination no later than Aug. 19, and proof of full vaccination by Sept. 30.
The resolution also requires the use of face coverings indoors and outdoors with minor exceptions.
Riverside City College student Sophia, who wished to be identified only by first name, has opted not to return to in-person classes due to the board’s decision.
“I’m not going because of the mandates,” she said. “I decided last month because they previously said they were going to mandate the vaccine and then they retracted their statement in July.”
Sophia stated that she is not willing to wear a mask and decided to drop from the biology class she had already registered for. She said she will only be taking online courses this semester.
“The way RCCD announced the mandates is very unprofessional and is honestly very disrespectful,” she said. “A lot of people are unhappy and we will be showing our concerns, we’re going to be showing that we’re unhappy, all of this is just wrong.”
Sophia and other students from RCCD formed the group Students Against Tyranny as a response to the vaccine and mask mandates and argues that the timing of the resolution doesn’t allow students enough time to consider transferring to another college if they choose not to continue their enrollment at the district.
“This is not about being pro or anti-vaxx, it’s about freedom of choice,” she said. “We feel that our freedom of choice is being taken away as students and that’s not fair to us.”
Other students are eager to return to campus after more than a year of distance learning.
Second year student Nancy Hillig, 19, said the opportunity to return to in-person classes should be seen as a privilege.
Hillig acknowledged that she was able to get through the year of virtual learning with support from close friends and family.
“Being online made me really underestimate how much I appreciate interacting with students, staff members,” Hillig said. “Being online for an entire year and not having that interaction took a toll on my mental health and my overall effort into working on my classes.”
Hillig disclosed that she lost her grandfather earlier this year due to COVID-19. She feels getting vaccinated and wearing a mask on campus is the least she could do in order to return to campus and take in the full college experience that she wanted from the beginning.
“It’s not something I’m going to take for granted. Despite everything that’s happened, I’m glad that we can all go back,” Hillig said. “We have to really appreciate being able to physically be there because I know for some this took a more drastic effect on them.”