By Elaina Kleven
Many Riverside Community College District students are voicing opposition after the Board of Trustees voted on a vaccine and mask mandate on Aug. 10.
“Fully or partially vaccinated, you can take classes on-site, in hybrid mode and/or online,” Interim Vice Chancellor of Educational Services and Strategic Planning Jeannie Kim said during the meeting. “Students choosing to not be vaccinated may take courses online.”
Chancellor Wolde-Ab Isaac spoke on behalf of the Board regarding the reasons behind their decision, saying that it is “adhering to the highest of safety standards.”
What quickly followed were complaints from numerous people who were furious with the Board’s decision. The students stated that they felt as if the Board did not take RCCD students’ opinions into consideration.
Nursing student Rosemary Danial, who said that she does not plan to get vaccinated, had many concerns about learning online again in the upcoming semester.
“I haven’t learned anything while being online,” she said. “I do not think it’s fair to even have unvaccinated students taking online courses when (for) most of the courses you need to go into labs. I’m not going to be doing all of this online again.”
Others who agree with Danial have generated speculation behind COVID-19 and the intentions behind the mask and vaccine mandate.
Frustrated students decided to voice their opinions on social media, which led to a group named Students Against Tyranny to plan a protest outside of Riverside City College Aug. 16.
“We immediately started reaching out and asking them, ‘are you interested in a protest against these mandates? Will you be willing to join a group chat,’” the event organizer, who wished to only go by Sophia, said. “Some of them said ‘yes’ and a lot of people are here.”
At the protest, many students shared similar skepticism about the legitimacy of the vaccine and the governing bodies that are recommending it.
“There’s no part of this since the initial news reports that were not suspicious up until RCC getting funding to do what they’re doing right now,” Andy Garcia, a film major, said. “It’s almost like forcing people to get it. They didn’t give us time to go to schools that aren’t mandating it. Maybe announcing that mandate a month ahead would’ve been better but even then announcing that mandate is messed up.”
Student trustee Jack Harris says these strong disagreements and protests could have been avoided entirely.
“I think that the 80% in-person classes and 20% online classes were not enough from the get-go,” he said. “And that by, adding more online classes would have avoided a lot of the strife.”
Although he expressed that his opinions may differ from those protesting, he doesn’t think others’ opinions should not be considered.
“We are a college, we are a critical thinking institution, people here come here to improve their thinking and to improve their life skills,” he stated. “And to improve your life skills you need opposition and you need to be able to make a choice for yourself.”
The Board expressed their reasoning behind this rapid change for the mandate in the meeting on Aug. 10.
“We were considering to have both vaccinated and unvaccinated attend together with the unvaccinated going through weekly testing, as also a standard means, as is done in many of the universities today,” Chancellor Wolde-Ab Isaac said. “But with the advent of the rapid spread of the delta virus, we felt that that is not doable.” To stay updated on future board meetings, as well as to make public comments in them, please visit the Board of Trustees page at rccd.edu or watch the live streams from the Riverside City College youtube channel.