The Viewpoints Editorial Board
Being a student, classified staff or faculty member within the Riverside Community College District throughout the last two years have been undoubtedly difficult. Our community has suffered through many trials, from the struggles of distance education to the mental and physical anguish COVID-19 brought.
There was no precedent set on how RCCD should handle such an event. Nor did the world have concrete data about this specific respiratory disease, which made it difficult for any organization to make clear and safe decisions.
Despite not having a clear roadmap of our future, we believe that the RCCD Board of Trustees made the right calls throughout the pandemic to ensure the safety of the students, classified staff and faculty — with the mask and vaccine mandates as their best decision.
Both the vaccine and mask mandate set in place Aug. 10 were considered controversial to some students and faculty. Tons of public comments condemning the Board were submitted after the decision and the Trustees sat and read every single one.
Yet they remained unwavered and stuck to their belief of what was best for the district and it paid off.
So far the mandates, paired with hybrid courses, have avoided mass outbreaks on any of the district’s three campuses. It is that sense of security, coupled with campuses slowly progressing to a new normal, that demonstrates how the Board has put both the safety and mental health of its community first.
Throughout the pandemic, the Board was presented with statistics showcasing how enrollment across the district fell more than 20%. Low enrollment is cause for concern for a non-profit Community College district, which relies on consistent attendance to ensure it can continue to provide its services to the students and pay its employees. Other colleges around the country felt the pressure of the financial strain and decided to fully reopen their doors in the fall semester. RCCD, however, chose to follow a hybrid plan which ultimately led to a majority of its students continuing online classes.
At first, the decision to keep most classes virtual could have been seen as unnecessary or fearful. The Board, faced with the reality of the situation, could have interpreted the facts of the situation much differently. For example, the vaccines were already widely available at this stage of the pandemic. The mandates they implemented would, for the most part, ensure that the people within the campus were fully vaccinated and wearing masks to minimize the risk of a serious outbreak.
Ultimately the Board listened to their classified staff and faculty, who asked that a majority of their classes remain online because they didn’t feel safe. They made the conscious decision to remain cautious and put the community first.
Looking back at the fall semester, it was undoubtedly the right decision to take a cautious approach to reopening.
We urge the Board to continue to listen to its staff and faculty which has led to safe decisions.