The Riverside Community College District Board of Trustees is now backtracking on its mask and booster mandates in week five of the semester, shortly after California’s indoor mask mandate ended.
The Board voted Jan. 18 to mandate masks and a COVID-19 booster vaccine for students, faculty and classified staff who planned to be on campus this spring.
Many rushed to receive their boosters and upload proof of vaccination to CLEARED4 by the Feb. 1 deadline — less than two weeks before the semester started.
Students were afraid they’d be dropped from courses they enrolled for weeks prior, many had to find an online substitute for the hybrid or in-person courses from which they were dropped and many others struggled to get a booster appointment in the district’s allotted time frame.
The district made students, staff and faculty go through all of that trouble just to end the booster and mask mandate just a few weeks later.
It is unfair to remove the mandates after everything the district put the college community through.
Faculty and students have obeyed the rules set forth by the district in order to begin a return to normalcy. Many felt comfortable returning to in-person instruction due to the district’s stance on mask and booster mandates.
Now, it feels as if the district is ignoring those who have followed their rules to accommodate potential students who might have taken issue with their mandates.
The Trustees explained that their decision is in alignment with federal, state and local guidelines such as the new regulations set by the the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The CDC’s new guideline suggests that communities wear masks only if there is a surge of hospitalizations due to COVID-19. Communities with low or medium risk, like Riverside County, are not required to wear masks.
However, the March 15 decision goes against what the trustees said in the meetings prior to this vote and how safety was their first priority.
For months they enforced vaccine, mask and booster mandates to err on the side of caution, even enduring backlash from student populations who disagreed with the mandates.
Board members told heartfelt stories about the impact the pandemic had on the community or in their personal lives.
They made sure everyone knew that COVID-19 safety was their first priority.
Now that the trustees have voted to remove the mandates, it makes all of their heartfelt stories and the long speeches about safety completely meaningless. This latest decision is inconsistent with everything the Board has preached over the latter part of the pandemic — almost hypocritical.
The district should have stood by its mandates at least until the end of the semester. Anything less feels performative.
Their choice is disrespectful to those who have listened and respected the rules that were set.
Now that the college has relaxed its regulations, it will only be a matter of time before we begin to see an uptick of COVID-19 infections throughout the district.