Santa Barbara City College’s Academic Senate held a special meeting Wednesday to consider a vote of no confidence for former SBCC Superintendent/President Utpal Goswami, as well as Board of Trustees members Veronica Gallardo, Peter Haslund, Robert Miller and Kate Parker, who opposed a proposal for a vaccine mandate for staff and students during a June 24 meeting.
Goswami resigned this week following a special meeting of the Board of Trustees, and the Academic Senate delayed a decision on a no-confidence vote.
Faculty members are concerned about the board’s recent vote not to mandate COVID-19 vaccinations among students and staff this fall.
The Academic Senate passed a resolution outlining faculty concerns, demanding that a vaccine mandate be implemented by July 12, and scheduling Wednesday’s special meeting to consider a vote of no confidence for Gallardo, Miller, Parker, and Haslund, who voted against the mandate, and Goswami.
“This is the most important thing I’ve ever seen the senate consider since I’ve been on campus,” Santa Barbara City College Academic Senate President Raeanne Napoleon said this week.
“We were a very different campus a few short weeks ago when we approved this resolution,” Napoleon said.
After more than two hours of discussion Wednesday, members of the college’s Academic Senate are now considering a vote of no confidence for additional trustees, or maybe the entire Board of Trustees.
As the conversation evolved, the senate decided that a vote of no confidence should not be narrowly defined around one issue — the COVID-19 vaccine mandate — but consider “years of inadequate board responses to the campus community members, specifically faculty, students and staff,” Napoleon wrote in an email to the SBCC Board of Trustees, interim Superintendent/President Helen Benjamin and Kathleen Scott, a member of the College Planning Council who is acting superintendent/president until Benjamin’s interim contract is approved next week.
Discussions about a no-confidence vote will continue in the future, and “not necessarily for four in particular,” Napoleon said.
The senate will hold a special meeting in a couple of weeks to further consider a vote of no confidence.
Wednesday’s discussion was expanded to include other concerns.
“It got bigger, not smaller,” said Academic Senate member Robin Goodnough, who is a professor at SBCC’s School of Modern Languages/English as a Second Language.
The college’s Academic Senate decided to create an information document detailing grievances with the SBCC Board of Trustees over the last few years and they plan to use the document to inform faculty and then survey them about a possible vote of no confidence.
“Although we are not coming out with a vote of no confidence today (Wednesday), we are not done with this,” Academic Senate member Robbie Fischer, who teaches medical microbiology for SBCC’s Biology Department, said Wednesday. “We are still working on it.”
Others made similar remarks.
“This is a more serious consideration that we are making,” said Academic Senate member Ruth Morales, a professor in the economics program at SBCC. “We are pausing because we need to do it correctly.”
Additionally, the senators asserted their demand for a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for students and employees returning to campus in the fall.
Ana Garcia, an academic counselor and Academic Senate member at SBCC, sent a strong message to the trustees who did not support a COVID-19 vaccine mandate in the fall.
“This is literally life or death,” Garcia said. “By not having this vaccine mandate, I want the board to know that they are going to be responsible when somebody dies. Somebody will likely die because we are not prepared. We are not doing our best to protect our community.”
SBCC’s Faculty Association and the California School Employees Association have also expressed support for a COVID-19 vaccine mandate.
SBCC currently does not have a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for staff and students.
The three available COVID-19 vaccines have been authorized for use in everyone 18 and older, and the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is approved for use in everyone 12 years old and older.
All three vaccines provide “excellent protection” against infection and serious illness from the novel coronavirus and COVID-19, including variants of the virus, according to public health and medical officials.
SBCC “strongly encourages” employees and students to get vaccinated for COVID-19.
As of July 12, the college requires everyone to check in via the ‘Healthy Roster’ app before entering campus buildings, and wear masks at indoor public areas, regardless of vaccination status, among other conditions.
Fall classes at SBCC start Aug. 23.
Allan Hancock Community College’s board decided not to mandate COVID-19 vaccinations for staff and students on campus when in-person classes resume in the fall.
Hancock is joining a college vaccine challenge program that includes hiring students as wellness ambassadors who educate their peers about vaccination and other public health measures to avoid being infected by the novel coronavirus.
UC Santa Barbara and the rest of the University of California system will mandate COVID-19 vaccination for students, faculty and staff before they are allowed on campus.
People with medical or other exemptions will be required to wear masks in all public settings and comply with testing requirements, according to the UC system.
— Noozhawk staff writer Brooke Holland can be reached at email@example.com. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.