Mask signs
(Noozhawk file photo)

The recommendation from Santa Barbara City College’s Academic Senate, the Faculty Association and the California School Employees Association is clear.

The three large groups overwhelmingly support a COVID-19 vaccination mandate for employees and students returning to campus.

SBCC currently does not require students or employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19, according to Victor Bryant, acting executive director of public affairs and communications. 

“That doesn’t mean that’s the final verdict,” Bryant said Wednesday. “They (SBCC Board of Trustees) can review the issue again, but as of now, no vaccine mandate.”

As a result of the majority of the SBCC Board of Trustees not supporting a vaccine mandate in the fall, many faculty members are requesting to move face-to-face classes and in-person educational support services online in the absence of the vaccine mandate.

Jamie Campbell, a full-time associate professor in the mathematics department, said he is eager to return to in-person instruction, not only for the success of students but for his own personal enjoyment of teaching.  

“However, I don’t want to see dangerous new variants spread in the community,” Campbell wrote in an email to Noozhawk.

Campbell said he has taught at SBCC since 2007. He is a member of the college’s Faculty Association Executive Board, and he serves as both the treasurer of the Faculty Association and as its representative to the College Planning Council.

Campbell said the campus community — students, faculty, staff and administration — wants to see in-person instruction.

“But faculty and staff, being student-facing employees, have special concerns that need to be addressed before we are comfortable, even if vaccinated, returning to working with the students we miss seeing face-to-face,” Campbell said, emphasizing that his comments represent the Faculty Association.

Campbell said he would like to see a vaccine mandate, with a medical exception; permanent vaccination clinics on campus open to employees, students, their families and the general public; class capacity limitations; and “random, but regular” COVID-19 testing among students and employees.

“Ordinary people might feel safe going into Costco without a mask if they are vaccinated,” Campbell said. “But that is a far cry from being in a small room with 33 other people for 2.5 hours. Students, as well as faculty, can act as vectors unintentionally spreading this dangerous disease in the community.”

Faculty members sent emails, requesting fully online instruction in the fall, to the college’s department leaders. Many staff are steadfast in their demand for COVID-19 vaccination requirements.

The SBCC administration is in negotiations with the CSEA and the Faculty Association, and “at this time, it’s about continuing with negotiations, and hopefully figuring out something that works for everybody,” Bryant said. 

“It is the duty of the superintendent-president administration to implement board motions,” he said.

The SBCC Board of Trustees in late May adopted a motion stating that the district “strongly” encourages its students and employees to be vaccinated for COVID-19. Additionally, SBCC’s policy declares that students or employees who haven’t gotten the vaccine must wear a mask, observe social distancing and submit to periodic COVID-19 testing effective June 15.

California retired the four-tiered, color-coded system COVID-19 reopening guidelines on June 15.

Shortly after the May 27 Board of Trustees meeting, the college’s Academic Senate and the Faculty Association held a special meeting to discuss the board action and create a motion for COVID-19 vaccination requirements, among other conditions, for returning to campus. The motion required vaccines for employees working on campus, students attending in-person classes or using in-person district services, as well as the public entering the college’s facilities.

According to the motion, “this mandate will go into effect when there is at least one FDA (U.S. Food and Drug Administration)-approved COVID-19 vaccine. Vaccines with emergency FDA approval or final approval by the World Health Organization are also allowed.”

It also included the following: “Consistent with legal requirements, reasonable accommodations will be made for employees and students upon verification of a medical condition that prevents vaccination.”

On June 24, the vaccine mandate for employees and students ran into opposition by most board members, who rejected the proposal for a vaccine mandate that was submitted by three employee organizations on the SBCC campus. It was voted down in a 4-3 vote, with trustees Kate Parker, Peter Haslund, Robert Miller and Veronica Gallardo opposed.

“You cannot bully someone into submission. This is what this is — it’s dangerous,” Gallardo said during the board meeting. “The Faculty Association and the Academic Senate have a right to their opinion, and it’s welcome because they should participate, but they don’t represent everybody. We have heard from so many different people in the campus community that they don’t support this. That the community doesn’t support this.”

Coming on the heels of the Board of Trustees’ vote at its June meeting, the Academic Senate adopted a motion calling for a COVID-19 vaccine mandate to be in effect by July 12.

“The joint vaccine mandate proposal is backed by sound scientific arguments and based on a desire to create a safe learning and working environment for students, faculty and staff,” the Academic Senate’s motion states. “The Board of Trustees’ refusal to support even part of the proposal demonstrates a disregard not only of science, but also the unified voice — and safety — of employees and students.”

Santa Barbara City College’s Luria Library and Cartwright Learning Resource Center on the West Campus.

Santa Barbara City College’s Luria Library and Cartwright Learning Resource Center on the West Campus. (Brooke Holland / Noozhawk photo)

The Academic Senate plans to hold a special meeting July 14 to consider a vote of no confidence for trustees Gallardo, Miller, Parker and Haslund as well as SBCC Superintendent/President Utpal Goswami.

The resolution also demands that — in the absence of the vaccine mandate — current class caps for in-person classes be adjusted to capacity at 50% or the pedagogical cap, whichever is smaller, among other conditions.

SBCC is in summer session two, which started in late June and will end in early August. The majority of SBCC’s classes for both session one and two are online this summer, but a select number are meeting in-person, such as laboratory science and nursing courses.

For the summer sessions at SBCC, masking and social distancing have been in place in classroom settings regardless of COVID-19 vaccination status.

What will SBCC look like for students and faculty this fall? Decisions were still being discussed as of Wednesday.

“That’s part of what the discussions with the CSEA and Faculty Association are about,” Bryant said. “We want to get input from the various stakeholders.”

SBCC officials expect that mask-wearing will continue to be a requirement for all indoor spaces when distancing isn’t possible on campus in the fall, and people don’t need to wear masks outdoors, Bryant said.

For vaccinated students, SBCC also is looking at creating a sticker for the campus identification card to show they’ve been inoculated.

“If they’re in various offices … the employee or the faculty member can look and see their vaccine sticker, and then maybe they can unmask in that situation,” Bryant said.

The SBCC Board of Trustees is scheduled to hold a special meeting on Thursday. Click here to view the agenda for their closed session.

The fall semester will begin Aug. 23 at SBCC.

Noozhawk staff writer Brooke Holland can be reached at Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

Brooke Holland, Noozhawk Staff Writer | @NoozhawkNews

Noozhawk staff writer Brooke Holland can be reached at Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.