RCCD Trustees Mandate COVID-19 Vaccinations
At a special board meeting on August 10, the Riverside Community College District Board of Trustees voted to approve a new resolution No. 02 - 21/22 to mandate COVID-19 vaccinations for students (returning and incoming), personnel and other individuals who plan on accessing District property, including campuses and educational centers.
To meet the needs of all potential students, vaccinated and not vaccinated, District leadership has also approved an increase in course offerings in online and hybrid formats.
Trustee President Mary Figueroa said that the “intention of the board is to establish policies that ensure the safety and well-being of students, employees and the communities served by the District and its colleges.
She added, “we need to stick together, we need to remain calm . . . we need to maintain the protection of all of the students, of all of the faculty, of all of the staff, of anybody who steps foot on our campuses. That is our responsibility."
Trustee Vice President Bill Hedrick said that in approving a previous vaccination resolution in June the board anticipated that COVID-19 vaccinations would transition from emergency to full approval by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) by the beginning of the fall semester.
The decision to now mandate vaccinations for those who study, work and visit District facilities and college campuses was made after lengthy discussions with faculty union membership, District and college leadership, classified professionals and student representatives.
RCCD Chancellor, Wolde-Ab Isaac, Ph.D., observed, “The rapid changes brought about by the emergence of various virus mutations, and the changing guidelines for the containment of the spread of the disease, have made planning for and returning to a safe instructional environment difficult. The board resolution has been carefully crafted to ensure access to all students vaccinated and unvaccinated, to allow equitable access to services for students in need of face-to-face classes while adhering to the highest safety standards." The Chancellor acknowledged the enormous amount of work that must be done in a short time to fully implement the board resolution and he called on all members of the District, including faculty, classified professionals, managers and students to “work in a collaborative way to serve our students and communities during this challenging time."
While there have been indications that full FDA approval of the Pfizer vaccine may be forthcoming (NYTimes, Bloomberg), the new mandate by the RCCD board will accept vaccinations that have received FDA Emergency Use Authorization (U.S. FDA COVID-19 Vaccines Authorized for Emergency Use).
Concerns about the confusion of changing messages and requirements for students and employees were voiced by Jack Harris, RCCD student trustee. He and the faculty representatives eventually concurred that the mandate to vaccinate before coming back to campus is the best course of action, especially with the increased threat of new COVID-19 variants across the US.
Interim Vice Chancellor of Educational Services and Strategic Planning, Jeanie Kim, Ph.D., stated, “We want the students to be able to take classes in whatever mode serves them best. A selection of courses is available in each discipline. If you've been fully or partially vaccinated, you can take classes on-site, in hybrid mode and/or online. Students choosing to not be vaccinated may take courses online."
Kim added, “We are here to serve everyone."
Additional information regarding the RCCD colleges' preparations for the fall semester is available on the District's Safe Return website. Several courses that were originally scheduled for on-site instruction at Moreno Valley College, Norco College and Riverside City College will now be offered online. The additional sections of online and hybrid courses are being added to the fall semester class schedules. New and returning students can start checking for additional class offerings next week.