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President Gribbons leads during the pandemic

Valley College President Barry Gribbons looks back on 2020 and how it has affected the college.

By Gabriel Arizon, Editor-in-Chief

Barry Gribbons standing outside the Administration and Career Advancement building wearing a face mask adorned with the college logo and colors. Although the campus remains closed, he goes to his office daily. (Photo by Solomon Smith/The Valley Star)

In fall 2019, Barry Gribbons was welcomed as the new president of Valley College. Half an academic year later, Gribbons suddenly was tasked with guiding the college through a viral pandemic as the campus closed and classes were moved online.

“The amount of change that had to happen in the time period that it had to happen was outstanding,” he said. “Not everything turned out as we had hoped. I think that the faculty and staff that worked hard and monitoring how things were going and being as innovative to implement changes were really important during those times.”

When the COVID-19 pandemic caused businesses and schools to shut down in mid-March, Valley’s incident response team (made up of administrators, faculty and staff) had to respond quickly to the crisis. As Gribbons described, the team met for weeks in order to address the needs of the campus.

One of the changes that came was the moving of almost all classes to a virtual platform. Gribbons has said he understands the impact this sudden change has had on students and faculty, knowing that online instruction is not what they signed up for, but he appreciates them doing their best to respond to the alteration and for their resilience. He also thanked the college’s essential workers — such as campus sheriffs and payroll — for continuing to come to campus, stating that “they were critical to the ongoing operation of the college.”

Although the pandemic hampered many activities, Gribbons still holds a strong interest in addressing social justice issues, namely racism. The president has cited the school’s ethnic programs and how the sheriff’s department was given anti-racism training to further those efforts.

“With the murder of George Floyd and the attention brought to anti-racism, the response in the campus community was really extraordinary as well,” he said. “Not only were we in the midst of a worldwide pandemic … everyone came together to see how to really take an authentic assessment of where we’re at and how we can advance and ensure Valley College is an anti-racist college.”

According to Gribbons, Valley was able to mitigate the financial impact of the pandemic due in part to the school being fiscally prudent for the past five years. In addition, the $3 million in CARES Act the school received helped to cover some areas, even though most of the funds went to helping students.

The president continued and said that the school would be able to offer classes to meet student demand and that they do not anticipate any significant cuts in sections. However, he elaborated and said there could be some adjustments based on student demand. Earlier in the year, Valley (along with the other LACCD colleges) took a dip in enrollment in the fall semester, cutting an estimated 75 classes.

Though Gribbons has a wait-and-see approach as to whether the campus will reopen in the spring whenever the COVID vaccine becomes more readily accessible to the public, he is looking forward to the day when Valley can resume with in-person instruction and activities.

“We’re gonna have lots of opportunities to celebrate with each other in person,” he said. “I’m really looking forward to those experiences.”


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