Vaccine mandate is not being lobbied

Despite some faculty desire, no mandate is being considered. By Isaac Dektor, Staff Writer

California community colleges will not require faculty or students to receive a COVID-19 vaccination when they return to campus. (Graphic Illustration by Vickie Guzman/The Valley Star)

While California reorganizes resources and infrastructure to reopen community colleges, mandatory vaccines remain an elephant in the room.

The reopening of campuses is a statewide effort not lacking in solutions and legal cover. Many bills have been proposed ranging from student assistance to assurances that faculty not be held responsible for COVID-19 outbreaks on campus. When it comes to vaccines, however, the legal responsibility of instituting a mandate is being pushed onto the faculty.

Ruby Christian-Brougham, chapter president of the Los Angeles College Faculty Guild, explained legislators' hesitation in drafting a vaccination mandate.

“They won't take up the bill to get students vaccinated, or to get the faculty vaccinated,” Christian-Brougham said. “And with the faculty - they’ve tried to push it back onto the union and we’re not willing to take that liability piece. It’s not fair, it's not equitable, we shouldn’t be the ones making that decision.”

Among the bills that have been taken up by legislators are those that provide students with financial assistance and colleges with legal cover.

Assembly Bill 1152 is a bill authored by Assemblywomen Blanca Rubio of California’s 48th district, minimizing liability for colleges that experience COVID-19 outbreaks upon reopening if it is passed.

“They’re trying to make sure that we won't be held legally responsible for any COVID situation that occurs from us, from coming back to school,” Christian-Brougham said. “Now that bill they’ve taken up, but they won't take up the bill to get students vaccinated, or to get the faculty vaccinated.”

John McDowell, the faculty guild’s government relations director, has heard that AB 1152 will not pass into law, claiming that the bill is already dead.

He explained that the faculty guild and other related associations overall strategy is to expedite reopening.

“The number one priority to us is getting back into our classes, and making it safe for our faculty, our staff and our students,” McDowell said. “That’s been the main focus of the legislature.”

The faculty guild works with the Faculty Association of California Community Colleges and the California Federation of Teachers to lobby for legislation. According to McDowell, the tripartite interests are currently more aligned than in years past.

Some faculty are dissatisfied with legislators' current reopening proposals and overall strategy. Sen. Ron Mossler explained his perspective in the latest Academic Senate meeting.

“What I’d also like our Academic Senate and our union to do is to lobby Sacramento to require vaccinations for adults who attend community colleges,” Mossler said.

According to Academic Senate President Chauncey Maddren, vaccination mandates would have to come from legislators as opposed to individual colleges or school districts. While some see a vaccination mandate as a necessity to safely reopen campuses, others worry that it may deter some students when deciding whether to attend college.

“Rather than a mandate, we could do better with a program of promotion, education and availability,” Maddren said.

As of April 14, 38 percent of Californians have received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine, according to the Los Angeles Times.