Professors React to State Center Community College District Vaccine Mandate


The SCCCD Board of Trustees approved extending the date for students to comply with the vaccine mandate. Students now have until Nov. 15, 2021 to be fully vaccinated. Image courtesy: SCCCD website.

With the new State Center Community College District vaccine mandate closing in, Fresno City College professors and staff have varying opinions on the topic.

FCC critical thinking professor Wes McMichael, is completely on board with the mandate and urges everyone to get vaccinated as soon as possible. 

The board has a moral obligation to protect those employees from people who are unvaccinated, since they are more likely to catch and spread COVID-19. The mandate in no way violates anyone’s rights,” he said. 

McMichael is disappointed in many of his fellow colleagues, within the faculty union, because they are not taking a principled stance on the issue.

According to McMichael, the faculty union put the concerns of faculty members who do not support the mandate over the safety of classified staff who must often be in close contact with many different people. 

He believes faculty, who have the option of limiting exposure by teaching online or distancing themselves from other staff and students, should have cared more about the well-being of classified employees and students, but chose not to take a side. 

Overall, FCC Humanities Professor, Michelle Patton, believes the district is doing its best to keep everyone safe.

“I want to do my part to stop the spread of the virus. I want my students to be safe and healthy, and I want that for myself and my colleagues as well,” she said.

But similar to FCC students’, not all the professors are on the same page. 

FCC English and Composition Professor Joseph Voth is wary of the mandate because he believes it is invasive in its nature. 

Voth took a more philosophical look on the matter and discussed the possible violations of rights and choices at stake.

The primary concern of something like a federal mandate is that once folks comply, those who set the mandate may be tempted to use future mandates for reasons that will range from necessary to superfluous to nefarious,” he said.

He also believes that once people give up their freedom in response to a state of emergency, things will quickly get out of hand and lead to oppressive laws and practices that have been witnessed before.

Despite his reasons for being critical of the mandate, Voth said he is willing to follow the mandate because he worked for many years to reach his position and he loves teaching. 

However, he believes willing is a strange way to think about it because if folks are under economic or other duress, framing the matter as a choice seems disingenuous

Aside from moral concerns, Business and Technology Professor, Karen Dancey, is worried about how regulations will be put into place, especially since the mandate seems to lack specifics. 

With plans to have in-person classes in the spring semester of 2022, Dancey said she and most of her students are uncomfortable with returning to campus.

Dancey even said she is completely fine if classes were 100% online, but transitioning in the middle of the semester again will be chaotic.

Ultimately, Dancey believes that the mandate is necessary especially with how classes are now in-person.

 “We can’t get back to ‘normal’ until more people are vaccinated and these variants go away. Hospitals are at or over their bed capacity. Children are now getting sick and those under 12 cannot get vaccinated yet. Many of my students are single moms with young children. So many concerns,” she said.

With many concerns from staff and students over the mandate, Philosophy Professor Gerald Cantu said there may be plans for administration to accommodate the unvaccinated and those who have not been vaccinated on time. 

Cantu believes the science is pretty clear and the safest, most effective way to contain the pandemic is through vaccination.

“As far as I’m concerned, this is a public health issue and we ought to follow the science,” he said.

Psychology professor Forrest Williams shares similar views that the mandate is necessary to ensure the safety of the faculty and students.

Despite the vaccination status of his students, Williams said he will still work with them online. 

Williams believes his priority as an instructor is his students’ safety and education. 

“I’m committed to their success and will do my best to make sure the transition from face-to-face to online instruction is as easy and seamless as possible,” he said.