Trustees decide implementation of vaccine mandate, faculty threatens lawsuits

Signs+are+placed+outside+Cerritos+College+buildings+and+facilities+reminding+everyone+to+wear+a+mask+and+get+vaccinated.+The+Cerritos+College+Board+of+Trustees+proposed+revisions+to+the+vaccine+mandate+policy+during+their+meeting+on+Sept.+15%2C+2021.+Photo+credit%3A+Vincent+Medina

Signs are placed outside Cerritos College buildings and facilities reminding everyone to wear a mask and get vaccinated. The Cerritos College Board of Trustees proposed revisions to the vaccine mandate policy during their meeting on Sept. 15, 2021. Photo credit: Vincent Medina

Vincent Medina, Managing Editor

The Cerritos College Board of Trustees attempted to compromise on the best way to implement the COVID-19 vaccine mandate during their meeting on Sept. 15.

Trustees disagreed about the best course of action and received backlash for the mandate from the community.

President Jose Fierro explained how the vaccine mandate will work.

According to the adopted policy, starting Oct. 1, the college will implement a partial vaccine mandate. Students and faculty will have the option to show proof of vaccination or show proof of a weekly negative COVID test through the site Optimum HQ.

Cerritos College Board of Trustees discusses mandating the COVID-19 vaccine for students and faculty on campus. They proposed revisions to the policy during their meeting on Sept. 15, 2021.
Cerritos College Board of Trustees discusses mandating the COVID-19 vaccine for students and faculty on campus. They proposed revisions to the policy during their meeting on Sept. 15, 2021. Photo credit: Vincent Medina

During the meeting, the board of trustees decided to add a revision to the policy, where full implementation of the vaccine mandate would be set for Jan. 1, 2022.

Under this proposal, the college would remove the weekly testing option starting Dec. 31.

With the removal of the weekly testing accommodation, students and faculty will be required to show proof of vaccination by Jan. 1, 2022. Staff who do not submit proof of vaccination after 30 days, will be given unpaid leave and subject to disciplinary action.

Fierro did not specify what “disciplinary action” would mean, but suggested it would possibly entail termination at the board’s discretion.

The college will allow medical and religious exemptions from the vaccine, but the board was unclear on how they would verify the exemptions.

“We have to have some sort of safety protocol like showing proof of vaccination and proof of a negative test until we can institute a full vaccination policy,” said trustee, Mariana Pacheco.

Trustee, Marisa Perez, expressed confusion over the qualifications for a vaccine exemption and the period of time faculty will have to submit their documentation before being placed on leave.

“I still have a lot of questions. We need to get some legal guidance,” said Perez. “This is an issue that is coming across the entire community college system. Some of these legal issues such as liability, I think we need to understand better.”

Due to the need for clarification, revisions will be made to the policy and the trustees will bring it back in their next meeting.

“The safety of this campus, the safety of the faculty and students is incredibly important,” said Pacheco.

College faculty and members of the public took the opportunity to voice their disdain for the vaccine requirement. While some believed the mandate was an infringement on their freedoms, others spread disproven information about COVID and the effectiveness of the vaccine.

Tenured faculty member Rossitza Petrova threatened the board with lawsuits if they implemented the mandate.

“What are you going to do with us tenured staff if we refuse to get this vaccine? Are you going to fire us? Are you prepared for the lawsuits coming your way,” said Petrova.

The staff member went on to claim she has natural immunity to COVID after contracting the virus during the pandemic.

However, as board member Dr. Sandra Salazar would later point out, people who have contracted COVID can still become infected.

Cerritos College cosmetology instructor, Scarlett Chiros, built upon Petrova’s statement.

“You may think we will concede and give in when our income is being threatened, but you are wrong,” said Chiros. “Class action lawsuits will follow. We will not go quietly.”

Cynthia Rosindes, a mother of two students at Cerritos, opposes the mandate as well, despite her family contracting the virus last year. She claimed the vaccine is ineffective and helps spread the virus, despite the CDC proving otherwise.

“If the college decides to move forward and mandate this experimental vaccine, and votes to contribute to modern-day segregation,” said Rosindes. “I have decided to enroll my children in other colleges that won’t place obstacles in the way of their education and will not discriminate against other students.”

Trustee, Zurich Lewis, agreed with the opposition and expressed his fear that students and faculty will leave the college.

“There are many reasons to vaccinate but it should not be something that we, as a board, force upon our students,” said Lewis.

The board will bring the vaccine policy back for a second reading, and vote to implement the revisions in their next meeting on Oct. 6.