Cerritos College students & staff deserve transparency and a say in return to campus

Since+closing+most+facilities+on+campus+in+March%2C+Cerritos+College+has+reported+a+number+of+positive+cases.+President+Fierro+has+announced+a+50%25+reopening+in+the+fall+2021+semester.+Photo+credit%3A+Edgar+Mendoza

Since closing most facilities on campus in March, Cerritos College has reported a number of positive cases. President Fierro has announced a 50% reopening in the fall 2021 semester. Photo credit: Edgar Mendoza

As Cerritos College students and faculty return to campus in the Fall 2021 semester, students and employees must be allowed to be the primary decision makers.

College officials need to show transparency to everyone returning to campus in Fall 2021, so students and faculty feel safe when returning to in-person learning.

Many students and faculty are excited to return to an in-person learning environment that they feel best suits their needs. Online learning has been a struggle and a burden for many, and a godsend for others.

Even though reopening sounds wonderful in theory, a school campus should not be open unless everyone is certain of their safety.

Some professors have (confidentially) expressed concern about returning to campus too soon.

They feel that the college has kept them in the dark about how the rooms will be sanitized, properly ventilated, how students will be socially distanced and how many students will be in a classroom at a time.

We do not aim to chastise or scold Cerritos College leadership, but rather seek to reaffirm that the ultimate authority in this situation should be the students and employees that will set foot back on campus after more than a year of social distancing.

College administration has done a good job so far of publicly expressing their plans for the fall semester but we want to ensure that they continue to place student and employee interests at the center of any plans for reopening.

We hope that the college will continue to make great effort to share, in full detail, their plans to reopen and describe the sanitizing and ventilation procedures and illustrate how students will be socially distanced in the classroom.

As we’ve seen over the course of the pandemic, the science and understanding of the COVID-19 virus evolves. The potential for mutated variants and the questions around the long term effectiveness of the vaccine may require reexamination of even the most airtight plans.

The plans of college administrators may have to be as flexible as the state and national policies we’ve seen shift. Any changes should be made public as soon as they are considered and community feedback should play a major role in determining the best course of action.

Scientific evidence and public health department guidelines should be the primary decision benchmark, but in the case of uncertainty or debate, student and employee concerns or desires should be the key tie-breaker.

The polling of students and employees done by the college on their thoughts on the reopening of campus is a great model that should be expanded and continued through the summer and fall semester to ensure that the school can make up to date decisions based on the honest feedback of the community.

Public forums, like the one being held the evening of May 21, might be a positive tool used to answer questions or assuage understandably uneasy minds.

The pandemic has delivered an untold amount of trauma upon our society, the effects of which we may not truly understand in our lifetimes. We cannot presume that a “return to normal” is the solution to our COVID woes.

Community members have seen loved ones die through a phone screen, nurses and doctors struggle to mentally cope with the disaster and entire industries have been upended, with economic consequences for millions.

These aren’t impacts to be shrugged off or pushed aside in favor of dollars and cents.

Some in this country seem to think that reopening everything signals the end of the dangers presented by this virus. Unfortunately this is not the case.

We cannot confuse a return to campus with the end of this pandemic. Everyone must work together to ensure the safety of the community they are a part of and the most vulnerable must be heard loudest of all.

We all may look forward to a reopened Cerritos College campus but we cannot forget how bad things can get. To avoid a return to the worst of all possible worlds, we have to live day by day, working together to build a safer one for all.