We need clarity: administrators need to clear up confusion about the fall 2020 semester


As El Camino College students learn to navigate life during and after coronavirus, there are some questions about student safety and fall 2020 enrollment that still need answers.

Our last editorial argued the ECC campus should not even have the option to return to campus in the fall semester due to health and safety concerns. ECC’s President Dena Maloney responded to us saying the college is in fact taking precautionary measures for reopening the campus in the fall, but failed to give detailed specifics about any increased safety, training or clarity in the midst of this pandemic.

Additionally, according to the CDC and public health officials at the national and local county levels, the coronavirus has been impacting communities of color, specifically Black folks, at a disparate rate. A return to campus would put ECC’s most vulnerable communities at a heightened risk of being exposed to and dying from the coronavirus.

As previously reported by The Union, L.A. County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer has made it clear that health disparities are impacting Black folks at a higher rate than any other demographic.

In the 2018-2019 academic year, Black folks made up 14.01% of ECC students and 6.87% of tenured faculty, according to the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office Data Mart.

If classes were to transition to being in-person on campus, ECC administrators would be putting around one-sixth of our student population and a portion of our tenured faculty at a higher risk for coronavirus hospitalization.

Maloney mentioned the COVID-19 task force they are “discussing and drafting” plans to reopen the school, yet specifics on what those plans may look like have not been provided. Additionally, students know they will return to campus when it’s “safe,” but, again, administrators have not communicated what that would look like.

We understand that nothing happens instantly and ECC is attempting to ensure that students and faculty will be as safe as possible—however, the plans they currently have to potentially reopen campus are not fully explained and available to students, and are problematic for that reason.

Students have already begun to register for upcoming fall semester classes, but many are unaware that some classes will return to campus at some point in the fall semester and some classes will not. Students who sign up for synchronous courses, which meet at a specific time on a specific day of the week, do not know that they are committing to attend that class in-person during the fall if the college transitions back into in-person instruction.

To only make this situation worse, the class catalog schedule does not even contain information about any fall classes like previous catalogs have, forcing students to navigate the entire process using MyECC and the new Schedule Builder, which is plagued by glitches and issues.

This is the tip of the iceberg, as they say, to a snowballing issue of a lack of quality in communication from administrators to students, adding more confusion to an already uncertain time.

Even when Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) deems it “safe” to resume on-campus learning, students concerned about their safety may not want to return until the virus is either eradicated or preventable by vaccine.

For one, some students may be living with a family member or roommate who is either immunocompromised or high-risk for being severely impacted if they contract COVID-19. In their situation, they’d need to know what “safe” truly looks like in order to be able to make an informed decision.

While some classes must be conducted on-campus in order to fulfill certification requirements, students in those classes may be forced to change their majors out of general confusion as to how student and faculty health and safety will be conducted next semester.

The Union’s editorial board still believes that communication is not a top priority for ECC administrators during the coronavirus pandemic. While they have a web page located on the ECC website, the location and existence of it have not been adequately publicized and still don’t provide any concrete details on how administration will decide whether or not we return to on-campus learning, social distancing or sanitization measures that would presumably be taken if we were to return to campus or what students may want to know when choosing their classes for the next two semesters.

We’re tired of ECC administrators talking a lot without saying much. This campus, its students, its faculty and everyone part of the El Camino community deserve a specific and well-thought out plan explaining how administrators are going to make Black and Brown folks a priority. They need to approach this situation with details and answer questions community members have.

We know how people in power talk. What we’re asking for is clarity. Not a bunch of language that sounds great. We want to see administrators be clear about criteria that need to be met before bringing students back to campus. Because if administrators aren’t clear, that trickles down to every facet of the ECC community, which has already occurred. Misinformation, rumors and much worse results from a lack of initiative on the part of our administrators.

That’s a problem that needs fixing.

Get to it.