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Butte College president addresses COVID-19 requirements in fall convocation – Oroville Mercury-Register


BUTTE VALLEY — Butte College faculty and staff met Wednesday in-person for Institute Day Fall 2021, during which President Samia Yaqub gave her convocation ahead of the start of fall classes Monday. For some staff who were hired during the pandemic it was the first time seeing each other face to face.

Yaqub said she has had a chance to meet some of her new colleagues who had been hired while working remotely.

“The positive energy was palpable,” Yaqub said. “That energy has been sustained as more people come back to campus after such a long time away. Everyone wants to catch up with colleagues.”

Yaqub noted how decisions that were made in 30 minutes over Zoom are now taking 60 minutes in-person as folks need time to re-connect.

“It is a testament to the importance of our relationships with one another,” Yaqub said.

In her speech Yaqub touched on a variety of subjects, including how and why Butte College is not requiring the COVID-19 vaccine for students when the California State University and University of California systems are requiring students to obtain vaccinations. She also touched on a “return to campus plan” for teachers which included talks about the application CA Notify which will be used for contact tracing.

Yaqub said that the UC and CSU systems are run by a centralized board which makes decision for the whole system. However at the community college level, schools are locally governed and can make decisions best applicable for their schools. There are 73 districts in California, and Butte College is a part of a Butte/Glenn College single college district, Yaqub said. She said 29 of 73 districts have vaccine mandate requirements, however, Butte College’s does not.

Yaqub said the Butte College board of trustees has begun discussion about vaccine policies and will continue talks in a board meeting next week. She said there are incentives for students to obtain vaccines as well as a Johnson and Johnson vaccine clinic at the Student Health Clinic on the college campus.

“The only way to make sure a new variant doesn’t take hold is through vaccination which decreases the spread of the virus,” Yaqub said. “We each need to do our part by getting vaccinated and encouraging those around us to do the same. We are all in this together.”

Yaqub introduced a couple of those new staff who started their roles during the pandemic including the school’s new Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Anti-Racism Officer Tray Robinson who began July 1. The role is a new position which the college created prior to the fall semester.

Robinson said that equity, diversity and inclusion work is his passion. He said he is looking forward to collaborating with each member of the Butte College staff.

“I’m looking forward to meeting with you where you’re at in relationship to your level of understanding and also just being comfortable with equity, diversity and inclusion work, whatever that means,” Robinson said. “If it’s level 001 or 500 I want to meet you where you’re at and have that conversation and talk about how we can infuse this important work into what you do.”

Yaqub also introduced the school’s new Vice President for Student Services Peter Gitau who started in January.

Gitau, who began at Butte College in January after arriving in California for the first time “not as a tourist,” spelled out a list of spring and summer enrollment management initiatives.

Gitau as well as Vice President of Instruction Virginia Guleff touched on Butte College’s enrollment plan, which has seen a drop-off each year since the 2017-2018 school year. Guleff attributed the drop partially due to wildfires and the pandemic.

Gitau said that as of Wednesday, although not a finalized number, Butte College has seen a sift from the downward trend. He said compared to 2020 Butte College has seen a 3-5% enrollment growth.

Gitau told staff that 80% of student retentions happen within the classrooms, and he encouraged faculty to make their faces shown outside of classrooms at school events.

“Great patagoy results in great retention,” Gitau said.

Guleff informed staff of the accreditation process. She said that Accrediting Commission for Schools approval will be in August, a campus review will be in September, campus approval will take place in October, the board review will take place in November and final approval will take place in December. A site visit will take place from February 28 through March 4.

Butte College Vice President of Institutional Effectiveness Greg Stoup spoke in part about the results of a third-party Butte College climate survey which looked at diversity and inclusion at the college.

Stoup noted that Butte College is rated above its peers in some categories, however there is still work to be done in others. One category Butte College is rated higher than its peers is peoples’ experiences with microaggressions on campus.

Stoup also spoke about the threat of cybersecurity and ransomware attacks which have become more prevalent and more severe at the community college level, including at one of Butte College’s sister campuses — Sierra College in Rocklin.

Butte College has increased the amount of computers and tablets it owns and now has a one computing device per person policy in place as well as mandatory two-step authentication to log into computers and tablets.

Vice President of Administration Andy Suleski was the final speaker.

He said with students working remotely, construction projects where able to be finished faster, including upgrading all of the heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems to MERV 17 which captures 99.97 percent of air particles.

After Guleff, Gitau, Stoup and Suleski had spoke, Yaqub gave a closing statement where she shared her thoughts for those battling and effected by the Dixie Fire. She also asked faculty members to keep in mind Lassen and Feather River colleges, which are currently serving as command posts and evacuation centers.

“We know what that’s like,” Yaqub said.

“And finally, remember we are at our best when we stand together and take care of one another,” she said. “These are tough times. I am so proud of this college and all of you. I am proud of how you continue to show leniency, flexibility, and grace through all of the challenges we are facing. I wish you the best as we start the new semester.”

This content was originally published here.

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