How can Santa Monica College defend keeping the majority of its classes online this Fall?

As a full-time student at Santa Monica Community College, my son has been in his room for fourteen months now. We arrived in California not long before the pandemic started so he has been relying on daily conversations with his friends in France to stay sane. As a family we were desperately counting on him being able to go back to some in-person classes in the fall.

It was with huge disappointment and a sinking heart that we learned in April that all his classes until the end of this year will be remote. Why would this be when L.A. County COVID-19 cases have dropped to 2 cases per 100,000 people (May 25, 2021, NY Times tracker) and vaccination roll-out is proving to be successful? How can this be justified? I cannot help but wonder whether other motives are driving this decision.

Hundreds of colleges across the country are making vaccinations mandatory for the fall of 2021, and while there are valid arguments for and against this policy, Santa Monica College, by choosing to keep courses primarily online, is protecting the interests of those selfish individuals who do not want to get vaccinated, at the expense of everyone else.

As a student in the Animation program, my son would greatly benefit from access to sophisticated equipment and software in the classroom and from having hands-on assistance from his tutors, as well as being part of a community of like-minded creative people. How are he and others supposed to remain motivated in the current circumstances?

Throughout this last year, many of his General Education classes have been reduced to old fashioned correspondence courses. The performance of certain professors has been lackluster, with many not even giving lectures by Zoom but contenting to send reading and assignments via SMC’s platform Corsair Connect. Dr Jeffrey, SMC’s superintendent, announced a “flexible array of course offerings for the Fall semester”, but a quick flick through the catalog shows that the big majority of classes remain online. When she says that we “have been through so much together”, it rings a little hollow. Are we surprised that community college enrollment statewide has plummeted?

To his credit, my son will have demonstrated true strength of character by doggedly studying alone in his room without social interaction and proper teaching for a total of 21 months come the end of this year.

We are turning the corner with the pandemic. I call on Dr. Jeffrey and Santa Monica College to reverse this decision and reinvigorate its faculty and students by bringing its campuses back to life this fall. It’s time to place COMMUNITY rightfully back in the heart of this school.

Helen Fitzgerald, Santa Monica