Bringing back the community in community college

Illustration by: Peter Villafane

With campuses being closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, students have been left in the dark about how their education is being affected.

 When offices were still open, face-to-face access to counselors and staff was an easy way to get instant feedback on questions and to stay informed on changes about the school.

 In lack of direct contact, emails are simply not enough.

 Pierce College should host weekly webinars to provide updates about all decisions and plans being made for the college.

 Although faculty and team meetings are ongoing via Zoom, some of what’s being said is not shared to those who are actually being affected–the students.

 It can sometimes take hours before Pierce or the Los Angeles Community College District (LACCD) sends an email, and they usually don’t always address student concerns.

Almost every person has special circumstances where not all the information applies to them. They have more concerns, but they won’t get a response right away.

 They usually have to wait to speak with someone through the Cranium Café. Not all assistants will be available online when they have the question, and a majority don’t have the option set for them to send an offline message.

 If Pierce College President Alexis Montevirgen did a live streamed event where he gave updates and then opened up time for students to give feedback, similar to Coffee and Conversations with the President, communication would be more effective.

 San Diego Mesa College had a community forum on YouTube, where the president of the college talked about a variety of items, including laptop distribution and emergency funds, as well as campus construction and registration for summer classes. After answering questions that were previously submitted, she looked at comments directly from the chat.

 California State University, Northridge and California State University, Fullerton are also hosting online events to provide information for newly admitted students as part of their outreach and recruitment program.

 After a webinar has ended, a recording of it can be uploaded to the Pierce website along with a link being sent through email.

 This would ensure that people who missed it could still have access to everything that was shared.

 Everyone in the meeting can’t be in the same room, so another option is to do it through Zoom. The platform allows conference calls to be streamed directly to YouTube.

 Rather than simply having the president host it, administrators, deans and chairs from different departments could also join the video to answer concerns that are more specific to people’s needs.

 Despite a 20-second delay between the Zoom and the stream, there would still be a live chat on YouTube for people to talk.

 While not all of the weekly webinars may contain any new changes, simply checking in will create a closer community.

Decisions about classes or finances don’t have to be behind closed doors. Although there will still be people who are not happy with the results, students and professors could see the thought process behind choices that are made.

 Perhaps issues that they didn’t know needed resolving could be brought up by people in the chat.

 By having a weekly online forum, communication would be open on all ends.