Protesters stand against SOCCCD vaccine mandate approval, claiming that it will violate their freedom of choice. Lizeth Tello | Lariat
A new mandate will affect future on-campus students and faculty, beginning Jan. 8
An email sent to students on Wednesday, Nov. 17, stated that starting Jan. 8, 2022, all on-campus Saddleback and Irvine Valley College students, faculty and staff will be required to be vaccinated against COVID-19. If you plan to request a medical or sincerely held religious belief exemption, you must submit an exemption request form and submit any required supporting documentation by Jan. 3.
If an exemption is approved, testing will then be required twice a week. According to the policy for on-campus students, “All students who fail to undergo testing a minimum of twice a week and provide proof of negative results are not entitled to accommodations and the district is within its right to deny students support services, enforce disciplinary action, and defer or deny enrollment.”
Policies addressing the staff are still in discussion, although a rough draft of the board policy did suggest termination as a possible consequence. It stated:
“Employees and volunteers shall upload proof of full vaccination against COVID-19 into Workday. Vaccination records shall be subject to verification through the proper authority, including the California immunization registry. It is the employee’s responsibility to ensure that the State of California has the correct information related to the verification of their vaccination record and/or assist the District with the verification of the record. Unverified records shall be fully investigated by Human Resources.
Employees seeking exemption due to a verified disability/medical condition or sincerely held religious belief shall contact Human Resources.
Employees receiving approved exemptions will undergo free twice weekly testing for COVID-19 infection and provide proof of negative COVID-19 test results beginning January 8, 2022. Employees must submit their test results to the person/department designated by the District. Testing protocols will be at the direction of the District or as outlined in the memorandums of understanding between the District and the respective collective bargaining units. Failure to comply may subject an employee to disciplinary action up to and including termination.”
Around a dozen Saddleback employees and their supporters, who were unhappy with these changes, peacefully protested the new vaccine mandate on Monday, Oct. 25. Protesters stood outside of Saddleback College, on the corners of Campus Dr. and Marguerite Pkwy., despite heavy showers.
The protesters had chosen to gather that specific day due to a board of trustees meeting that had taken place later in the evening at 6:30 p.m., which affirmed that the school would go through with the mandate.
Toward the beginning, only one person was present but more people began arriving as more time passed by. Jess Perez, senior administrative assistant for athletics and one of the first protesters on the scene, said that it was originally expected that more people would come, but many were probably discouraged by the strong winds and heavy rain.
Still, this did not stop some people from contributing their voice.
“I’m a classified permanent employee and when the vaccine mandate came out, everybody got on the bandwagon to make it mandatory but there’s no law,” Perez said. “I think our state recently passed a law but the state is violating the constitutional Fourteenth Amendment because the states are not supposed to make any laws that supersedes the Constitution.”
Ann Bromby, another protester that was present at the scene, strictly stated that she was not an anti-vaxxer but did not agree with the new changes. Though she is not an employee, she is the mother of a Saddleback alumni, who is not vaccinated and would probably not qualify for enrollment because of the new requirement.
“It really is a thing about choice and I don’t think that the government should be telling us what to do,” Bromby said. “We are smart people, we need to be able to think for ourselves and choose for ourselves.”
Darren England, a senior matriculation specialist from the Saddleback counseling division, also stood against the new policies, holding a picket sign that read “No Mandate!”
“We support freedom,” England said. “We don’t like mandates saying we have to put experimental drugs into our body. Experimental drugs are not for everybody.”
Some people have shown favor for the new mandate. For example, according to recent communications from Saddleback President Elliot Stern, vaccinations are being encouraged. Lariat staff has reached out to Stern for an official comment, but as of this publication, he has not replied to our request.
Associated Students of Irvine Valley College President DeAngelo Hunter has also shown his support during the South Orange County Community College District board meeting on Oct. 25. During the meeting, he commended the board members for passing the mandate and doing what they could to prevent more deaths caused by COVID-19, stating that “it was the most American thing they could have done for their community.”
California School Employees Association President Scott Greene was contacted but refused to give a statement and claimed total neutrality on the subject.
Back in September, President Biden passed a new mandate, which is now being adopted by many schools, that federal employees will be required to receive a vaccination, otherwise they will face punishment. The SOCCCD is one of many districts that have edited their administrative regulations to comply with Biden’s plan.
Even with the new changes, the future is still unclear. Only time will tell whether the COVID situation will improve throughout the district and things can go back to the way they were pre-pandemic.
Updated Dec. 17 at 11:24 p.m. to update exemption form information.