I would first like to congratulate the SFCC graduates participating in the SFCC Virtual Commencement Ceremony, this morning at 10 a.m. Saturday, May 15. A live stream production of the event can be viewed on YouTube and on SFCVTV-16 on Comcast. The virtual ceremony will salute graduates who completed either in the Spring semester or Summer term. In addition, a virtual graduation ceremony will take place for High School Equivalency (HSE) graduates at 6 p.m. May 18. The public is invited to view the broadcast on the SFCC YouTube channel.
On Friday, the New Mexico Department of Health announced updated health orders that New Mexico will adopt CDC mask guidance for fully vaccinated people. I encourage you to review this public health order update. According to the NMDOH, “the CDC’s guidance for school settings currently remains unchanged. Pending additional guidance from the CDC, masks continue to be required in schools for all students and school staff regardless of vaccination status.” Per NMDOH guidelines, SFCC’s requirement to wear masks on campus will not change at this time. I will continue to update you as health orders change.
Scheduling for Covid-19 vaccines is taking place at vaccineNM.org.
As we look forward to returning to campus and life as we knew it pre-pandemic, I continue to work with the Covid Task Force, the New Mexico Higher Education Department, and other colleges to envision what that may look like. Many of us are anxious to get back to serving our students, our community, and one another in person. I want to share our approach to implementing our return.
The Governor’s Office has stated the goal of attaining 60% vaccination rates by July. The implication is that once we get to that point, everything will be fully open. At SFCC, for the summer, those departments and offices that interact with students directly will be on campus in person at 25% during regular business hours. In the fall, the plan is to increase that to 50%. To manage the numbers, students will be able to schedule their in-person appointments online. For those who do not directly interact with students, I will depend on supervisors to gauge what is best for their departments when determining which positions may continue to work remotely.
Of course, we hope that most of us will be on campus full time sooner rather than later, but I’m not ready to predict when that will be. Not every job can be done from home, nor is everyone able work from home. If someone has a medical condition, and a doctor who will verify that condition, then we can work with Human Resources on accommodations. For the most part, we are all going to have to come back in some capacity. There will not be allowances for those who just don’t want to return. However, there are ways that some people can be gradually reintroduced back to campus. If you are a faculty member who is mostly teaching online, and that’s okay with your department, then that will be acceptable. If as a faculty member you can hold office hours virtually, and your students are able to do that, then that will also be acceptable. However, if a student wishes to meet in person, then faculty should make themselves available to do so. I am certainly willing to work with our remote work policy (Policy 4-57 Telecommuting) to see how we can implement it in a more robust way as we go forward for those positions where it works for our students and the College.
As you may be aware, the University of New Mexico is looking at requiring Covid vaccinations for anyone coming to campus. Although California is requiring vaccines for its community colleges, that is not the situation across the nation. Most community colleges have opted not to require vaccinations. The Governing Board will consider vaccine requirements, and how they may affect our students and have an impact on equity issues, at their retreat at the beginning of June. If we need to have vaccination sites on campus, we can.
Of course, we hope that the wait to be screened and enter campus for those who are not vaccinated will serve as an incentive to get vaccinated so they can get through the door more quickly. We also have to look at what the screening protocols need to be going forward.
I realize that it is going to be a new experience since we have mostly worked remotely for more than a year. Taking a more measured approach to returning to campus may help us to ease back into our campus life. I appreciate all the work you have accomplished in these trying times, and I look forward to safely being together again as a community in person.
Becky Rowley, Ph.D.