City College leadership sprung into action to provide its students with sufficient technology and services to continue their education when the pandemic rocked academia in March and schools across the country were suddenly shut down.
The Channels commends the administration for swiftly responding to the pandemic with a comprehensive distance learning plan that placed students first and provided relief for those affected.
Administrators and shared governance were able to respond quickly and effectively—with student success as a priority—to the public health crisis that brought the world to a standstill.
Classes were immediately moved online for the remainder of the semester on March 15 when the first confirmed cases of coronavirus in Santa Barbara County were reported.
Within weeks, the college had worked out a way to continue classes through Canvas and Zoom, while providing options for those who needed laptops, hotspots or textbooks.
The SBCC Foundation disbursed over $2 million in coronavirus relief grants starting March 30, providing nearly 2,000 students with money to be used for housing, food or child care.
On April 1, the Food Pantry found a way to continue providing groceries to those in need with a special drive-thru pickup that, at its peak, had the West Campus roundabout packed with over 100 cars.
City College recently reestablished itself as the top community college in the country, and in many ways its response reflected its ranking.
Staff and faculty were integral to the success following the transition to remote classes.
A dance instructor set up multiple cameras to capture all angles of a routine and an earth-science teacher even launched an interactive video game to supplement lectures.
Out-of-state, international and local students were all faced with unique challenges during the spring and summer semesters, and City College made sure that any obstacle to learning would not hinder student success.
Parking lots on west campus were open during school hours so that students could log onto City College internet from their cars and attend Zoom lectures or catch up on coursework.
Staff were kept on, and facilities continue to be maintained.
Employees found ways to work remotely with counselors and student services offering live chat features to help students stay connected with the campus community.
Counseling services have maintained availability for students who may be struggling with the social isolation at home.
Thousands of dollars were spent on Chromebooks and hotspots for students to take home. The college continues to offer these resources now, along with food shares and free laptop rentals being available through the summer and fall semester.
But the transformation wasn’t seamless, and only came after many adjustments and lots of hard work.
Instructors spent the spring break in an emergency crash-course to familiarize everyone with distance learning, with additional training in the summer to prepare for the fall semester.
In spite of the difficulties and sudden shifts, City College was still able to honor 1,736 degrees and certificates in the spring of 2020 and has continued to adapt to this new normal.
This was done by rethinking the school as a smaller institution while retaining the quality of education.
Though the college leadership has been forced to cut costs, they have been critical about where these cuts should be made.
The deficit has shrunk by nearly $3 million and though the enrollment has suffered, there is a lot of potential for City College to become more focused and efficient.
As we emerge from the worst of the pandemic, the leadership must strive to keep on this path. The response to the pandemic may not necessarily carry into the future.
As the college now considers its budget priorities, The Channels urges a students-first philosophy and awareness of what is essential and what is not.
We do not want budget cuts to equal elimination of faculty and staff or the deprioritization of student success.
We urge the college to maintain its course and to not allow balancing the deficit to eclipse education so that City College can live up to its position as the top community college in the nation.