The University community struggles successfully to make it through the pandemic
by Destinee Mondragon
photography by Emily Alvarez
The University of La Verne longed for students and faculty to bring life back to campus. Finally, Fall 2021 that came to pass. But from the middle of March through summer 2021, the campus was closed. There was only wind blowing through the halls, which caused a few discarded face masks to dance across an empty campus. Yet, with the COVID-19 pandemic recently passing its March 2021 one-year anniversary, and with some stay at home orders eased, there was reason to believe the worst was over. But slow down. Things are better but not back to normal—yet. There is an ethical, personal decision to be made to really bring things back to normal.
You know the question: Have you had the shot? Until a majority of people say, “Yes,” then mitigation measures are likely to remain in place. The three types of vaccines have really made a “peace of mind” difference for those who have jumped in the vaccination pool. Sure, the Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson vaccinations have their scientifically validated flaws. But the internet has ignited a swarm of false claims that are easy to believe if one is undecided. For example, some ULV students say they feel this vaccine may cause future health problems. Some say they are willing to take that risk because of not wanting to be in quarantine anymore. Then there are the outlandish rumors: The vaccine contains possible chips with G.P.S. tracking in it. The vaccine will alter a person’s DNA. Many, who ended up being hospitalized, bought into the rumors. The CDC responded to most of the rumors, “COVID-19 vaccines do not change or interact with your DNA in any way. There are currently two types of COVID-19 vaccines that have been authorized for use in the United States: messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccines and viral vector vaccines.”
As it is, students are longing for better days, free of COVID-19 restrictions. “The pandemic has turned me into a homebody as I have learned to enjoy spending time alone. I look forward to being able to get back to normal life. I miss traveling, going to concerts, and spending time with my friends and family,” says Thomas Osbourn, senior public relations major. “I think the University of La Verne has done a pretty good job at adapting to the current situation. I think moving to online classes was the best option during the pandemic because it prevented students and faculty from spreading the virus around. Going into next fall, I think finding ways to allow for students to return on campus in some capacity, whether full time or hybrid, would help students get a better education than only Zoom classes,” he says. Did he take the shot? “I received my first dose of the Moderna vaccine in February and second in March, so I am fully vaccinated for awhile. I did feel, however, that my senior year was wasted away due to not being on campus. I lived at home, and I live about an hour away from campus, so I could not see any of my friends from ULV. I was lucky enough to be able to get my vaccinations pretty early because I work in a pharmacy, and I am considered a health care worker. I think it is really important for everyone eligible to receive their vaccine so that we can stop the virus from further mutating, and we can eventually return to normal life.”
Taylor Correa, a junior psychology major, tells the other side of the vaccination decision. “I decided not to get the shot because I want to wait out whatever the “shot” is. I think it was made up way too fast and just too randomly. To come out with a vaccine so soon is crazy to me.”
Benjamin Cruz, a junior criminology major, agrees. “I have not taken the vaccine, on account they are still being tested. I would wait a few years when each one is tested, and the risk of side effects have been reduced—even though I am aware that the more severe reactions are experienced by a small fraction of those who have taken it.”
Taylor Hung, a junior business administration major, joins in this reasoning. “I haven’t taken the vaccine. I think it’s a bit too soon. It took them less than a year to make it and release it, and with the side effects women have been facing, it just adds more to my worries.”
Nevertheless, Yuritzy Pardes, a senior criminology major, feels the vaccine is the way out of the pandemic. “Yeah, I took the vaccine shot. I wanted to because I believed it was safest to do so, and also I want things to go back to “normal” and not worry about masks and distancing and all the restrictions.”
The University Faces Pandemic Restrictions
The result of the shutdown March 2020 that sent faculty, staff and students home to quarantine also gave rise to the La Verne Safe Return Plan, created to keep the community safe when on-campus activities resumed. The La Verne Safe Return Plan is the University’s official COVID-19 prevention plan, developed after a comprehensive risk assessment of all work areas, work tasks and student interactions. The plan’s mission statement says that it is in full compliance with all federal, state, and regional public health mandates, and in some areas exceeds guidelines and recommendations. “The University of La Verne’s plans for a safe return to campus prioritize the health and safety of students, faculty, and staff while also honoring the University’s historical commitment to a student-centered and personalized education. Upon state and county approval, the University of La Verne will resume a phased return to face-to-face and on-campus operations, and this plan will guide that phased approach. This safe plan is flexible and adaptable and will evolve as additional information or public health guidelines become available.”
On the ULV website, there is a COVID-19 dedicated page stating how the school is enforcing pandemic related precautions. Also present are active updates. This page also relays news, such as the University was awarded nearly $3 million in federal coronavirus relief funds from the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act (CRRSAA) for students with financial need.
The web site says students are permitted to come to campus during daylight hours to use the Citrus Quad and Sneaky Park for individual outdoor study space. For students who need it, the University will continue to provide technical support, including access to computer equipment and training, Students experiencing difficulty with the online learning environment were invited to contact their department chair, dean or email@example.com.
Students staying in the residence halls spring 2021 were instructed that they must conduct symptom screening through the LiveSafe app, wear face coverings and socially distance (one person per outdoor table). Spring Commencement plans forecast that ULV will include a combination of virtual and in-person events.
Future plans come with a statement that ULV will be returning to in-person learning fall 2021. As such, the web page says students may apply to live in the residence halls for the fall.
The Herculean efforts made by the faculty who taught in their homes is evident and applauded by many students. Another excellent effort came with the establishment of three committees: The Novel Coronavirus Monitoring Committee, The President’s Cabinet Safe Return Committee, and The Academic Affairs Coronavirus Committee, all of which monitored and coordinated University actions. An important leader on these committees was Juan Regalado, chief student affairs officer. “I would say the most challenging thing about creating a plan is that it is all so new, and how quick and rapidly we had to keep learning. There’s no reference page or anywhere to get prior knowledge for advice on how to create plans and policies,” says Regalado. “It’s been a team of people who have been involved in this, our safe return plan and publishing the COVID webpage.”
Regalado says the committees were charged with creating a University culture in line with COVID restrictions of guiding people how to act and behave in line with University values. “The committees were created to represent the voices of the community and the sensitive issues of the pandemic. We luckily have had a good experience with these committees and plan to utilize them for the culture of the community,” Regalado says.
Students have profited from the work of the committee. “It truly was when times were the most difficult that our true Leo community spirit came out during the pandemic. We are all working from home and getting our schoolwork done. It is definitely a very hectic time in our lives,” says Destiny Dominguez, senior public relations major. “I did get the Pfizer shot, and I feel like it was a great decision because I wasn’t only thinking of me—I was thinking of others like my family,” she says.
“I have been dealing so much with having an online school, and it just amazes me how off track you can get online. Academically, it was a very stressful year, but I know it truly was a once in a lifetime experience,” says Melanie Gazian, ULV senior, sociology major. “I felt that my senior year wasted away with my being a student athlete and wanting a proper farewell from my home for four years. It just seems even more bittersweet with the touch of a national pandemic. I did get the Pfizer shot, and I did get bad symptoms after the first day, but it wasn’t anything horrible. It is worth it to come back to normalcy.”