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COVID-19 strategy will require real leadership

At the March 31 Board of Trustees meeting, Trustee Richard Landau asked what would happen if the COVID-19 pandemic continued through the summer. As time has gone on, the question seems to be less hypothetical. Clearly, this crisis will reveal a lot about WCC’s leadership in the coming months.

Eloy Ortiz Oakley, Chancellor of California’s 115-campus community college system has instructed the state’s individual campuses to plan for another wave of coronavirus cases in August and September. He predicts that the virus could shutter California’s community college campuses throughout the next academic year.

The University of California Berkeley informed students today that it would not cancel the fall semester. However, students may receive some or all instruction via remote delivery. The university administration has not determined when or whether it can resume in-person instruction.

The SARS-COV2 virus – the virus that causes COVID-19 – has mutated at least 30 times since it was identified in January. South Korean studies show that people can relapse after infection. This seems to indicate that the “herd immunity” some people are counting on will not materialize. It also calls into question whether a vaccine would even be effective. COVID-19 could be like the common cold, which is not vaccine-preventable. It could also be semi-vaccine-preventable, like the various strains of influenza that circulate each year.

As a group, coronaviruses usually “bloom” in the winter and spring. But nothing prevents them from maintaining a consistent, low level of viral spread over the summer months. Relaxation of stay-at-home orders and social distancing requirements have only resulted in a resurgence of the disease.

COVID-19 strategy requires real leadership

To overcome the COVID-19 pandemic, WCC will need authentic leadership and viable strategies that address the needs of all students in all programs. In the last decade, the Washtenaw County taxpayers have paid for enormous administrative growth at WCC. We have paid millions for consultants. WCC now has dozens of administrative positions that previous executives did not seem to need. Last month, county voters approved a 10-year millage renewal for the College worth about $175M.

It is now time for WCC’s administration to produce returns on our substantial investment. The citizens of Washtenaw County cannot afford to have WCC’s administration distracted by hare-brained revenue-generation schemes, hotels and useless construction projects. We need a highly functional community college that is focused on its primary mission of educating people – even in the most unpredictable and challenging of circumstances.

And we need that right now.

Photo Credit: Aaron Davis, via Flickr