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The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

City College president celebrates achievements nine months into campus shutdown
During a recent visit to City College, President Michael Gutierrez led a guided tour across campus as he shared his vision for our future post COVID-19. Photographer: Diana Martinez ([email protected])

Every month, City College President Michael Gutierrez convenes with administrators, faculty and staff to help create community and celebrate accomplishments made as the college continues to operate remotely. 

In addition to these Celebrate City online gatherings, Gutierrez holds office hours for his employees twice a month, providing a place for conversations about the challenges and successes of a college during a global pandemic.

“[The Celebrate City gatherings] have been a part of our dialogue that have necessitated a response from the college, and we talk [about] anything having to do with [the] college or even self-care, because that’s also important. Our students are tired, faculty, classified professionals, administrators are tired, and we all need to take care of ourselves.”

Nine months into the campus shutdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Gutierrez acknowledged the state of the college and how he and a small crew of staffers have overseen the mostly vacant campus.

“We have cut 10% of our budget, and it has impacted our part-time faculty and our temporary classified professionals,” said Gutierrez. “We’ve not been able to hire as many [instructors] when classes have finished [for the semester]. We’ve not brought many of them back. With that said, those [who] are full-time, at this point, we’ve not had any layoffs [or] furloughs. And they’re not anticipated at this point in time.”

Still, Gutierrez, who comes once a week to campus, is proud of what the college community is doing virtually during the pandemic. While on campus, for example, rather than meeting on Zoom with Public Information Officer Kaitlyn Collignon, Gutierrez heads outside, doing “walk-and-talks” to break up the monotony of staring at a computer screen.

“That’s part of the self-care aspect because I think all of us have experienced some sort of Zoom fatigue [over the last] nine months,” said Gutierrez.

Gutierrez said the walk-and-talks take the place of the walking he would’ve done in a typical semester. 

“We take for granted that during the day, even if we [had] a lot of meetings, we [weren’t] sitting in the same chair. We [would] walk to a different building,” he said. “There are breaks in between [meetings] where we’re connecting with other people and the college, and you walk around some. And there’s really no way to do it now. So the walking meeting is sort of a substitute for that.

“It really changed my demeanor and attitude during the day. I [have] a little less fatigue when I get on Zoom as well. I’m able to focus a little better.”

City College has shut down only twice in its 104-year-history: the first time during World War I and the second time due to poor air quality in November 2018. Gutierrez noted the efforts of staff and students during this historic moment. 

“I think it shows the dedication and commitment and spirit of all our college,” he said.
“People are working incredibly hard. You’ve got students and employees that you know—not only are they going to class and are working, they’ve got children they have to work with. The [kids are] also, many of them, at home.”

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Though the Los Rios district has not yet determined when on-campus instruction can resume, Gutierrez said a lot of planning and safety measures need to be put in place before that happens. Facilities will require organization and planning to coordinate schedules and do regular sanitation that meets COVID-19 safety requirements.

“You’ve seen some colleges throughout the nation, where the employees and the classes are on alternating schedule[s],” said Gutierrez. “They may have an ABC and D block so the entire college [doesn’t] show up at the same time. It may be certain parts of buildings that show up, which also means that classes taught may be in a hybrid format. [We] could [have] a Tuesday- Thursday course [in which] half the class shows up on Tuesday, half of the class on Thursday.” 

Gutierrez said as the college moves forward, some student services that have historically been on-ground are doing well in the online environment. 

“Financial aid services, some of our business services, in terms of payment, have been improved during this time period,” said Gutierrez. “So I think those are things that may not be exclusively online in the future. But again, we’ll be able to provide those types of student services that we weren’t really doing. Much of that will likely be something you’ll see changed permanently for us.”  

Even when the college resumes on-ground classes, Gutierrez said that both faculty and students have learned that they can access many services like financial aid a little more efficiently online and don’t necessarily have to go to the campus. 

“I think those are the kinds of things that we will see that are being done differently that I think we’re going to stick. And it doesn’t mean that we won’t have the on-ground part. It just means that students will have not only [the] opportunity to do it in a virtual format,” he said. “What it will do is, it might reduce the lines that you see during certain periods of registration, because you have now a good chunk of our students that are now used to doing the things virtually, and they figured out that they don’t have to come to campus.” 

Gutierrez said, like many people, he, his wife and two children have been trying to maintain some of the same routines they had at home before the pandemic, which has helped them all. His biggest challenge has been to maintain a separation between his work and home life. 

“I get up at the same time. I exercise at the same time. You know, pretty much the same routine,” he said. “And then, in terms of self-care—implementing the walking meeting, for example, unplugging and creating a dividing line because it’s so easy to get sucked into work and blurring those lines.”

Gutierrez acknowledged that the Los Rios district has a history of being fiscally conservative. This approach has come into play during the shutdown.

”That is one of the strengths of Los Rios,” Gutierrez said. “You know, because we have a sort of a soft freeze, as people leave, we’ve not hired most of the positions. It’s required us to really tighten our belts and become as efficient and effective as we possibly can. But again, everybody that’s full time has remained employed. And that’s something to celebrate.

“But again, the celebration is [because] we’ve had during this very difficult time period where many people have lost their jobs in our community and nationwide. We’ve had that stability in our district.”

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