COVID policies: a testy discussion with faculty

Aubrianna Martinez, Senior Digital Editor

Bakersfield College professors joined together via virtual conference to discuss their respective concerns and arguments against the local COVID-19 policies on Jan. 27. In a Zoom meeting titled “Covid Policies: A Campus Discussion with Faculty,” a few BC staff members presented their views on the matter. Department Chair and nursing professor Alisha Loken, chemistry professor Ximena Da Silva Tavares, professor of behavioral science Patrick O’Neill, and assistant professor of automotive technology Justin Flint were panelists.
The latter three professors expressed their dissatisfaction with the current prevention policies such as the mask requirement that Professors Da Silva Tavares and Flint found counterproductive—Professor Flint attributed this as a cause of BC’s low enrollment numbers—and use of private security, while Professor Loken occasionally chimed to negate information that another professor stated.
The other panelists used a majority of science, data, and political rhetoric to express where they disagree with the policies in place to prevent the spread of COVID. Professor Flint began his segment civilly before delving into his personal problems with the current blueprint, saying “I have a lot of grace for how the district has handled this at the beginning of the pandemic when we didn’t have the luxury of knowing what we know now. […] Now that we have two years of real data to make real decisions from, I don’t understand how we can continue down the path we’re on.”
Professor Da Silva Tavares especially critiqued the scientific practices around the pandemic, “even among scientists there is dissent among how to experiment this data, even how this data is collected and whether it’s good scientific data.”
Professor O’Neill similarly questioned the legitimacy of the scientific data turning to the daily health checker app, “the worst data you can have a health issue is self-reported diagnostic data, and we’re going to use that to keep everyone safe?”
He spoke off the cuff as he continued his argument against the self-reported data, “that’s putting people at risk to make money because we have to open up the buildings and have parking fees.”
Professor Da Silva Tavares later commented on multiple COVID-19 related concepts, such as the use of ivermectin, the rapid normalization of booster shots, and the quarterly sales of Pfizer, but she continued, “I worry about what these policies do to our society as a whole […] it’s this emotionally what we’re doing to each other that worries me–the messaging that if you see any hazard, report it. I worry about the long-term effects on that.”
As the Zoom call started to wind down Professor Da Silva Tavaras referenced concerns that have been raised in reference to the vaccine and fertility, which she stated haven’t been validated, Loken quickly posted in the chat “there is NO DATA that supports that the vaccines affect fertility.” A moment later when answering another question, Professor Da Silva Tavaras stated repeatedly that the fourth phase of the vaccines had not been completed and therefore they couldn’t have been approved, but Professor Loken turned on her mic to interrupt as she summarized information from the CDC website in real-time, “Phase four is always done after the drug is approved no matter what drug it is, so that’s nothing different than the way all medications and vaccines are treated.” After this exchange, the Zoom call was promptly ended.
Two of the professors seemed to be interested in having a discussion not just about their own beliefs, but the bigger picture. Professor O’Neill argued that the community should work to support its members better, accommodating those who have concerns over coming back to campus, and those who don’t want to receive the vaccine should be able to attend virtually.
Professor Loken added, “the choices we’re making affect each other, right? We never make a choice in a vacuum regardless of what you feel on each issue.”