MONTEREY COUNTY, Calif. (KION) Hartnell College has reduced the number of online courses offered for Fall 2021 as they seek to increase enrollment for in-person instruction.
According to the college, many students stopped attending school because of online instruction and saw a 33% drop during Fall 2020 compared to the previous year.
A spokesperson for the school said students struggle with online learning due to unreliable internet access, lack of study space at home, or basic needs, such as food and housing.
Hartnell College reviewed 181 of its online courses with low enrollment and decided to cancel them. According to the college, students who were enrolled in these classes are able to enroll in the same online course offered at a different time.
But Hartnell College Faculty Association President and professor, Christine Svendsen, said the school is not creating a safe working environment for teachers.
“Our college enrollments go up tremendously as we get the closer end of July, beginning of August,” said Svendsen. “If you've cut enrollment in on June 2. Which is what they did. They took 300 courses and kept them at zero for two weeks before they could decide what to do. You stopped enrollment for two weeks."
A survey of faculty members found 60% of professors did not want to return to in-person instruction if vaccines were not mandated, Svendsen said.
"Whether that means everybody has to be masked, everybody has to do the health screening app, hand sanitizers in the room,” said Svendsen. “The district can take a position of mandating that every student get vaccinated, like many other colleges, to create a safe working environment, but they're not doing that."
As it stands Hartnell has 50% of its courses scheduled for in-person instruction, with the goal of 75% by the Fall. In a statement to KION, Hartnell College said they're trying to balance the safety of instructors, while also addressing how much students suffered during the pandemic with online instruction.
It's wrong to say that students and faculty are being forced to do anything, Hartnell also said. In an email sent to Kion, a spokesperson wrote in part, "Students choose the courses they wish to register for, and they understand when they register that the district may need to change the course time, instructor, location, etc. Likewise, faculty are never forced to teach a class."
According to the Hartnell Survey from March, 77% of students said that it has been “easy” or “not bad” to adapt to online courses. Ten percent said they were not taking classes in Hartnell because of the
switch to online classes and 10% said they would return if classes are offered in person.