Vaccination mandates caused tension in leadership
The July 12 resignation of Santa Barbara City College’s superintendent and president, Dr. Utpal K. Goswami, stirred speculation about his departure, which was rendered effective immediately.
An explosive Board of Trustees meeting Thursday showed a clear divide in the campus: to mandate vaccination or not?
During an interview with the News-Press, Dr. Goswami confirmed that the proposed vaccination mandate spurred his resignation.
He began his role at the start of 2020, and the board lauded him as the promising leader the college needed. Soon after his initiation, the pandemic forced the college into virtual learning.
“In virtual learning, things were going well, actually. We did some wonderful things,” Dr. Goswami told the News-Press. “Moving online was not the problem.
“I think things became more problematic when it came time to discuss coming back face-to-face.”
In mid-May, while discussing the return to campus, he began to consider resigning.
“I knew things were not going the way they are supposed to go,” he said.
The style of governance wasn’t as he expected. He thought the short length of negotiations was “troublesome.”
“The board and the president need to be in-sync regarding governance, and we were slowly — we were not in sync,” he said. “So thinking of the best decision for SBCC, it just didn’t make sense for me to stay.”
The board was split 4-3 in a decision to require vaccines or not on campus.
The University of California system mandated full vaccination, but Westmont College and Allan Hancock College have not established that requirement.
Dr. Goswami did not want to enforce a vaccine mandate.
“In retrospect, the two items that collided is the notion of access, how to make it open to as many students as we can, and safety,” he told the News-Press. “For some people, one trumps the other but for a community college, the reason we exist is for access. And safety has to be balanced.”
He has no ill feelings toward anyone, he said. He just didn’t feel compatible with the college’s officials.
“I think they need to work on their communication and refocus on things that they do really well, which is our students,” he said.
He is easing into his next steps.
Dr. Helen Benjamin is currently serving as the college’s interim superintendent/president, a role she has filled before.