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California Community College Governors Approve Emergency Powers For System Chancellor

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East Los Angeles College is among the state's 115 community colleges. (Adolfo Guzman-Lopez/LAist)
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The California Community College Board of Governors unanimously voted on Monday to give Chancellor Eloy Oakley emergency powers to keep classes open at the 115-college system during the coronavirus epidemic.

The resolution’s supporting comments said last week’s decision by community colleges to move classes online generated questions “concerning the appropriate process for approving such transitions.” The resolution notes that existing emergency powers address keeping the public safe or financially protecting college districts during emergencies, but they don't address how to keep education going if campuses are shut.

The resolution gives Oakley the power to issue executive orders, and sidestep the board of governors’ own regulations and rules adopted by the local boards of trustees that oversee California’s community colleges.

The move is one example of extraordinary steps public administrators are taking to ensure public institutions continue to provide services during the coronavirus crisis.

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“It is not good governance to give unlimited power for a significant period of time,” said Community College Association President Eric Kaljumagi in a question submitted via the online meeting. "I am concerned that student, staff, and faculty positions will be unknown when important decisions are made.”

The California Community Colleges system enrolls about 2 million students at 115 colleges. It’s the largest higher education system in California and the nation.

The emergency powers were granted for as long as California is under an emergency declaration, or six months, whichever comes first. The Board of Governors may still call for an emergency meeting in response to any actions taken by the chancellor.

Read the full resolution here:

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