Waubonsee faculty asserts college president isn't following COVID-19 mitigations

More than 90% of Waubonsee Community College's Faculty Council gave a vote of no confidence in the college president, asserting she isn't following state and federal COVID-19 mandates. While explaining the faculty council's concerns during the college's board of trustees meeting on Wednesday, board Chairman Rebecca Oliver cut off Jeanne M. McDonald's microphone. McDonald, president of the faculty council, asked the board to uphold its policies and abide by all federal and state COVID-19 guidelines and mandates. McDonald reported that just over 93% of the council's members voted that they have no confidence in college President Christine Sobek's leadership. Polls opened for Faculty Council members at 10 a.m. Monday and closed at 10 a.m. Wednesday. Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced in August that all Pre-K-12 teachers and staff, as well as higher education personnel and students, are required to get vaccinated against COVID-19 or undergo weekly testing. The governor also reinstated an indoor mask mandate.

“Because President Sobek will not institute all mitigations for the pandemic, as directed and necessary for health equity and the safety of students, staff and faculty, we asked the board to re-evaluate her ineffectiveness in carrying out and instituting policies for which she was appointed,” McDonald said.

Sobek's office did not respond to multiple requests seeking comment.

On Friday morning, the board issued a statement supporting Sobek.

“The Waubonsee Community College Board of Trustees stands united in its unequivocal support of Dr. Christine Sobek, President of Waubonsee Community College, and her leadership in instituting health and safety measures that follow federal guidelines and state mandate protocols to keep the campus community safe and healthy,” Oliver said in the statement.

McDonald claims Sobek has failed to protect students, staff and faculty by returning to operations as usual during the pandemic.

“Patience and caution have been abandoned by upper management in their quest to fulfill strategic goals apart from the context of the pandemic,” McDonald said. “All predictions about the future trajectories of the pandemic cannot be substantiated by present data. We are still currently at transmissions levels greater than June 2021 when mask mandates were lifted for vaccinated individuals.”

At the meeting, Oliver, who has been on the board for 24 years, argued that McDonald was not discussing proper collective bargaining subjects. She asked her to stay within the guidelines outlined in the faculty contract or end her time at the podium.

McDonald, an English professor, kept talking. By the time she finished explaining that the faculty council found Sobek in violation of a policy about operations of emergency preparedness and security and communicable diseases, Oliver had risen from her seat, and McDonald's mic had been shut off.

“Dr. McDonald, you are done,” Oliver stated. “You are done! I would ask for a motion to go into executive session.”

As the trustees voted in favor of going into a closed session, McDonald kept on talking.

McDonald said Sobek seemingly had no concept that different people have dissimilar risks for contracting COVID while claiming that Sobek's data states students prefer in-person classes without supporting it.

According to McDonald, no one is policing the masking of students indoors and no standing temperature check or anything similar is taking place on campus.

Sobek, who celebrated her 20th year as college president this summer, recently signed a new contract with an annual salary of $346,413.

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