Students analyze COVID-19 communications

The Otter Cross Cultural Center (OC3) at California State University, Monterey Bay (CSUMB) co-hosted the Social Justice Dialogue on Feb. 10. The event started with a brief introduction from OC3 coordinator Bianca Zamora which then led into CSUMB student Jesus Orozco presenting information from the Fall Undergraduate Research, Scholarship and Creative Activity Competition. 

Orozco, alongside fellow Otter Amelia Parker, delved into widespread communication and how COVID-19 was addressed throughout CSU campuses. More specifically, the two focused on how colleges were not immune to messaging mishaps – whether that stemmed from a lack of communication or another complication. They believed no plan was set to handle a global crisis or the translation of important messages being relayed throughout universities. 

The pandemic has drastically changed operations. In early March of 2020 when society began to shut down, it seemed as though campuses were having a difficult time deciding when to close. Orozco and Parker’s research looked at different contributing factors to communication challenges, ranging from the language the information was in, reading level, comprehension and gender of the individual speaking to a mass of people. 

Two emails were presented – Campus A, a thoughtful and personal response from a female administrator, and Campus B, a straightforward email from a male administrator that listed basic information in bullet point form – that proved to be interesting, both being a medium of communication, but setting a different tone and attitude towards students. 

Circling back to real-time, speakers deliberated on the concrete communications of the CSU. At a difficult time filled with uncertainty, the question was raised as to why various emails were approached differently and why there seemed to be no language translation. All emails sent were in English. It is expected that as college students we speak and read English to be able to attend universities, however, English is not always the first or preferred language for some, demonstrating a lack of inclusivity.

Feedback was shared from students on the effectiveness of communication techniques and whether there was any confusion brought on by CSUMB officials. Unfortunately, many students recounted similar experiences, having frustrations with correspondence since March 2020. 

Multiple students recalled original emails from the campus, along with back-and-forth emails to those living in campus housing. With the university being one of the last few CSU’s to make a decision on transitioning to an online format, some students felt the school could have better prepared for the crisis. 

Students expressed personal struggles contributing to the stresses of online learning and where they stand with classes next fall. Unfortunately, it may be too soon to tell. Some feel that the most recent email from CSUMB President Ochoa provided no substance or clear course of action and wished for more transparency from the university and CSU system. 

The event concluded with Orozco reiterating the importance of relaying effective communication. 

The Undergraduate Research Opportunities Center (UROC) provides information on communication which can be found on the school’s website. UROC’s hard work and research brings to light the need for planning ahead for situations at this magnitude on college campuses. 

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