Quick Tips! Being the Community’s College During COVID-19

Videos March 30, 2020

Community colleges stand out from their competitors by serving the community, whether or not “community” is part of the college’s name. In this Quick Tips! video, Dr. Pamela Cox-Otto, CEO of Interact, offers advice on addressing issues related to COVID-19, and suggests actions you may take to serve your communities better during this time. Your resources, facilities, and people may be a powerful source to provide critical assistance that will help your community to weather this storm.


Hi, homies. And I do mean homies, since we’re all probably at home. Undoubtedly you are in the middle of the worst kind of PR crisis you ever thought you would have in your life. And two things: One, if I can help you, reach out. You know my email, and if not, you know interactcom.com. Come up and send an email to us, and we will do our best. Also, we’ve developed a place to place questions on discourse.interactcom.com. Come up, enter your question, and I’m literally up there every day answering questions from anyone that asks. So feel free to reach out.

So, this is the moment where being a community college makes you truly different than universities or anyone else. Why? For the very simple fact that the community is what you care about. And your community, if not now, will soon be in trouble because we have the COVID-19 virus which is moving among us, and people are going to get sick. And unless we change some things, there’s going to be a trajectory where the hospitals are overburdened.

So here are some things I’d like you to think about. Not about PR, but things that you could be doing to get ready, because your college has resources and is probably going to need to deploy them in the use of your community.

So, first, when your hospitals overflow, realize that you have many, many resources. Many of you have beds, many of you have labs, many of you have ventilators. Many of you have facilities that really could be used. At the very least, you can open up part of your facilities for use by medical personnel, perhaps for testing or other things. And at the most, you can loan them equipment. If you’re sitting around with face masks and goggles and all sorts of things that are used in your labs, perfect time for you to make those available to medical workers to keep them safe.

Also, you’re a natural overflow hospital. What can you offer? How can you offer it? Those are things that you and your faculty should be thinking of right now, because when the need arises, it would be better to be prepared for it than not.

Finally, there could be hunger among the working poor. There’s a lot of people who can’t buy two weeks’ worth of food. And where are they going to get their food? And the answer is, well, at this moment they don’t know. And so you have cafeteria facilities, you can open a cafeteria, you can offer food. And if that’s not some risk that your college is willing to take on, you can also send that food to places that do have cafeterias and will be offering that service. It’s something that you can do that most people simply don’t have access to.

Finally, undoubtedly you’ve heard of the shortage of face masks. I’ve been working this week, sewing face masks. Yes, I know how to sew. I know, it’s scary, isn’t it? So if you can, if your college has a program where you do sewing, those machines can be loaned out to those who know how to sew. You also undoubtedly have 3D printers if you have any kind of manufacturing program. There are some great patterns out there to print 3D face masks, and they’re very safe and they’re very good. So those are things that you might want to take advantage of right now.

Finally, you know, something to always be thinking about: A lot of people are getting their news from sources that are not necessarily reliable. What you can do is, do a day’s news summary from quoted sources where people are getting their information from medical specialists. We’d all like to just listen to the kind of good news, “It’s wonderful. We found a cure.” We haven’t. We don’t even have a virus vaccine yet. So people who listen to that might start to take risks that they shouldn’t take. And you can be a source of consolidating information for those people who don’t have that.

This is the moment where having the “community” in your name, whether it’s still there or not formally, you serve your community. Your community, if they don’t need you now, they soon will. So think about all of the resources that the college has, not just for students, but to help the community get through this. If you plan that now, you’ll be able to offer them so much more safely, and they’ll remember it. This is the moment where being a community college really counts.

And finally, one thing: Thank you for everything you’re doing. This is a scary time, but we’ll get through this because there are lots of good people out there cranking, and you’re one of them. Take care. Reach out if we can help at all.


A man looking through binoculars with the Facebook logo over both eyes, just showing that everywhere you look, social media marketing is there! Photo by Glen Carrie on Unsplash
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