The new normal – Day 44

April 29, 2020

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Photo courtesy of Eugene Huff

Krys Shahin, Editor-in-Chief / @Krysshah

Editor’s note: “The new normal” is a continuing series that looks into how members of the Los Medanos College community are coping with a shelter-in-place order amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

A month and a half into the Coronavirus pandemic, members of the Contra Costa Community College District and surrounding communities continue to live the new normal. 

Interim Chancellor Eugene Huff is abiding by precautions from the Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization by staying home, which means working remotely.

I actually have not been in the district office for over a week,” he said. “It’s been very intentional. I think that it’s important for leaders, in particular, to demonstrate that we take this seriously.”

With a spouse who was already working from home prior to the pandemic, Huff said they have been able to adjust by having two separate work areas so as to not intrude on the other’s space. 

“It’s becoming more comfortable,” he said. “It has been a challenge but it’s working out.”

To make his new work space at home a little nicer, he brought something from the district office in Martinez.

“I ended up taking my office chair home,” said Huff. “At the end of the day I realized my office chair is more comfortable than anything I have at home. It’s helped me adjust to working.”

Even though he is no longer commuting to Martinez, Huff admits he is working more now than before the transition. 

The district office is “meeting much more frequently with broader constituent input as we are making decisions about things like the fall [semester],” he said. “It’s not something we would normally do on a regular basis.”

Huff is also now meeting with other local leaders and those in higher education who he had never met with before. These meetings happen weekly which is “unprecedented,” he said, adding that “two months ago we wouldn’t have considered a video conference.” Those allow distant community leaders to meet with much more ease. 

On the rare occasion that Huff has a break, he likes to tend to his garden. 

“Being outside and gardening is a big stress reliever to me,” he said.

Huff, who is originally from Indiana where much of his family is into farming, said he spent his weekend outside, “planting and working on my garden and cutting trees… I like that kind of stuff.”

But most of the time his responsibilities as an administrator keep him in meetings, that seem endless these days. Huff knows his main goal is to get students back in class and on campus where they can finish their education on site as intended. 

“I don’t want people to think that the district has this perception that doing everything remote is okay… or the same as face to face,” he said.

Huff acknowledged there may be some programs that won’t be completed — PTEC, nursing and others.

 “It’s not like we can flip the switch and make everything perfect,” he said, but stressed that they are trying to find a way to get them up and running.

 “We are not satisfied with the way things are,” he said. “We are anxious.”