Page 20 - Campus Technology, May/June 2020
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Stern: “There’s no way to guarantee social distancing in a typical university or college setting with typical classrooms.”
last day of class.
Here’s the thing that I will admit in retrospect,
with greater reflection. Without adequate testing those numbers were not terribly helpful. And the reality is that we may have had community- acquired disease in Orange County at that time and may have been putting people at risk. But I have to say we didn’t know that. We didn’t know the extent of lack of testing and the extent to which that underplayed the number of cases in the county.
One more thing I want to say about this broad question of how we make these assessments. There is a term that I’ve developed for myself called “incremental negativity.”
I think the human psyche can only take so much bad news at a time, and there are decisions that I know I could make right now for a few months out — maybe six months out — based on data and sci- ence. But I need to take my time helping people understand that data and bring that up piece by piece, incrementally — so we don’t overwhelm people and deprive them of hope.
We are going to get through it and I’m very hopeful. But it is going to take some time and I
don’t think people back in March were ready to hear that — even though the evidence was pretty strong. I think we knew we were headed for a hard close by the first or second week of March.
CT: Yet, given your philosophy of incremental negativity, you have chosen to announce that most of Saddleback’s classes are going to be online in the fall — rather than waiting until the summer to announce that. Why did you make that announcement at this time versus waiting?
Stern: The things I’m willing to wait on and hold back on in the philosophy of incremental negativ- ity might be certain events and things people are looking forward to. We delayed making an announcement about commencement even though I knew there was no way we were going to pack 2,000 people into a gymnasium. That wasn’t going to happen. But we took our time announc- ing that.
But with classes and knowing our schedule, we have an obligation to tell people as early as possi- ble so they can make plans around it. I’m hearing many stories about students opting out of univer-

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