Fall Update from President Stern

Email sent to all Saddleback students on October 6, 2021

Saddleback Students:

I hope your Fall semester is going well, particularly with many of you back on our campus. Nothing gives me and the 1600 staff and faculty who support you more pleasure than to see your smiling faces again (including through masks when indoors!).

Shortly before the semester started, we decided to “tap the brakes” on our plans to return to campus, as the County’s Covid numbers were then looking pretty scary, and we appeared to be ascending a fourth wave. Keeping you and our staff and faculty safe remains my highest priority, and higher case numbers in our community means higher risk of transmission on our campus. We set targets for those County metrics so that we could use objective data to help determine when it would be safer to bring more students back on campus. We anticipated from available modeling that the latest (“Delta”) wave would be subsiding, and the target metrics would be achieved, by the end of September/early October. The scientists got it right again and I am happy to announce that both targets (for new case numbers and positivity rates) have now been achieved. With falling case numbers in our community, the risk of transmission on our campus is also reduced.

This means that we can release our foot from the brakes a bit. If you were enrolled for any hybrid (part online/part on-campus) lecture classes this fall, the on-campus meetings were delayed until those targets were hit. Now that they have been, I have asked instructors of those classes to create a plan for the on-ground meetings to commence between one and three weeks from now, depending on how much time they need. Please watch for announcements and emails from those instructors. Because the timeline for starting those on-campus meetings will vary from instructor to instructor, additional information will come from your instructor, not from me or any other college-wide communication. It’s yet another reason to actually read email or Canvas announcements from your instructors! This will mean that about 1800 additional students will be coming on to campus in the next few weeks. Woohoo!

We also plan on putting tables and chairs back in the cafeteria next week so that you can eat indoors again. The cafeteria is the only indoor location where masks are not required. Masks are still required in other indoor locations, including all classrooms, labs, studios, hallways, and bathrooms. (You can hate me for that, but we intend to keep you safe at Saddleback, like it or not!). If you do remove your mask for eating and drinking in the cafeteria, public health agency guidelines recommend that unvaccinated people maintain 6’ distance from others because of your greater vulnerability when in an indoor space unmasked. Vaccinated individuals need not maintain social distance when removing their masks in the cafeteria, but it probably wouldn’t hurt.

Mandatory masking indoors, other than in the cafeteria, will be around for a while. It’s the most important thing we can do to keep everybody safe. I have noticed good compliance in classrooms but lots of bare faces, mask earrings and mask chin straps (yeah, you know what I’m talking about) in hallways, bathrooms, and common areas. Can I ask your help in bumping up our effort in those common spaces? The dividing line is not the classroom entrance; it’s the building entrance. Inside the building, we all must wear masks. I hate it as much as you do sometimes, but it keeps us both safe, and in wearing it (I’m partial to a black KN94) I signal to you that we are in this together and this isn’t just about my personal freedom; it’s about our ability to push this disease back and restore all our freedoms someday, hopefully soon.

The spring semester schedule is now out, and early registration will start in a couple of weeks. In our recent survey, about 60% of you said that you planned to take classes partly or fully on-campus in spring. So that’s the schedule we built for you. About 60% of all class sections are on-ground or hybrid! All student services and supports will remain available both online and on-campus, because you’ve liked being able to access those services either way.

In that same survey, 66% of you said that you would take classes partly or fully on-campus in Spring if there was a vaccine mandate in place by then. Our District, like others around us, as well as all CSUs and UCs, recently approved the development of a vaccine mandate for all students taking spring semester classes on-campus (on-ground or hybrid—partly on-ground). The mandate also applies to all employees. The details of this requirement will be released in the weeks to come, but all students enrolling for spring semester hybrid (partly on-campus/partly online) or on-campus classes should be fully vaccinated or planning on meeting the vaccination requirement at least two weeks before classes start or will be dropped from rosters at that time. Adult students enrolling for on-ground or on-campus classes at satellite locations will also need to meet the vaccination requirement. If you are neither vaccinated nor planning on being vaccinated, I encourage you to enroll in online classes only for Spring semester. Students enrolled only in online classes will not be included in the vaccine mandate. More information about our vaccine requirement will be forthcoming.

There will be multiple opportunities to get your Covid-19 vaccination through the college in the coming months. Click here for an upcoming free vaccination clinic near you.

I look forward to seeing more of you in the weeks to come--in the Quad, in halls, at football games in our new stadium, or trying out the new food vendor in the cafeteria--as we resume, once again, our progressive return to campus. I look forward to seeing even more of you on campus in January, as we move toward a post-Covid era, together. In the meantime, and likely well into the future, we will adopt rules and practices that continue to make this campus one of the safest places at which you spend time. Your learning and your ability to enjoy a university experience at Saddleback cannot happen if you are distracted by fear of catching Covid-19. You deserve to be studying at a campus that is as beautiful and as safe and can it be. We pledge to maintain that focus as we have for the last 19 months. So go study! We’ve got this.


Dr. Elliot Stern
President, Saddleback College