Aug. 5: Fall 2020 social life at Bates

Dear Students,

As the fall semester approaches, we have received inquiries about social life and parties on campus and at off-campus houses. I write today to address this issue.

We have invited you back to campus to live and study in person because we know how important it is for you to continue your education in a residential community, where you work with faculty and form friendships that last a lifetime. From the moment you arrive on campus later this month, we are counting on you to work with us to justify the trust we are placing in you.

As we move through the fall, a crucial element to our ability to keep students on campus will be the decisions students make individually and in groups. As we learned this spring from accounts of graduation parties across the country that sparked large COVID outbreaks, one of the surest ways to force the college to close down is by hosting or attending parties or other social gatherings where public health practices are not followed. In other words, social life as you have experienced it on campus in the past is no longer possible — it must take other forms. 

We want you to be able to pursue friendships and small, casual social activities that include appropriate public health practices, but the college cannot host or allow large private parties either on or off the Bates campus.

We will offer smaller, scaled-down, and spread-out extracurricular programs and activities on campus, and we look forward to working with you on creative ideas that you may have for relaxing — and safe — activities that are so important to de-stressing and maintaining a sense of community on campus.

For example, we have specific plans in place to provide safe extracurricular offerings on campus, including:

  • Outdoor recreation and fitness opportunities. 
  • Small-scale gatherings and activities in the Ronj, 280 Underground, and the Little Room. 
  • Student club and organization fairs and events that can take place outdoors or in hybrid forms. This may include watch parties from a variety of campus locations as a way to engage with your peers in lieu of large scale, in-person events.

Staff in Campus Life and other campus partners will continue to develop additional creative opportunities for social activities throughout the semester. 

Embracing new forms of social interaction — and parting with old ones that you enjoy — will be one of the most difficult but vitally important aspects of life on campus for you to manage as students. It is also one of the most difficult elements for us to manage as a college.

As I’m sure you can understand, our faculty and staff will not feel comfortable coming to campus if students are not also doing their part — individually and collectively — to keep themselves healthy. Our neighbors in Lewiston similarly expect that students living off campus will avoid behaviors that are not safe during a pandemic.

We will thus have no choice — beginning with the first days you are back on campus — but to determine whether students who host or participate in parties or other unsafe gatherings will be asked to leave campus and their in-person classes immediately and pursue their studies remotely.

I understand that this pandemic has dramatically changed many aspects of your life. The pandemic has also required us to make fundamental changes in how we will function as a community and operate the college. In light of this, I want to underscore what I have shared with students repeatedly over the past several weeks. No student should return to campus if you are:

  • Not comfortable with our plans and strategies.
  • Concerned about their own ability to make decisions to safeguard their health and wellbeing.
  • Concerned about the fundamental changes to the on-campus student experience.

Students who choose to return to campus, whether living in residence or in an off-campus house, will be held to the highest standards of accountability, as outlined in the Student Public Health Agreement. Information about how violations of social and public health norms will be handled has been shared with you previously.

We are fully prepared to support you with remote learning if you wish to remain home and continue making academic progress towards fulfilling your degree requirements. This is why every course being offered this fall is being made available to remote learners. If you want to change your plans to indicate that you will not be returning to campus for the fall semester, please email Faith Hauger, studentaffairs@bates.edu, by Friday, Aug. 7.

We will be holding another student virtual information session on Thursday, August 13 at 11:00 a.m. EDT. Details about this will be forthcoming.

 All my best,

 Josh McIntosh