April 6: Academic Year 2021-22 Update

Dear Members of the Bates Community,

I write with important information about plans for next fall. At their meeting this afternoon, the Bates faculty voted to return to the regular semester structure for the academic year 2021–22. Our goal is to welcome our students back to campus and to in-person classes. We also plan to offer a full menu of the co-curricular activities that are so important to the student experience and to our overall sense of community. 

We believe that it is safe to return to traditional semesters based on public health guidance, and it has always been our conviction that students and faculty are best served by, and staff are best able to support, an academic program and overall student experience built on the semester model. With the greatly expanded production and distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine, all members of the Bates community—students, faculty, and staff—can expect to have the opportunity to be vaccinated by the end of July or sooner. We will encourage all students, faculty, and staff to get vaccinated, so that the next academic year can function much more like pre-COVID times than like the current academic year. 

Our decision to move forward with the regular semester was also informed by consultations over the past several weeks with students, faculty, and staff about their experiences with respect to the modular versus semester structures, as well as with faculty governance committees responsible for the academic program and curriculum and class schedules.  

There may be a small number of students who are unable to return to campus because of visa delays or other issues, but we expect these situations to be the exception, not the rule, and we will work with these students to sort out appropriate solutions.  

We have been advised that some masking and distancing may be prudent, or required by state guidelines, in certain situations throughout the fall. Accordingly, we have planned for six-foot distancing in classrooms as well as other aspects of student life. To increase our classroom capacity if six-foot distancing is required, we have added new spaces on campus to our classroom inventory and identified spaces near campus that we can rely on if necessary. It is also possible, if not likely, that most states will move to three-foot distancing requirements once a large proportion of the population is vaccinated. 

As you know, we are dealing with a challenging situation on campus at the moment, with the recent increase in COVID-19 cases and the move to in-room restrictions for students. However, these developments do not change the projections for the fall, based on the expected positive impact of broadly available vaccination over the next four months. 

As always, I appreciate the hard work of so many faculty, staff, and students in navigating this pandemic year, as well as the patience and understanding of the broader Bates community. 

Under these circumstances, I hope that the plans for the fall semester will come as welcome news.

All my best, 

Clayton