Planning for Next Academic Year
Dear Bates Students and Families,
Now that we have reached the end of a winter semester none of us could have imagined, I want to share an update on how we are planning for the fall and the next academic year at Bates.
Where We Are
Since we announced on March 13 that students should leave campus and prepare to complete their courses remotely, the campus has been strangely quiet. We have missed celebrating the end of the semester with the rituals and traditions that are so important to our community, especially our seniors.
Throughout March and April, we found ourselves needing to move quickly to make decisions in response to rapidly evolving circumstances. These decisions included, among others, changes to grading policy, modifications to supporting students in remote learning, and adapting Commencement for the Class of 2020. In each case, we have worked hard to make the student experience a priority, while also living up to our responsibilities with regard to the college’s employees.
In addition, we have announced a series of financial and operational decisions in order to mitigate the financial impact of the pandemic to date and to position ourselves to respond to further financial challenges in the next academic year. Among other things, we have implemented a hiring freeze on both faculty and staff positions, suspended non-essential operational expenditures, and re-evaluated capital projects.
Where We Are Going
We have now turned our attention to planning for the next academic year. To assist in this process, Dean of the Faculty Malcolm Hill and I have formed a working group composed of two faculty and staff teams to develop recommendations for institutional decisions about the fall semester and college finances. As part of their work on fall planning, Dean of Students Josh McIntosh, members of the Fall Planning Team, and Student Affairs staff are in communication with a number of different constituencies, including parents and the executive board of student government.
The essence of our educational model is that our students live and learn in a residential community through a rich array of experiences inside and outside the classroom. It is thus our fervent hope that it will be safe to welcome new and returning students in person in the fall, and we are actively working toward that goal.
Our planning is guided at every point by consideration for the health and safety of our students, faculty, staff and our impact on our local community. With each passing week, we learn more about COVID-19 and best practices for managing risks for various populations in different settings. As we advance our planning, we are fortunate to have a strong collaborative relationship with Central Maine Medical Center in the management of our Student Health Services, and we are leveraging that relationship to consult with virologists, epidemiologists, and researchers on the front lines. We also stay in close touch with the Maine Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and with an array of national experts with ties to the Bates community.
As part of the planning process, staff on campus are working closely with public health experts to ensure that we will be prepared to implement best practices for sanitation, transmission risk management, and other ways of keeping our community safe when we are able to resume on-campus learning.
Even as we modify our practices to prepare to operate in person in a new environment in the fall, we continue to plan for alternate possibilities, so that we are able to adapt, as required, to the evolving public health situation. Such considerations include possible changes to the academic calendar, including modifications to break schedules to limit travel, changes to teaching models, and working with our faculty on remote teaching and learning, should it be required for any portion of the next academic year.
We hope to be in a position to announce plans for the 2020-2021 by the end of June. As we navigate the planning process through constantly-evolving circumstances, I want to extend my thanks to all of you—our extraordinary Bates students and their families—for your patience, engagement, and understanding during this difficult time.
In the meantime, please continue to stay in touch with each other and with us, and know that we are planning every day for your return.
All my best,