Oct. 29: Important Update for Bates Students

Dear Students,

I write today with a few updates and reminders. This message addresses eight important topics:

Public Health Update

You all have come to know the Bates Testing Center as a smooth, efficient, and well-run operation, and COVID-19 testing remains a cornerstone of our strategy in mitigating the transmission of the virus on our campus. As of Oct. 26, we have completed 31,289 student tests, which have resulted in four student cases to date (positivity rate=0.01%). As of Oct. 26, we have completed 5,246 employee tests, which has resulted in one employee case to date (positivity rate=0.02%). Recently, we have been receiving test results in less than 24 hours.

“We are all susceptible. We should all take steps.”

Unfortunately, we are seeing increases in COVID-19 positivity rates and cases across the country and also here in Maine. Dr. Nirav Shah, director of the Maine CDC, recently noted that this uptick in Maine cases is not due to large-scale outbreaks as before, but to “smaller family-level transmission events, individuals spending more time indoors, with family members, transmitting the virus to each other.”

He added: “None of us — no part of us, and no county within Maine — is wholly immune to the potential to have COVID-19 cases. We are all susceptible. We should all take steps.”

“We’re all tired of this. But that fatigue, coupled with the notion that it can’t happen to you, very quickly generates complacency.”

Dr. Shah also counseled against complacency, noting that prior outbreaks in Maine have “each been tinged with the notion that folks went into [the events] thinking that they were protected from COVID” because they were with friends who didn’t have the virus. “I get it: We’re all tired of this. But that fatigue, coupled with the notion that it can’t happen to you, very quickly generates complacency.”

We must continue to commit ourselves to the very public health practices that have, thanks to all of you, yielded such positive outcomes on campus this semester. I realize these public health practices can feel burdensome, but they are necessary to protect the health and wellbeing of the entire community. Let’s keep up the good work together, especially as we head into Halloween weekend.

Improvements to the Campus Experience

Over the past couple of months, we, with the aid of student leaders, have made efforts to improve the student experience while also being attentive to the necessary public health practices, including:

  • Significantly increased campus programming, particularly on weekends
  • More indoor spaces across campus for evening and nighttime programming and use, including student club meetings and programs and telehealth appointments
  • Refined the Dash dining program to make it more efficient and user-friendly
  • Consolidated the days for COVID-19 testing so that students do not have to wait for test results on the weekend
  • Enabled athletic teams to practice and train together, including, as approved by NESCAC over the summer, out-of-season teams allowed to practice with coaches during the fall for the first time

In speaking with many students, it is our understanding that these changes have generated more options for in-person interaction and increased opportunities for students to build community.

What to Expect of the Student Experience Going Forward

A number of students have asked us to consider relaxing some of our public health practices and to restore elements of the pre-pandemic student experience. As much as all of us would like to do so, this is not possible for the foreseeable future, given the trends at work in this country and the state of Maine with the spread of COVID-19.

As we head into the colder months at Bates, we understand that some students may find the on-campus experience too challenging or not the type of experience they wish to have for the winter semester. With this in mind, if you wish to consider changing from on-campus learning to remote learning, or request a leave of absence for the winter semester, please notify Student Affairs by sending an email to studentaffairs@bates.edu.

As you consider this decision, please remember that students who are not on-campus for winter semester are not permitted to return to campus for Short Term. If you enroll in remote learning for the winter semester you may then enroll in remote learning for Short Term. If you elect to take a leave of absence for the winter semester, you are also taking a leave of absence for Short Term.

Campus Programming for the Coming Days

Students are encouraged to engage in Campus Life programming, which includes offerings by an array of student clubs and organizations.

The student group Campus Activities and Traditions, aka CAT, has a host of Halloween events planned.

The comprehensive Election Connection programming series continues through Nov. 11, as does our support for students wishing to exercise their right to vote.

Reminder About Departing Campus for the November Break

As we announced in June, students and faculty will leave campus at the November break, and complete the final week of classes and Module B exams remotely.

  • The final day of in-person classes is Tuesday, Nov. 24.
  • The last day of student COVID-19 testing is Tuesday, Nov. 24.
  • The college’s dining program will end with brunch on Wednesday, Nov. 25.
  • Students are required to depart campus by 5 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 25.

We are planning to welcome you back to the college in January for a continuation of in-person learning. However, each of you needs to make contingency plans in case your personal circumstances change, or public health conditions make it unsafe for us to open the campus for in-person learning. Specifically, all students are expected to take the following actions:

  • Take with you any essential and valuable personal items from your residence hall room (e.g. computer, jewelry, textbooks, musical instruments)
  • Organize, pack, and label for shipping all items left behind in your room.
  • Pack your belongings “ship-ready” in boxes, luggage, and containers sealed and labeled with accurate information securely attached.

As a reminder, Post & Print will provide you with labels, boxes, tape, and other supplies. Your belongings will remain labeled and packed safely in your room. Should public health conditions make it not possible for you to return in January, these labels will help us easily identify your belongings. If you instead want to store your belongings offsite, you may wish to consider these storage options.

In the event we are unable to open the campus in-person in January, we expect that students who are within driving distance would be able to schedule times to retrieve their belongings. For those students farther away, Bates will facilitate shipping at the student’s expense. The college would provide need-based financial assistance for those students who do not have the resources necessary to ship their belongings at their own expense.

Questions about the move-out date and packing and labeling your belongings should be directed to the Office of Residence Life and Health Education at housing@bates.edu.

Leaving Early for the November Break

Professors have worked diligently to create a good experience for you this fall and, in many cases, have attendance expectations for those students doing in-person learning this semester. With this in mind, before making any plans to depart campus early we urge you to first communicate with your professors to understand their expectations about attending class through Nov. 24.

If, after consulting with your professors, you still wish to depart campus early, please notify Student Affairs at studentaffairs@bates.edu and the Bates Testing Center at testingcenter@bates.edu.

Transportation for November Break

Several options are available for students seeking transportation from campus to Portland.

To assist students with early-morning flights from the Portland Jetport, chartered buses will depart from Bates (outside Chase Hall) at 5 a.m. on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, Nov. 23–25. Bus tickets are $10.

In addition, Concord Coach Lines will provide regularly scheduled bus service from Bates to the Portland Transportation Center and on to Boston on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, Nov. 23–25. Bus tickets to the Portland Transportation Center are $10.

Reminder About Plans for January

Assuming that it remains safe to do so, we plan to welcome students back to campus on Friday, Jan. 8.

  • We will have only one move-in day for all students.
  • The Jan. 8 arrival date is subject to change as we complete our planning efforts.
  • We anticipate updating students in early December to confirm the arrival date.
  • Like this past fall, the first place you will go upon arrival is the Bates Testing Center at Underhill Arena.
  • We will provide more details about January plans as they become available.
Thank You

In closing, I want to thank you for making the sound decisions that have enabled us to continue to offer a successful on-campus experience. I will continue to provide you with periodic updates as new and important information becomes available. My best wishes as you continue with your coursework in Module B.

All my best,

Joshua McIntosh
Vice President for Campus Life