Message to Faculty and Staff: Thank You!

Dear Bates Faculty and Staff,

Tomorrow we head into our first week of teaching our students remotely and into yet another week of continual adjustment to this new and strange reality. This experience is stressful and disorienting for everyone, and it seems that we will be living with it for a while. I wanted to take this moment, therefore, to thank all of you for your diligence and generosity as we work together to respond as circumstances require.

Faculty, I know that you have been hard at work over the past ten days preparing to convene your classes remotely. This unexpected project, landing on you and your students two-thirds of the way through the semester, has required a great deal of thought and effort, for which I am deeply grateful. I also know that you have been working together to figure out how we can be flexible and equitable with our students, who will face varying difficulties in adjusting to these new modes of learning.

When classes go live tomorrow, I am sure that we will encounter challenges and frustrations, as the entire education universe – kindergarten through graduate school – moves to remote learning at once. I am so grateful to our Academic Affairs and Information and Library Services colleagues who have been working very hard this past week to assist faculty as they adapt their courses. As always, they stand ready to troubleshoot any issues that may arise when classes resume tomorrow.

Beyond the sudden conversion of our entire academic program, this public health crisis has touched every staff member at Bates and every dimension of our work together. I am deeply moved by the spirit with which staff and faculty across this campus have acted quickly to figure out how to carry out their own duties under changed circumstances – whether through working remotely, adapting to new schedules, or, while on campus, taking extra care to keep themselves and their co-workers healthy and safe. More impressive still is the way so many of you have gone above and beyond your daily tasks to assist with the new kinds of work generated by the COVID-19 situation itself.

Staff from across campus volunteered last weekend to work in our “student assistance bureau” to help students figure out packing and storage, arrange travel, or solve visa problems. Staff in Dining and Events, Facility Services, and Student Affairs have come together to develop a plan for supporting the students who will remain on campus until the end of the semester. Science faculty have partnered with Facility Services colleagues to respond to a call from local hospitals for lab supplies, such as gloves and hand sanitizer, that can be adapted for medical use. And the Bates Communications Office has worked around the clock to make sure that we share fast-evolving information promptly and factually and communicate policy decisions to everyone affected. These are but a few examples of the exceptional generosity that has been on display in recent days.

I literally cannot say “thank you” enough, and I cannot overemphasize the need for all of you to do your best to take care of yourselves and your families in the face of these challenges. This is an unprecedented event that fosters tremendous anxiety and brings each and every one of us face to face with profound uncertainty, with worry for loved ones, and with dislocation in all aspects of life.

As we hunker down for the weeks ahead, I hope that there are moments of joy and humor to be found in this different kind of time that has opened up for us, however unplanned. Some of you, I know, already find yourselves juggling frantically to work from home, while also caring for young children, trying your hand at home-schooling, keeping your household together, and tending to loved ones who may be vulnerable. For others this will be a quieter time, when you will spend more hours alone or with family than you have in your entire life. Where boredom and isolation, rather than busyness, become the problems we manage around. Where nature becomes a treat to be cherished after hours cooped up on screens. Where our hunger for human connection becomes a reality so present that we are less inclined – forever – to take a friend or a loved one for granted.

So, even as we may be more physically separated from one another, please remember to reach out to the people you cherish, especially those for whom this time may pose particular difficulties. And be sure to take care of your minds, bodies, and spirits.

Life and work, as we knew them, have been radically rearranged for the time being, but we are a strong community, and I know that the grace and caring that make us who we are every day will carry us through together.

All my best,