Response to Petition
We write to respond to a recent petition about the college’s Fall 2020 plan. We appreciate the time so many of you took to express your views on these important topics.
Before focusing on the specific points raised by this petition, we want to provide context to explain how Bates has approached each and every decision – large or small – over months we have been managing against the background of COVID-19. Whether the transition to remote learning in March or the plan to invite students back this fall, our primary lens has remained fixed on our responsibility to protect the health and safety of our campus and local communities.
Faculty and staff have spent countless hours throughout the spring and summer planning and working with a focus on safely delivering the best Bates experience possible for all students.
Many of the concerns and questions raised within the petition were addressed in a series of four live forums with students and families last week, but we want to underscore a few key points:
Fall Attendance Questionnaire
In the June 30 announcement, we asked all students to help us understand their intentions with respect to returning to campus. Our fall plan invites students to return in person or to study remotely. That choice lies squarely with students and their families, depending on their personal circumstances. To inform the college’s logistical planning for the fall semester, Bates asked students to declare their intention for the Fall 2020 semester by July 9. While we understand that some plans may change, this practical snapshot will guide our planning for space in residence halls, classrooms, and dining, as well as help us deliver the best possible campus experience. I am pleased to report that, at this point, we have received the completed fall attendance questionnaire from the vast majority of our new and returning students, which is very helpful for moving our planning forward.
Modes of Teaching and Learning
During last week’s open forums, the Dean of the Faculty and College Registrar answered numerous questions from students and families about the academic calendar and modes of instruction for this fall. There will be some faculty, who for personal or health reasons, will be unable to teach their courses in person, just as we know some students may not be able to study in person on campus. However, based on consultation with the faculty, we expect that the majority of courses offered this fall will be delivered in person for students returning to campus.
While it would be our preference to know today exactly which courses will be offered in person or remotely, the simple fact is that our faculty are working diligently to finalize their courses and modes of instruction. We expect to have that information by the end of this week, and it will be published to the online schedule of courses next week. Students will also be receiving instructions from the Registrar this week about viewing their current schedule and how and when they can make adjustments this summer. The registration adjustment period is being extended to almost a full week before classes start so students have plenty of time to consult with academic advisors and finalize their fall courses.
Responding to the unprecedented circumstances that face us this fall, Bates will offer both a residential experience and remote learning to keep all students on track with their education, whether in person or away from campus. Even with the investments necessary to offer that hybrid experience against the background of a pandemic, we have kept our single fee in line with prior years. Students who choose to study remotely will receive a full refund for room and board ($7,353 for the fall semester), but we are not offering a differential tuition cost for the upcoming year.
We certainly recognize that a Bates education is a significant investment, and we understand that the pandemic has placed considerable financial stress on many families. Bates will continue to meet the full demonstrated need of every student receiving financial aid, and students and families who have questions concerning financial aid or payment options are encouraged to be in touch with the Office of Student Financial Services for further guidance. We respect each student’s personal assessment of the cost, experience, and education in determining their individual approach to the fall.
Transparency in Planning
Since late February 2020, Bates has communicated frequently with our full community to keep members apprised of our COVID-19 responses and planning for the fall. These communications have been publicly available on our website, through a range of social media channels, and via direct engagement with key audiences.
After transitioning to remote operations in March, the college introduced a series of virtual forums and town halls for students, faculty, staff, alumni, and families. For example, in just the past month alone, more than 2,500 members of the Bates community have participated in virtual forums focused on our fall plans. In addition, the college’s fall planning team has been meeting every two weeks with the Bates College Student Government to provide updates and receive student feedback. We will continue to communicate proactively as we approach the fall semester.
Again, we appreciate this opportunity to address your concerns. We all remain in historically challenging and uncertain times, but we are confident that the strength and focus of our community will lead us safely through this pandemic while providing a comprehensive Bates experience for all students.
Vice President for Campus Life and Dean of Students
Vice President for Finance and Administration and Treasurer