I got the notification during my 9:30 chemistry lecture. My professor had just put us into groups at the boards and he asked us to solve a problem. I couldn’t even focus on what the problem was, because I saw one person after another pulling out their phones, showing them to others around them and whispering in either excitement or nervousness, or a mixture of both.
On Friday, March 13th, President Clayton Spencer issued an announcement that in-person classes were suspended, that remote learning will be carried out the rest of the semester and that we needed to pack up and leave. My first reaction wasn’t excitement. I wasn’t excited about classes being canceled because for me, and for most other students that are on financial aid, it means spending money that we don’t have.
I live in Arizona and coming to Bates in the fall was a strain, even with the help of the Bobcat First program; they assisted in making my transition to Maine easier and I hoped they would help to make my transition back to Arizona easy too. I was scared because my friends at different schools had to uproot their lives in college in a matter of days without assistance in transportation, storage, or mental health. Their horror stories in trying to figure out everything themselves coupled with worries of going back to their homes were it was heavily populated with confirmed cases stirred up fear in me.
As I frantically started looking up flights home and bus tickets to the airport, all I was thinking about was where should I store my belongings, how many boxes I was going to need, what clothes I can go months without, who to give my mini-fridge to, and how in the world am I supposed to carry an entire rug out of my room by myself?
In the midst of my panic attack, I was met with a follow-up email. Noelle Chaddock, Vice President for Equity and Inclusion, sent out an email to the Office of Intercultural Education (OIE) community about resources in regards to finding a way home, storage, shipping of your stuff home, buses to airports, or just someone to talk to. I felt a sense of relief wash over me, I was not alone in this process.
Bates faculty covered my plane ticket home, the shipping of my belongings home, a ride to the airport, and funds to keep me fed while I traveled. The support didn’t stop after I left Bates; they continuously sent out emails offering help in the switch to remote learning or anything else, whether it was big or small.
Although I am grateful for what Bates has done for me and several other students, a discussion I had with a faculty member made me wonder about the support systems there are for its community besides the students. Specifically, what about the Bates faculty and staff?
Given this international emergency and the recent sensitivity of it, it is important to look at not only the support for the students but the entire Bates community. Not only did students have to uproot their lives at Bates but the staff who feed us, clean our dorm buildings, monitor the drunks at dances, give us safe rides,etc., were uprooted from their jobs.
The way in which the Bates students treated the campus during the last days was an issue. I understand seniors wanted to celebrate the last moments at Bates that ended too soon and everyone wanted to enjoy one last weekend at Bates but at the expense of what? Over the course of two days, the railing on the stairwell of my dorm was broken, someone poured detergent all over the stairs, posters were torn down, the plaque that had my room number on it was missing, and my entire floor smelled of certain substances.
While you might be enjoying leaving campus and going back to your families, the staff have to wipe clean the stains and replace the missing or broken items before they can go back to their families. The Bates staff, who already have to worry about what this means for their jobs, their kids, their parents, now worry about the best method to get detergent out on the stairs. Besides the staff that is cleaning up our last parties, the faculty are affected as well.
Professors have to deconstruct their entire curriculum and build it around each student’s needs. They may have students in different time zones, different environments in which students will do their work, have different access to the internet, or have different accommodations in terms of testing or tutoring. It’s hard to imagine our professors’ lives outside of Bates but they all have other pressing matters too. Some have to worry about their kids’ schools shutting down, their parents who are more susceptible to the COVID-19 virus, and now with the confirmed cases within the Bates community, the worries about them being exposed as well.
While this is taking a mental toll on communities around the world, we can try to heal each other and that begins in our own Bates community. For me, my professors’ first concerns were that their students were safe and healthy, but now we should make sure they are too. I encourage you all to check in with your professors who are working with the administration and other faculty members in adapting their coursework, communication with students, offering alternatives to exams or finals, and being sympathetic to the situation at hand. We need to think about more than just the students.