“Suite Life” on Campus During COVID-19: Student Perspectives

“Suite Life” on Campus During COVID-19: Student Perspectives

Amelia Keleher, Contributing Writer

It’s been one week since March 17, the final day for the vast majority of Bates students to depart campus for national and international destinations. Following President Spencer’s announcement on Friday, March 13 that Bates would transition to remote learning for the remainder of the semester, most students hurried to pack and say their goodbyes, and many seniors attended an impromptu graduation ceremony on the historic quad.

On Monday night, four inches of snow blanketed the nearly-deserted Bates campus, where a mere 80-90 students continue to adjust to campus life “without everyone and [without] access to the normal facilities and buildings we are used to using, ” says Alyssa Rohan ‘20.

Last Saturday, March 21, these remaining students moved into the Village, where they have been assigned to a single with suitemates. While some are familiar with traditional transitions to a much quieter campus after the majority of their peers leave during breaks, the rapidly changing circumstances have made staying on campus this time around a drastically different experience. As Senyo Ohene ‘20 said, “it feels tentative… things are so much more uncertain.”

Read on to hear more student insights into the past week on campus.

How’s the dining experience?

“It’s quiet, I can literally only see three people. It’s funny [because] it’s 6:00 p.m., which is [usually] like peak dinner time. If everything was normal, most people would be rushing to Commons…” said Nicole Kumbula ’21 on Sunday. Students have been assigned hour-long shifts for meals depending on which of the Village buildings they are housed in. As of Sunday, lunch is served in the Den on a grab and go basis. According to Kumbula, “There is always your typical Den food; chicken nuggets, fries, burgers… There is also a meal of the day, sandwich and salad on rotation, and drink of choice to go with your meal.” Breakfast is also ‘grab ’n go’-style, but from the Benjamin Mays Center, with a selection of breakfast cereals, milk, tea and fruit.

What about access to (academic) buildings?

Students cannot access any academic buildings; they’re all closed off.However, all students do have access to V1, V2 and V3 regardless of which building their room is in. Kumbula, who has previously stayed on campus during the summer, said: “It’s like summer, but [also] not because you know, it’s still cold outside, much more quiet and [you’re] not running into other summer residents outside.” Additionally, there are very few faculty members to be seen on campus, and a lot of time is spent indoors. However, as the weather warms up, students may be able to take advantage of live-streaming class and studying while spending time outdoors.

All indoor athletic facilities are closed. However, weather permitting, it is still possible to play pick-up soccer or frisbee on Garcelon, go for a walk or run along the River Trail, read a book on Alumni Walk, or watch a movie or Netflix show with friends.

Post & Print remains open (though limited hours apply), which means students can still receive and send mail. Campus mailbox numbers can be found on the Bates Directory: https://www.bates.edu/directory/ and a postcard or letter to/ from campus is likely to be warmly received.

What do social interactions look like right now?

“This social distancing, it’s kinda wild,” Ohene commented. For example, last week the leader of a meeting with eight Commons staff members asked the staff, who were all seated at one table, to “spread out.” On top of not knowing what’s next, interactions with fellow students on campus have changed. For example, social gatherings have been limited to ten people at one time. Last week, several seniors from this year’s Residence Life Staff met with Eddie Szeman, Assistant Director of Residence Life, to discuss potential programming opportunities and how to work within this regulation when organizing events. These same seniors put up door tags for their peers in an effort to maintain a sense of community, which seems especially important when students are settling into a new living environment under rapidly evolving circumstances.

“The staff on campus have been very supportive,” Kumbula says, and proceeded to name Noelle Chaddock, Dean James Reese, and Josh McIntosh, who have been sending frequent email updates to students (with reminders to practice social distancing!) while also being physically present on campus. On Saturday, the Office of Residence Life provided vans and staff to help everyone move into the Village and “the dining staff have been brightening up the mood; [they] check in [with us] at all meals.” Rohan echoes this sentiment, saying: “The staff taking care of us has gone above and beyond to make sure that we have everything we need given the circumstances.”

Remote learning while (still) at Bates

According to Kumbula, one perk of being on campus is having access to reliable WiFi and laptops from Bates Information & Library Services. Meanwhile, some Bates students who are not on campus are currently navigating varying and unique challenges associated with remote learning, including time zone differences and unreliable internet.

Have you noticed any changes in Lewiston and Auburn?

“There is definitely less traffic on Russel street. Otherwise, I haven’t really been into Lewiston” Ohene said. However, the Office of Campus Life continues to run shuttles for students who wish to purchase groceries off-campus. 

Concluding remarks

For the most part, it seems that students are glad to be housed all together in the Village as they adapt to this ever-evolving and unfamiliar version of Bates ‘suite life.’ Even with social distancing, it is nice to know that there is someone else on your floor. As of Monday, living together still allows for small gatherings, such as playing a game of Catan, but if there is one lesson to be learned from the past week, it is that tomorrow may look completely different. However, as Kumbula concludes, “I think for now, we’re just taking it easy.”