On April 14, 2020 President Clayton Spencer announced that the College would institute two ad-hoc committees as part of its larger institutional response to COVID-19. These committees include a Fall Planning committee, co-chaired by Associate Professor of Politics Senam Aslan and Vice President for Campus Life and Dean of Students Josh McIntosh; as well as a Finance committee, co-chaired by Professor of Psychology Amy Douglass and Vice President for Finance & Administration and Treasurer, Geoffrey. Both committees are comprised entirely of faculty and staff, a decision that has aroused some criticism, particularly as both of Bowdoin College’s ad-hoc committees include one student.
On The Bates Student Instagram page, we conducted a poll asking respondents whether the ad-hoc committees should include students. Out of 249 respondents, 93% voted in favor of including students on the committees. We also published some anonymous responses to the poll, where individuals argued both for and against the inclusion of students. One student remarked that students ought to be included because “I never consented to online college for $70k a year,” while another individual disagreed, positing that “college students fail to grasp the severity of the situation at hand.”
I spoke with Vice President elect, soon to be Co-President elect, Lebanos Mengistu ’21, who has been communicating with the administration to encourage the inclusion of students into the committees.
“It is essential,” started Mengistu, “that we have students on the fall planning ad-hoc committee because the decision that is made in that committee has an impact on all students. What makes Bates the great community it is are its students. With that said, it is imperative that student voices are heard and valued, now and in the future.”
Conversely, Roy Mathews ’21 saw potential for the inclusion of students to be problematic.” I don’t understand the lack of understanding amongst some students. People on these committees are fighting to save not just their jobs, but the entire schools finances. It is not all about you. Bowdoin, Middlebury, and Williams have [much more money] for their students to play with. We at Bates do not have that luxury because we don’t have that much money. Let the committee members do their jobs.”
The future of the fall semester at Bates remains uncertain. As reported by The Sun Journal, a survey by the Association of American Colleges and Universities elucidated that over a third of college presidents “anticipate they may have to continue to rely on remote learning through the entire 2020-21 academic year. More than half are eyeing layoffs and budget cuts in the wake of shrinking revenue.”
While Bates did receive $953,516 in federal aid through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Securities (CARES) act, the financial implications of another remote semester or academic year would be sweeping. Some students in our anonymous question poll indicated they may not be willing to pay full tuition if Bates doesn’t return in person in the fall.