On July 7, Bates College hosted its second returning students webinar, which featured deans and heads of different departments, to answer questions about what the fall and winter semesters will look like.
This live stream came after the college announced its plans for returning, published on June 30, and its first live stream, which occurred on June 3. The webinar was moderated by Director of Communications Sean Findlen ’99.
President Clayton Spencer began the webinar with a brief statement, detailing the key points of discussion the administration has been focusing on.
“Health and safety have been paramount in our planning,” she said. “It is important that we keep a close eye on developments in the state of Maine and nationally.”
She also emphasized that the college has tried to implement a plan that gives students as much choice as possible.
As a result of the vast amount of information provided during the webinar, The Bates Student has split up the live stream into five sections: Testing and Contact Tracing, Modules, and Classes, Move In and Emergency Protocol, Social Life, Sports, and Dining, and Leave of Absences and Financial Aid.
TESTING AND CONTACT TRACING
There will be a testing site on campus with a 24-hour turnaround on testing results, according to Josh McIntosh, the Vice President for Campus Life and Dean of Students. There will be ongoing routine testing for every student; those who elect to return to campus in the fall are therefore agreeing to be tested regularly.
McIntosh added that Bates currently has 60 beds in isolation prepped and is working on securing more spaces if needed. The college has also trained staff members as contact tracers and is ready to implement protocols surrounding contact tracing if students become infected.
Over the next couple of weeks, the finalized plan for testing will be released. Currently, Bates has committed to testing students once a week, but there is a possibility that testing will occur more often.
Students will be broken up into groups within their dorms. Groups will then be assigned days for testing, and individual students will be able to choose which time of day to go to the on-campus testing site.
MODULES AND CLASSES
Mary Meserve, the college’s registrar, spoke in-depth about what to expect from the modules in the fall and winter semesters.
The fall and winter semester will both be split into two modules (A and B, C and D respectively), each clocking in at 7.5 weeks:
Students have to register for at least 1 credit during each module; however, the college recommends students register for 2 credits per section. Students will take a minimum of three credits and a maximum of 5.5 credits throughout the semester, as per the usual Bates academic policy.
Students will register for modules A and B at the same time and will do the same for Modules C and D. Students are expected to hear about fall course distributions early next week.
Students are already registered for the fall modules but should be able to register for the winter semester soon as well.
The add/drop period will be earlier this year and will last much longer to give students time to adjust to changes in the schedule.
There will be two meeting times in the morning and two meeting times in the afternoon. Classes will be scheduled to take place every day.
Some courses, like thesis and a few education courses, will run a full semester.
Faculty members are reviewing and deciding on how their classes will be taught, according to Meserve. Students should be hearing about plans in the next few days.
Malcolm Hill, Dean of Faculty, also spoke at length about different adjustments to classes. There is currently a discussion about taking fall semester courses pass/fail, although no decisions have been made.
The faculty is working on a recommendation and Hill hopes that the answers will be released “relatively soon.”
There were questions posed during the live Q&A surrounding lab-based thesis work, which Hill does not have an exact answer for yet.
He stated that the college has held many discussions with science professors and members of the music and art departments. Currently, they are thinking of creating rotations for faculty and student use of space, as well as implementing strict mask policies with the possibility of additional personal protection equipment (PPE).
Community-Engaged Learning is an important part of many Bates classes, however, the future of this classroom component is up in the air.
Hill stated that the folks at the Harward Center are working on coming up with a comprehensive plan about these specialized classes, with a possibility of other types of community engagement to be introduced.
MOVE IN AND EMERGENCY PROTOCOL
As stated in the first live stream, move-in is expected to take place over the course of a few weeks. Molly Newton ’11, the Assistant Dean of Students for Residence Life and Health Education, said that the goal for move-in is to make sure students are spread out with access to testing.
Although plans have not been finalized, Newton stated that the goal is to give people as much autonomy as possible.
There will also be testing on sight, and while students await their results, they will be expected to remain in their rooms for 24 hours, according to McIntosh.
Leaving Bates during the spring semester was quite disruptive and complicated for students. Many had questions about the new protocol for leaving during the fall.
McIntosh stated that there were four key things that the college is planning on monitoring: testing capacity, transmission, local healthcare, and contact tracing. As long as none of these systems become overwhelmed, students should be able to remain on campus.
Lastly, McIntosh stated that there were many possible strategies for maintaining public health besides suspending in-person classes. If there is an outbreak in a particular dorm, for example, that residence hall may be quarantined.
SOCIAL LIFE, SPORTS AND DINING
Bates is planning to allow students to have access only to their own residence halls, which has caused some anger among students. According to Newton, the restrictions on access will be implemented at the start of the year and will be subject to change throughout the fall semester.
Newton also stated that social relationships will flourish through “socially distant hammocks” and eating outside together.
Despite the living restrictions, Bates students will likely be able to travel around the state of Maine.
Although specific details have not been released, student spaces such as Ladd Library and the Pettengill Hall Atrium will still be open. Some chairs and desks may be removed, and the college is hoping that students will choose to study outside, at least in the month of September according to McIntosh.
Jason Fein, the Director of Athletics, said that the athletics department is working on a broad number of changes. All spaces will look different, with an expansion of outdoor spaces in the fall.
Fein added that there will certainly be reduced capacities for the indoor gym spaces, and the department is currently testing an online reservation system. Staffers know when gym usage is low, so they are working on encouraging students to use the gym then.
Christine Schwartz, the Assistant Vice President for Dining, Conferences and Campus Events, detailed the changes to Commons. The college will open an additional dining facility in the Gray Cage, which she believes will be a “really cool place to dine.”
Students will be required to sign up for a mealtime within meal periods, and for the first time, Bates is adding a grab and go option called “Dash” for dining. There will be added outdoor spaces where you can eat your Dash items with friends.
The dining staff has spent the last 12 weeks redesigning the menu, which has gone from a five-week cycle to a three-week cycle, a change that Schwartz says will be a lot nimbler.
The staff has been testing out new food, and their website and Instagram are being updated regularly.
LEAVE OF ABSENCES AND FINANCIAL AID
Leave of absences will be allowed, however the college reserves the right to decide when students are allowed back on campus, according to McIntosh.
Financial aid bills are to be released mid-July. The Office of Student and Financial Services has been working with students and families who feel like their financial situation has changed.
The final question of the day was about the 3% increase in the single tuition fee that has recently gathered some negative attention.
Spencer stated that the 3% increase was expected. The college is asking faculty and staff to take on a tremendous amount of extra work, and the college’s cost structure is under pressure just like most family cost structures are.
Students who choose to study remotely will be given a refund on their room and board fees.
Findlen encouraged students to check the Fall 2020 website regularly for new updates.