On Tuesday, Bates College faculty approved a motion to revert the fall 2021 semester back into its typical semester system. The measure passed with 86% of faculty (or 129) voting yes. Around nine percent voted no, and 5% abstained. Faculty had previously voted to continue the modular system into the next academic year, citing a need for flexibility.
Malcolm Hill, the dean of the faculty, proposed the change after Maine’s recent shift in vaccine eligibility: all Maine residents older than 16, including Bates students, are eligible to be vaccinated starting today, Wednesday 7th. According to Hill, the majority of Americans should be able to be vaccinated by July.
This access to vaccines means that although some mask-wearing and social distancing may be necessary into the fall semester, Bates is able to pursue more normalcy. For now, this means returning to a semester system.
The modular system was instituted in the 2019-2020 academic year in response to CDC guidelines that students cannot gather in large numbers and must stay six feet apart. However, the system has been regularly critiqued by students and faculty alike; during a recent student forum, first-year Celia Tolan expressed that instead of trying to learn and understand classroom material, students are “focused on passing [their] classes.”
Considering the drawbacks of the modular system, Bates has pursued reinstituting the semester system while also considering CDC guidelines.
One such guideline that may still be in place in the fall is the necessity for students to remain six feet apart from one another in classrooms. To this end, administrators have located enough classrooms on or near campus – including the Bonney Science Center that will be opening in the fall – so that students can stay six feet apart even during a semester.
In terms of scheduling, the one major difference between the upcoming fall semester and past years is that there will be a shorter October break, while preserving a week-long November break. Similar to other years, students are expected to return to campus after Thanksgiving.
Otherwise, students can expect to return to Bates in the fall with more normalcy than expected. This will be largely driven by the shift back to the semester system, a welcome return to the learning environment students are more accustomed to.