Labor Shortages, CAPS and Unionization: The Bates College Student Government’s October Update

The Student has established a collaboration with the Bates College Student Government (BCSG) to write monthly articles updating the student body on the BCSG’s meetings and plans in an effort to increase transparency of student government at Bates. This is the first of these articles.

BCSG secretaries Sadie Kriegler ‘23 and Sanika Shah ‘22 provided the minutes from October’s three Assembly meetings on which this article is based.

Labor Shortages and Sustainability Issues in Dining

On Oct. 13, Christine Schwartz, Associate Vice President for Dining, Conferences and Campus Events, spoke to the Assembly about supply chain issues and staffing shortages in Commons dining.

In regards to recent menu changes, Schwartz emphasized that “this is not an intentional modification of the menu.” She explained that, due to supply chain issues, convenience and prepared items are no longer easily accessible, meaning that the selection of items are no longer available at the same rate. 

Schwartz then told the Assembly that “there are unprecedented shortages right now. Seven full-time positions are currently open, which is why we can’t open the Den at night.” She wants the Bates community to understand that there is a serious need for labor at the moment, an issue at the root of many dining-related problems causing frustration around campus.

Schwartz also addressed some of the sustainability concerns students have expressed. With the ongoing staff shortage, it is currently impossible to process silverware, which is why plastic utensils are still being used. Additionally, plates and cups from Commons have been going missing. If this trend continues, then these items may also have to be replaced by paper plates and cups. 

CAPS and Accessibility Issues

The BCSG is having an ongoing discussion about the accessibility of the Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS). Dhruv Chandra, Class Representative ‘25, observed that CAPS currently seems to be viewed in a negative light by many students. He explained that this perspective may stem from several issues: stress around booking appointments, not enough therapists available, diversity issues with the CAPS staff, etc. The BCSG also agreed it is important to note that negative stories are likely shared more frequently than positive ones, and that many students have favorable experiences with CAPS.

To increase accessibility to CAPS, the BCSG plans to meet a second time with John Rumey, Interim Director of CAPS and Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor, to discuss the possibility of creating short appointments, increasing availability of therapists and having more group sessions. The BCSG wants to learn how it can better support CAPS to make mental health resources as easily accessible and helpful for students as possible. 

Note: BCSG has not made a formal request to meet with John Rumney yet, but intends to do so in the near future.

Next Steps Regarding the Union

The BCSG discussed key questions and next steps related to the Bates Educators & Staff Organization (BESO) and their unionizing efforts. 

BCSG members are planning a Q&A meeting with management and deans of the college within the next two weeks to gain a better understanding of how administration is handling the situation. Geoffrey Swift, Vice President for Finance and Administration and Treasurer on the Leadership Team, and Hope Burnell, Assistant Vice President for Human Resources and Environmental Health and Safety, are being invited to this meeting. 

The BCSG also plans to reign in misinformation about unionization posted around campus. They will distribute FAQ sheets with accurate information. 

Student Faculty Relations and Critical Race Theory

The BCSG is meeting with Malcolm Hill, Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of the Faculty, to discuss moving forward with the implementation of a Critical Race Theory (CRT) requirement in the Bates curriculum. This will be the first conversation regarding CRT this year. 

The BCSG is also meeting with the faculty committee to discuss student-faculty relations more generally. 

Campus Safety

The Campus Safety Working Group is operating bi-weekly on improving campus safety. They are currently developing a work-study program that will be posted on Handshake once finalized. 

Additionally, the BCSG is close to finalizing a date for a self-defense class for the Bates community. The event would take place in November.