As Maine schools unveil their plans for returning to learning in the fall, different plans have received different reviews.
Bates College plans to bring all students back to campus in the fall, although students who are not on campus will have the opportunity to take courses remotely.
Bowdoin plans to only bring the following groups back:
- New first-year and transfer students
- Students who have home situations that make online learning nearly impossible
- A very small number of senior honors students who cannot pursue pre-approved projects online and require access to physical spaces on campus, and can do so under health and safety protocols
- Student residential life staff
All other Bowdoin sophomores, juniors, and seniors will remain off campus for the fall semester and will take their courses online.
Bates and Bowdoin's different plans have garnered different reviews from the schools' respective students and faculty.
The reopening plan for Bates has been met with a petition from students and faculty, which has received more than 450 signatures as of Friday afternoon. They are requesting the school, which plans to bring all students back for in-person learning, make the plan safer.
The petitioning group, called Bates Solidarity, wrote in part:
Although we want nothing more than a return to Bates's residential living/learning community, and deeply empathize with students' desire to return, the unprecedented and still-worsening public health crisis, in our view, makes a full-scale in-person reopening of campus unwise. We, faculty, students, staff, and members of the College, believe that the decision to significantly increase the on-campus population by bringing all students back, particularly over such a short time frame, is unreasonably optimistic about our capacity to avoid an outbreak, and puts an unfair (and unequal) burden of risk onto individual members of the Bates community. By Bates' own admission, coming back to campus poses a risk of serious injury or death.
Furthermore, we have been repeatedly told that bringing all students back will avoid the deepest financial deficits. However, we are skeptical of this claim as it is highly probable that campus outbreaks or a broader resurgence of the virus would force Bates to go remote again, partway through the fall, which would be both enormously expensive and disruptive. Most troublingly, however, is the fall plan's insidious implication that we must choose between our own health and safety and the College's fiscal solvency in the name of "shared sacrifice". We reject this false choice on a multitude of ethical and practical grounds. For a "people-driven" institution such as ours, the health and safety of its members underlie its very existence.
According to the Bates Student, which is Bates' student-run newspaper, 166 students, 144 alumni, 41 current faculty, two former faculty members and 27 staff have signed the petition by name. Additionally, four parents and two L/A community members have signed. Seventy-four members of the Bates community signed anonymously for a total of 459 signees, according to the Bates Student.
A spokesperson for Bates told NEWS CENTER Maine the college received a petition on Friday. Following their past practice, they will review the petition and provide a timely response.
Bates plan also includes two rounds of COVID-19 testing for students, which will be conducted leading up to the first day of classes. Testing was an important milestone in the decision-making process around reopening campus, Bates says.
“The capacity to test and screen students effectively is essential to the reopening of the campus to students,” guidance for students on its website explains.
Other ways Bates is trying to combat the spread of COVID-19 include policies students are expected to follow while both on- and off-campus.
- Physical distancing and universal face covering
- Limits on the size of gatherings
- Only enter your own residence hall
- Except for emergencies, no travel outside of Maine from the time of campus arrival until departure before Thanksgiving
- Full participation in population screen testing for COVID-19
- Self-monitoring for symptoms of COVID-19
- Adhering to quarantine and isolation policies, as necessary
A survey of 65 faculty members conducted by the Bowdoin Orient, Bowdoin's student-run newspaper, found that 86 percent of them either strongly approve or approve of the school's current plan. Three percent disapproved or strongly disapproved and another 11 percent neither approved nor disapproved.
The Bowdoin survey also includes how those who are teaching one or more remote courses are adapting their course(s); faculty approval of the college's decision to conduct Bowdoin Course Questionnaires (BCQs) at the end of the semester; faculty approval of the college's plan to reduce retirement contributions for all employees by 50 percent for the 2020-2021 academic year; and the issues faculty are most worried about when returning.
The top three concerns found by the Bowdoin Orient's survey were motivating students, connecting with students virtually, and balancing work and life.