Almost nobody was out and about Friday at Bates College. Steve Collins

LEWISTON — It’s possible Bates College may not have a normal fall semester either.

With the coronavirus pandemic continuing to spread and physical distancing recommendations likely to remain in place for a long while, the college is creating special committees to figure out what comes next for its students, faculty and staff.

The panels, slated to report in June, are supposed “to determine academic plans for the fall semester and manage college finances to address the ongoing implications of the pandemic,” according to a note to the faculty from college President Clayton Spencer.

More than a third of college presidents surveyed this month by the Association of American Colleges & Universities 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.

Colby College’s president in Waterville is talking about a potential delay in the start of the fall semester.

At Bowdoin College in Brunswick, panels like the ones created by Spencer are already at work.

Its committee to figure out academics is charged with looking into “the issues that would have to be addressed and with making recommendations for necessary changes, actions, and alterations in behavior that would be required in order to safely open the fall semester back on campus.”

Bowdoin’s financial committee is supposed to make recommendations for “budgetary changes in order to preserve the excellence of its programs while also preserving jobs” at the college.

Spencer said the new faculty-staff working groups at Bates are needed “to address the long-term implications of the crisis.”

The move follows Bates’ March 13 decision to send its nearly 2,000 students home, where they have continued classes remotely. The college’s short-term session in May and summer programs have already been canceled.

Spencer told colleagues she is grateful that “everyone on campus has responded to adapt our practices in so many areas” to cope with the crisis.

She said, though, that “with the most immediate decisions behind us, it is time to turn our attention to the weeks and months ahead.”

The two panels she created are meant to allow for “institutional decisions that we will need to make over the next six to 10 weeks to determine” what’s necessary for the college’s academics and finances for the fall semester and potentially beyond.

“The goal in forming this group is to bring faculty and staff together in a shared space for analysis and problem solving so that the college can make critical decisions in a timely manner while considering the effects of these decisions across the college,” Spencer said.

The fall planning team, which has 16 members, is co-chaired by Senem Aslan, a politics professor, and Josh McIntosh, vice president for campus life and dean of students.

The 19-member finance team is headed by Amy Douglass, a psychology professor, and Geoffrey Swift, the college’s treasurer and its vice president for finance and administration.

Spencer and Malcolm Hill, Bates’ dean of the faculty and its vice president for academic affairs, serve on each panel as well.

Neither of Bates’ committees includes a student.

At Bowdoin, there is a rising senior on each of its two panels.

In forming the working groups, Spencer said, “we reached out to individuals with a range of disciplinary expertise and governance experience to achieve a broad representation.”

The panels began their work this week to wade through “the complex issues of the current moment,” she said.

“With everyone in our community facing a range of new pressures and demands, I am grateful that so many faculty and staff have agreed to devote time and energy to this work,” Spencer said. “This is a critical moment for Bates, and we will all benefit from bringing together faculty and staff leaders to help us achieve decision-making that is creative, rigorous, and humane.”


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