March 24, 2020 — COVID-19 Update 3/24/20

To students, faculty, and staff,

Late this afternoon, we learned that a member of the campus community has been tested and is presumed to have contracted COVID-19. This individual, who is under a doctor’s care and is self-isolating at home, has not been on campus since last Tuesday, March 17. We are in touch with them to document their movements on campus prior to that date, and we will immediately notify anyone known to have been in contact with this person. I know you share my hope for a speedy recovery for our fellow Bowdoin community member.

While this news is indeed distressing, it is no surprise—given the community-spread nature of this disease. The number of confirmed cases in Maine continues to grow—up to 118 today, with fifteen people hospitalized. This afternoon, Maine Governor Janet Mills announced new restrictions that will close so-called nonessential businesses and operations, along with those that don’t have the space necessary for proper social distancing. And, last night, the Brunswick Town Council declared its own civil state of emergency. The College is exempt from both orders, and last week we had already implemented our plan that has all but essential campus staff working remotely. But both of these orders, while prudent for public health, will undoubtedly place even greater downward pressure on the local economy.

Tomorrow, we begin the new reality of a number of weeks of remote teaching and learning that will allow us to complete the academic year. None of us could have predicted this moment or would have chosen it. I know there is anxiety felt by everyone heading into tomorrow, and there will be times (maybe more than a few) of frustration, where things will not work or go as planned, and there is little doubt that it will take some time to get into a rhythm. And we all know that this last part of the semester will simply not be the same. But I also know that the faculty have crafted terrific course plans, given the extraordinary circumstances, and that students will engage in your usual thoughtful and robust way to allow you to complete the semester satisfactorily. I am deeply grateful to my faculty colleagues for pivoting so quickly and investing so much of yourselves over the last two weeks in order to create remote versions of your courses. I am equally grateful to my many staff colleagues who have partnered with faculty and worked so hard to make tomorrow and the weeks ahead possible, and who will be there for support along the way. I wish our students good luck in engaging with your faculty, peers, and the material in this new way.

With all of the swiftly changing news, it continues to be a source of great comfort to see the Bowdoin community continuing to step up to meet the challenges. We hear every day from alumni with offers of financial help, assistance with remote learning technology, thoughts about job opportunities for our seniors, and all manner of other things. Some of our well-known alumni are taking the lead in areas like keeping the internet running smoothly during the crisis and organizing business leaders to fund national health care needs. And, here on campus, our faculty and staff are using social media to remind us that, despite the circumstances, there are all sorts of things we can do to support each other, to stay healthy, and to have some fun. If you haven’t seen this video from faculty and staff in theater and dance, you must watch it (and if you’ve already seen it, watch it again!).

Again, my deepest thanks to our faculty and staff, and best of luck to all tomorrow as classes resume.

All the best,

Clayton