Message to Students, Faculty, and Staff—COVID-19 Update (April 15, 2020)

To students, faculty, and staff,

We remain thankful that there are no confirmed cases of COVID-19 among our campus community and, because of adherence to social distancing practices, the state has been spared the surge that was anticipated. And there continues to be news around the country and world suggesting that new cases may have peaked.
That said, the disease continues to exact a profound toll. This is true globally, and it is true in our community, in particular among our students. Some have tested positive for COVID-19, and with whole families who are ill and, in a few cases, parents and other family members who are gravely ill. The economic impact is also being felt, with parents who have lost their jobs and students who have had to take on extra work to help support their families during this crisis. Our deans, other staff in student affairs, and faculty have been working with students in these and other challenging situations. If you are confronting issues, please remember that you are not alone—reach out and ask for help. If you know someone who is struggling, in addition to providing your support, please encourage them to reach out.  

On the summer, we have made the difficult decision to cancel summer camps, conferences, programs, and events. The Bowdoin College Museum of Art—while still offering ways to connect virtually with its collections, exhibitions, publications, and educational resources—is postponing its summer/fall exhibition, “At First Light: Two Centuries of Artists in Maine,” until next summer. And, independently, the Bowdoin International Music Festival announced Monday the cancellation of its 2020 summer season. Given the circumstances, these are the right decisions, but they are also deeply disappointing to many at the College and in our larger community, and they represent an additional blow to the local economy. We continue to work on whether, and under what conditions, we can have students on campus and engaged in research, fellowships, and employment in tandem with our commitment to support local first responders and hospital staff described in my message of April 3. I hope to be able to provide more about this before too long. 

Another concession to the current crisis is how we recognize and celebrate student academic achievement, something that normally takes place at the President’s Award Luncheon and on Honors Day. On Wednesday, May 6, Dean McCormack and I will share a list of prize and award recipients that will be posted on the Bowdoin website. Certificates and, in cases where they are part of the prize, monetary awards will be mailed to students at their home addresses. Physical awards for graduating students (e.g., bowls, plaques, etc.) will also be sent, and names will be engraved on the cups and trophies displayed at the College (we’ll share photos of those engravings when they become available). For returning students, we will look to present physical prizes in person when everyone is back on campus.

As you know from my message of April 2, the Budget Review Group and the Return to Campus Group are at work. If you would like to review their “charge” or provide them with comments or suggestions, we’ve built a form to help you submit them. I hope you’ll take a few minutes to share your thoughts.

Also, for our students, I want to draw your attention to Bowdoin Student Government elections that begin this week. I encourage students to participate when voting commences on Friday.

Lastly, you’ve probably noticed that we’re no longer seeing the brief photographic moments of laughter, joy, and discovery so familiar to us on the Bowdoin homepage. For the time being, these have been replaced with images that better reflect the reality of a campus quieted by remote learning and working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic. The good news is that you can now relive some of the moments from the past couple of years by exploring a new archive of homepage images. These pictures show us in close proximity to one another—working and performing, sharing headphones, and studying in small groups. At a time when we must all practice social distancing, browsing these photographs might feel bittersweet, but they are also a reminder of what we share and of what we very much look forward to when we are again able to gather on campus.  

Thank you for the care you give to one another and to those you love, and please stay safe.

All the best,