Message to the Campus Community—June 7, 2020

To the Bowdoin campus community,

I am writing to update you on where things stand for the fall and the work underway in that effort. 

But first, I want to acknowledge that tomorrow it will have been two weeks since George Floyd was murdered by police in Minnesota—two weeks of profound anguish and anger among the Black community, and broadly across our country, because of the institutional racism that causes such great inequality, injustice, harm, and death to persist year after year, generation after generation. Those of us in the white community have much work ahead to understand the issues and to internalize the idea that racism is pervasive and systemic. Together with the Black members of our community and others of color, we must reform the systems that allow this to happen and do what is necessary to achieve a just and decent society. This is work that must be sustained. Michael Reed and I will be back in touch with you soon with information on the planning for this work and how it will involve all of us. For now, I hope those of you in Brunswick or nearby will join me, Julianne, and other members of the Bowdoin community on the Quad tomorrow evening, June 8, for readings by Africana studies faculty during a "Moment of Education and Reflection." For those unable to make it, the readings will be streamed live beginning at 8:11 p.m. EDT at


As many of you know, the Return to Campus Group, chaired by Professor and incoming Dean for Academic Affairs Jennifer Scanlon, has delivered its report to me. It is an impressive and detailed analysis of the issues that must be addressed in order to have students back on campus in ways that are safe and that protect the health of the campus and larger communities. It is a body of work that will be critical in the decisions about whether we can be back on campus in the fall, and if so, in choosing the best model for us. The report benefited from extensive input from faculty, staff, and students, as well as numerous outside experts. I have discussed the group’s findings with the board of trustees, with GFA, with faculty and senior staff managers, and with a group of student leaders, and I am now in the process of considering what I heard in these discussions, along with other information at my disposal. The group’s report will be made public when the decision is announced. I am very grateful to the group for the considerable time, effort, and wisdom that they brought to this essential work.

I have previously indicated my hope to announce a decision by June 15, but it may be that it will come later next week or early the following week. I am acutely aware that everyone is anxious to learn the plan for the fall, and that there is considerable work ahead to prepare for the new semester, and I will make an announcement as soon as I can.

I’ve said this before, but I want there to be no question or confusion about the factors that will go into my decision. First and foremost, it will be about the health and safety of students, staff, and faculty, as well as our neighbors in Brunswick. In addition, we will prioritize excellence in the academic experience for our students, our commitment to our employees, and strengthening the bonds of our community. While we will always be responsible stewards of our financial resources, this decision will not be driven by financial considerations. 


On Wednesday, the Office of the Dean for Academic Affairs will be able to share details about steps we will be taking to help departments and programs do their planning over the next several weeks. With assistance from the registrar’s office, packets are being prepared and will be provided to chairs and program directors for distribution to their department and program colleagues. These packets will include information that will be useful to faculty in their planning (including a tabulation of the requirements senior majors still need to fulfill and data about enrollment patterns). Meetings with associate deans will be scheduled late this week and through the following week to guide and support a deliberative and fair process of organizing the delivery of the curriculum with attention to equity and individual circumstances. And the Continuity of Teaching and Learning Group (CTLG) is hard at work developing recommendations to ensure the best possible student and faculty experiences of remote learning, which we know will be needed, at least at some level. Following on a strong recommendation from faculty on the CTLG, however, the schedule for advising and registration is being advanced slightly. It is now anticipated that these will take place in the middle of July. A firm schedule of those dates will be released on Wednesday.


I know there are a lot of questions about how we plan to manage the budget. Regardless of the model, and as I’ve said before, we are almost certainly facing the largest budget deficit in the history of the College in 2020–2021.

Normally we would have passed a budget in early May and would now be in the process of informing employees of salary and wage increases for July 1, and budget managers of amounts available to spend on programs and supplies for the upcoming year. But with the decision about the fall not yet made, base salaries for faculty and administrative staff and hourly rates for nonexempt staff will be unchanged until August 1. Exceptions will be made for faculty promotions and for promotions for staff as approved by human resources, all of which will go into effect as they normally would on July 1. As for spending, departments should continue to suspend all noncritical purchasing and discretionary spending through the end of the current fiscal year and through July.
I know there is a desire by many to understand better our financial model and budget and, as I announced a few weeks ago, sometime in July we will have a session to review this and take questions. 


In preparation for the fall, the Campus Emergency Management Team is focused on procuring sufficient personal protective equipment (PPE) and sanitizers, making sure we will have the necessary capability to test for COVID-19, and investigating technologies and procedures necessary for contact tracing—capabilities that will be required whether students are on campus or not this fall. The team is also developing campus signage and cleaning protocols, and they are conducting health and safety assessments of the various campus spaces.

CEMT and human resources have developed a phased return-to-work plan for those whose jobs require them to be on campus this summer. The plan is designed to limit density and to allow for the physical distancing necessary to prevent the spread of COVID-19, but I want to emphasize that employees who are able to work successfully from home should continue to do so unless departmental needs dictate that you be on campus.


As I announced this past week, I will be holding a Zoom town hall for staff on Tuesday, June 9, at 10:30 a.m. If you have a question for that session, you can submit it ahead of time via email, or you can ask (including anonymously) during the town hall when we convene.

This is a very difficult time in our society and world and, unfortunately, I expect that this will be true for some time to come. The Bowdoin community is remarkable—we seek to learn, grow, and be better, we have a genuine desire to serve the common good, and we comfort and stand with those in pain. No matter the circumstances, this will never change. Thank you.

Stay safe,