Message to the Bowdoin Community—Fall and Summer Plans (March 4, 2021)

To the Bowdoin community,

The spring semester is well underway and off to a great start, thanks to the care for one another that is a hallmark of this college. Thank you for all you are doing to stay safe and for the sense of purpose and responsibility that you show each day. Let’s keep it up!

I write today to update you on Commencement and our plans for both the summer months and the fall semester. While we don’t yet have all the details, I do want to let you know that a great deal of planning is taking place on each of these subjects, and we are at a point where general information can be shared. I hope what follows begins to answer some of your questions. 

COMMENCEMENT 

As I wrote in January, our plans for an in-person ceremony for students on the steps of the Walker Art Building on Saturday, May 29, remain unchanged, and I am confident that we can do this safely.

Given the state of the pandemic, the timing of vaccinations, and Maine’s rules on the size of gatherings, we still do not see a way for family members or other guests to safely attend the ceremony in person, so we are working on a full virtual experience with assistance from outside experts, alongside input from student leaders. We also want to make it possible for graduating students studying remotely to attend the ceremony in person if they want to be here. These students will hear directly from us with specific information.

While we will hold an in-person ceremony for graduating students, we will unfortunately not be able to hand out actual diplomas that day. Given the compressed time period between the end of exams and the Commencement Exercises, and without the customary Senior Week in between, there is just not enough time for the faculty to submit final grades and for diplomas to be prepared in time for the ceremony Saturday morning. As a result, signed diplomas will be mailed to students as soon as possible in the weeks following graduation. Nonetheless, the ceremony itself will be conducted in both a safe manner and in ways that rightly celebrate the achievements of our graduates.

SUMMER

We are looking forward to having considerably more activity on campus this summer than what we could allow in 2020.

Safety will still be our highest priority, with COVID-19 precautions likely continuing through the summer months, including a surveillance testing program, physical distancing, face coverings, and limits on the size of gatherings. 

Summer on-campus housing will be available, with priority given to student fellowship and internship recipients, student employees, and Geoffrey Canada Scholars.

Students will have summer employment and research opportunities on campus and options for campus housing, but we will not be able to employ students who would like to work remotely this summer outside of Maine.

We anticipate that athletic camps, sponsored by Bowdoin coaches, will be offered but only as day camps.

With regard to the larger programs (e.g., Bowdoin Day Camp, Bowdoin Art Camp, Upward Bound, Bowdoin International Music Festival, Maine State Music Theatre, etc.), we are still evaluating various options and expect to provide more information on these over the next few weeks.

As for the Class of 2020, we are still planning a gathering on campus in August to make up in part for the Commencement celebration these alumni had to forego last May.

FALL SEMESTER

With everything that is known currently and projected about the distribution of vaccines and the trajectory of the pandemic, we plan to welcome all of our students back to campus in the fall.

We also expect that nearly all classes will be taught in person (with exceptions made for members of our faculty who may still be at risk). We also expect Orientation trips and activities for first-year students to take place, and a group in student affairs is convening to discuss Orientation-related activities for students in the Class of 2024, since these activities were canceled for them last summer. There will in all likelihood be a full athletic schedule in the fall, although any final decision about league play will be made by NESCAC. In terms of public access to campus—to attend events, cheer on our teams, or just take advantage of our open spaces—we will have to wait and evaluate the circumstances at the time and may have to grant access in phases.

Even when all members of the Bowdoin community have been vaccinated against COVID-19, which is our goal, it is likely that we will still have to observe some measure of the public health protocols protecting us today. While we expect to relax our distancing and room capacity restrictions, we may still see some version of surveillance testing and the use of face coverings in certain situations. We’ll follow what the science and our public health experts recommend. 

These are our plans, and we are doing everything we can to make them a reality when we reconvene in the fall. In addition to welcoming all of our students back to campus and having in-person classes, events, meals, athletic competitions, and all the rest, we will also continue—in person—the work begun this year on diversity, equity, inclusion, and racial justice. This is critical work and an ongoing part of our mission at the College.

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Additional details for all of the above will be added to the FAQ section of the Bowdoin website when they become available, and we will be contacting specific groups individually in the weeks ahead as these plans coalesce.

For now, thank you for your patience as we work through all the details and also for your continued vigilance and care for one another.

All the best,

Clayton