President Clayton Rose and Dean for Student Affairs Janet Lohmann answered questions posed by over 200 students during a town hall meeting over Zoom on Wednesday night. Question topics ranged from potential limits on the number of students taking leave in the fall to when students can retrieve personal belongings left behind in Brunswick.
When asked about the College’s plans in case of an increase in the number of students wanting to take a semester or year off if remote learning continues, Lohmann said there is currently no plan to limit the number of students who might choose to take a leave of absence and that the College will not discourage students from doing so. She added that given the current circumstances, the criteria for taking leave will probably be changed from their current iteration in the Student Handbook, but did not specify how.
These changes will be announced at the end of this semester, before the College makes a decision about inviting students back to campus in the fall. Lohmann said that students will have time to consider all options before making a decision about next semester’s enrollment.
After some students expressed concern regarding the lack of a final decision on summer housing and employment on campus, Lohmann said that a final decision on the College’s summer plans would be announced on May 1.
In regards to summer research fellowships, Rose announced that permission to be on campus will be considered on a “faculty by faculty, project by project decision.” He added that any research that can be done remotely will be.
According to Lohmann, students who are currently living on campus will have the opportunity to stay after May 17.
Although students who left belongings in temporary college storage were originally told they would be able to pick up their items at the end of the academic term, Lohmann said these plans have changed. Visitors to Maine are required to self-quarantine for 14 days, making the logistics of pick up challenging for out-of-state students. Lohmann did not specify a timeline for when students will be able to collect their belongings but added that more information will be available as Maine makes updated decisions on social distancing guidelines in the coming weeks and months.
Rose and Lohmann also addressed concerns about the financial fallout of the crisis on the College’s budget. Students asked about how damage to the endowment could impact financial aid.
“If we were to be in a long and prolonged downturn in the markets … we would have to think differently about our financial aid policy,” said Rose.
However, Rose affirmed the College’s commitment to maintaining its need-blind financial aid policy.
Additionally, Rose said a reduction in tuition is a possibility for the fall semester, but it has yet to be addressed in depth.
“We’re working and looking at the budgets on a lot of different models and trying to understand how we think about where tuition comes into that and the value of the Bowdoin education and so forth” said Rose.
Rose also noted that, contrary to what some believe, remote learning models are significantly more expensive for the College than in-person teaching.
Despite the uncertainty surrounding many of the topics raised during the town hall, Rose said that the College’s goal is to bring everyone back to campus in the fall.
“If there is a way to do it, we will do it.” said Rose.