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President Greene discusses COVID-19, commencement, building projects at State of the College

On March 4, President David Greene hosted his State of the College address for the spring semester. The event, held over Zoom, departed from his usual one-man show format and also included the two Student Government Association (SGA) presidents Sam Rosenstein `21 and Ashlee Guevara `21. The three held a roundtable discussion on COVID-19 updates and new initiatives the College is planning.

The conversation started with some of Greene’s takeaways from having students on campus during the COVID-19 pandemic for the fall 2020 semester and JanPlan 2021. He said that the College has learned that it is possible to manage the virus and keep the community on campus with certain rules and regulations. However, problems arise with this strategy when community members do not comply with those rules and regulations.

“I suspect we’ll see some cases in the spring. It’s a sneaky virus,” Greene warned. “It doesn’t always present itself the same way. We see that with the variants.”

The contact tracing process has become more difficult Greene said.

“A very critical part of helping keep our community safe is being 100 percent truthful at that moment,” Greene explained. “When someone’s asking you ‘who were you with and what was that like’…it might feel like you’re saving your friend by saying you don’t have to go into quarantine for seven days. But, you could be putting so many other people
at risk.”

Greene also answered one of the most pressing questions on students’ minds right now: when the Colby community might have access to vaccinations against COVID-19. He said that Director of the Maine Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Dr. Nirav D. Shah told him in December that it was unlikely that Colby students would have access to vaccinations before May.

However, Greene said that in a recent phone call with Shah, he learned that it is now plausible that students and members of the community could leave at the end of the spring semester vaccinated. There is no guarantee or date set right now, but Greene is encouraged by the accelerating vaccine roll-out in the state.

Despite the Zoom format, students were able to ask questions which were pre-recorded and shown during the address.

Ryan Bedell `21 asked what graduation would look like for the class of 2021. Greene says that his number one priority is to make sure “we have a great commencement.” He said that, as of now, there will probably be a traditional senior week following the end of the semester, although it could be abbreviated.

The question still up in the air right now is who will also be allowed to join in on the festivities. Greene shared that parents have asked if they can join in person if they are vaccinated.

While Greene hopes to have parents join, graduation may be limited to members of the Colby regimen because so little is known about how vaccinated individuals may spread the virus to others.

The address was also an opportunity for members of the Colby community to hear about some of the new projects the College is planning for the near future. Following a recent focus on investments in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, including the construction of the Davis Science Center in 2014, performing arts at the College are finally receiving a new facility: The Gordon Center for Creative and Performing Arts is slated to begin construction this summer and be available for student use in the fall of 2023.

In an interview with The Colby Echo, Greene stressed the importance of investing in the arts at Colby.

“Colby is long overdue for a spectacular new performing arts facility,” he said. “We have outstanding students and faculty whose work and learning will blossom even more with the arrival of the Gordon Center for Creative and Performing Arts.”

Greene said that he hopes the Gordon Center will cultivate the arts across all departments and “be a critical component of a larger arts environment in the Waterville area.”

The College also has two arts projects in the works in downtown Waterville: The arts collaborative building, a partnership between Waterville Creates and the Lunder Institute of American Art, and the Paul J. Schupf Art Center, which will be located in the old Stern’s Department Store building.

The arts collaborative will open this April and will have both art studio and gallery space. The Schupf Arts Center will begin construction this spring and, when completed, will feature three new movie theaters and more exhibition space for the art museum.

Greene also shared plans to improve the residential experience on Mayflower Hill. He said he has learned a lot about student housing since the opening of the Alfond Main Street Commons in fall 2018.

Greene said the College is looking at ways to create more aspirational and dynamic housing for students as they move through their Colby career. The goal is to hopefully have several new residence halls in a few years geared towards juniors and seniors. The East and West residence halls will also undergo some renovations this summer.

Greene also mentioned that the College has a working goal to have need-blind admissions by raising enough funds in the next few years to do so. While the College currently meets 100% of demonstrated need, they still take financial need into consideration for admissions decisions. Raising enough money for financial aid would allow them to not use need
in decisions.

Looking ahead, Greene said he hopes for the College to be back to a relative normal next fall, anticipating some mask-wearing and precautions. The goal is to be back in the classroom, have normal athletic seasons, and have social activities be as unrestricted as possible.

~Fiona Huo ‘22

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