The college’s oldest dorm, Parker Hall, has housed students since the 1850s. Steve Collins/Sun Journal

LEWISTON — Bates College warned students Wednesday to give up on partying this year.

“Social life as you have experienced it on campus in the past is no longer possible — it must take other forms,” Josh McIntosh, vice president for campus life and dean of students, wrote to the college’s 1,800 students.

“We want you to be able to pursue friendships and small, casual social activities that include appropriate public health practices, including wearing masks in any public space, but the college cannot host or allow large private parties either on or off the Bates campus,” he said.

The pandemic, which forced the college to close its campus in March, has “required us to make fundamental changes in how we will function as a community and operate the college” when students return later this month, McIntosh said.

Bates has already warned students repeatedly that violating any of its rules for keeping COVID-19 at bay will likely result in tough disciplinary measures, including being forced to leave the Lewiston campus.

“Students who choose to return to campus, whether living in residence or in an off-campus house, will be held to the highest standards of accountability,” McIntosh said.

It’s a tough new stand that many colleges are taking across the country as they put the onus on students to change long-held behavior to thwart the spread of a potentially deadly disease that has already killed more than 160,000 Americans.

“Embracing new forms of social interaction — and parting with old ones that you enjoy — will be one of the most difficult but vitally important aspects of life on campus for you to manage as students,” he said. “It is also one of the most difficult elements for us to manage as a college.”

“As I’m sure you can understand, our faculty and staff will not feel comfortable coming to campus if students are not also doing their part — individually and collectively — to keep themselves healthy,” McIntosh said.

“Our neighbors in Lewiston similarly expect that students living off campus will avoid behaviors that are not safe during a pandemic,” he said, though it remains unclear how Bates will enforce its rules on property it doesn’t own.

McIntosh said, though, that the college will have “no choice — beginning with the first days you are back on campus — but to determine whether students who host or participate in parties or other unsafe gatherings will be asked to leave campus and their in-person classes immediately and pursue their studies remotely.”

Bates has plans to offer “smaller, scaled-down, and spread-out extracurricular programs and activities on campus,” and says it is looking forward to working with students on “creative ideas that you may have for relaxing — and safe — activities that are so important to de-stressing and maintaining a sense of community on campus,” McIntosh said.

Among the ideas he mentioned in his email were outdoor recreation and fitness opportunities, “small-scale gatherings and activities” in a few small venues on campus and student events that can take place outdoors, where experts say COVID-19 is less likely to be transmitted.

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