What did I forget? Am I too harsh? Not harsh enough? Comment below!

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If classes are to be held on campus, the main goal Williams College should pursue–perhaps the only goal–is to stop the spread of the virus in the on-campus community. How to achieve that? My advice:

Fascism. I’m not kidding. I started writing out my list of suggestions to the College–which are still below–and came to realize what exactly I was proposing. I would recommend the administrators of Williams College do everything in their legal power as a private institution to curtail the movement and gathering of students on campus by coupling rule-breaking with punishment, patrolling campus with CSS, and by encouraging students to speak out against peers that flagrantly break the rules. Think of the most restrictive rules Williams could institute, realize you’ve lived in a free country your entire life, then think stricter. The ideal student will be a robot: grab meals, eat in room, go to class, work/study in room, only speak to people in passing outside on the way to class. More details on my plan below, and a justification below the break.

The main way the virus will spread will be large peer-to-peer gatherings. Recent studies point to the role of super-spreading events, during which a few individuals infect a large number of people in a short period of time. This means no parties. The best way to curtail this activity would be to institute a post-dinner curfew and have campus patrolled by CSS. Students cannot party, or the virus will spread. N.b.: This was written before the recent protests+curfews, and is not a reflection nor comment on them.

Speaking of dinner…meals! All meals on campus must be grab-and-go and should be eaten outdoors or alone in a dorm room. Meals are another great time to get together and see friends…so of course, they should be discouraged. In a similar vein, public seating (dining halls, Baxter Hall, nooks+crannies) should be removed or restricted. Can’t have people gathering together, or the virus will spread!

Rules must be enforced, lest students continue to break them. Williams will need to rely heavily on CSS (and possibly local authorities) to break up illicit gatherings and ensure compliance. This means that the normal happy-go-lucky response to violations like underaged drinking, etc. must be replaced with something stricter. I understand why the College responds the way they do to perpetrators–they don’t want to drive things underground–and normally I agree, but these are not normal times, and there will need to be consequences to breaking the rules. Also, students should be encouraged to speak out and report large gatherings.

In more run-of-the-mill restrictions, social distancing is a must, and classes should run later than normal to further discourage group-gathering. Swipe access should be restricted to a student’s dorm only and only work before curfew. Libraries should restrict student access to some yet-to-be-determined capacity. Student parking should be banned or restricted. If possible, students should be tested for the virus regularly. Housing coordinators will need to feel empowered to stop gatherings in their dorms. No sports. Masks are required. Some remote options for large classes. What else am I forgetting?

Why so tough, Timothy? I am guided by a single principle: that if the virus spreads on campus, the semester is over. I would argue that the only thing worse than a remote semester is a semester that started on-campus and then went remote. I should know–I experienced it. To be clear, the virus is still not dangerous to the vast majority of students. But if an outbreak begins amongst the students on campus, it will spread to the faculty and staff. Many faculty and staff are high-risk, and many will die. Besides the human cost, it’s just bad PR for the College. I certainly wouldn’t want to be President while large numbers of people under my jurisdiction are dying. It doesn’t look good.

With that in mind, the virus cannot be allowed to gain a foothold in the campus community. I have no doubt it will arrive on campus–Williams cannot stop students from leaving campus, after all, since that would be a blatant restriction of the free movement of people–and so we must focus on it not spreading. But why am I so tough? There are three major flaws to my incredibly strict plan.

Williams students will get around it. I mean, come on. I’ve already thought of a dozen ways to party even with these restrictions in place, and you can be sure that dating and hookups aren’t going to just go away because someone in authority said not to. We’re smart people, and we’d like to think we’re responsible, but our responsibility will last only so long…when that cute guy/girl winks at us as we grab our to-go dinner, you can be damn sure no one is going to think “Oh, but social distancing!” And when after months of social distancing at home we’re given the opportunity to see our friends at a party in October, we’re going to go. We’re social creatures, and we will act like it.

Off-campus housing is the new Wild West. As far as I can tell, the College has limited authority in this area. They can’t ban people from walking down Hoxsey, nor from entering 77, nor drinking to their heart’s content. Quite frankly, this is how the College will fail. If parties are held on Hoxsey (or other off-campus housing) the virus will spread. Any ideas?

Dorms are ripe for in-house virus spread, especially freshman dorms. Think about it. We share bathrooms and living spaces. Often our friends house with us. There’s no way to stop us from moving around our dorms. Some dorms are connected to other dorms. If there’s a place a virus can spread, it’s a dorm. Hell, we can’t even stop flu outbreaks in dorms most years. The only upside to this (if you can call it that) is that this might mean the biggest outbreak Williams has to deal with will be in a single dorm–an easy place to lock down, and with a maximum infection group of 50-100 students in most cases. I consider the best-case scenario in the Fall to be a major outbreak in a dorm like Morgan that can be dealt with, instead of smaller crises everywhere else.

My rules are overly strict but there are glaring weaknesses that cannot be controlled. I hope that by being as strict as possible in the areas the College can control, there will be less avenues for virus spread. The sad fact is that the College controls only so much, and even then students will ignore the rules. Keep in mind: If the virus begins to spread on campus, the semester is over.

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