Whoops…forgot to put a timer on this one. Well, better late than never!

What did I forget?

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The way I see it, the College has two main priorities if there is a remote semester: ensure students get the best education possible, and contain the local economic fallout.

To the education goal, 3 classes is a great idea, especially if it’s not required. Taking four classes can be difficult remotely, and students will benefit from having to only take three.

Otherwise, the College will need to focus on minimizing the inevitable disparities in education that will arise. Not everyone has great Internet–or even a great living situation. The College should be generous in providing resources to students to minimize these differences. Fortunately, completing this goal will also help contain the local economic fallout. My advice, presented in a hypothetical situation:

~50% of students are on financial aid. This means that for all intents and purposes, at most 50% of students will need additional assistance from the College. This is most certainly an overestimation of the total affected population of the student body; there is some percentage of students (15%?) that receive financial aid but are not in dire straits. Of the ~35% of students that do need assistance, they can be broadly classed into two main groups: those who need additional resources (Internet, a small stipend for food) and those who need housing. I would estimate that the majority (~20%?) will need additional resources, not housing; the school can provide these resources at some cost that will vary on an individual basis. The remainder need a better living situation–fortunately, the College is sitting on some prime housing. I propose bringing back ~30% of the at-risk student population (including international students). The housing density on campus would be low enough to prevent huge outbreaks, while the College provides support to students that need it.

In addition, bringing back some students is a boon to the local economy. It will be nothing like the pre-COVID days, but we’re trying to minimize damage here, not make it all better (which I doubt bringing students back will do anyway). Paired with College rent relief (doesn’t Williams own much of Spring Street, PTC?) and possibly small grants and loans to local businesses, Williams can be the de facto government of Williamstown and stop businesses from failing. Will it work? Who knows. But it’s a plan, and Williams definitely wants to make sure that Spring Street doesn’t just vanish–it needs it to sell location appeal to students.

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