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My Advice: What to Do if Remote

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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6 Comments To "My Advice: What to Do if Remote"

#1 Comment By abl On June 4, 2020 @ 4:37 pm

Timothyjohn —

What sort of housing needs do you envision for students? I know there are some students at Williams whose home situation is not conducive to online learning, but 20% is a higher number than I would have guessed. Are you envisioning that Williams opens this up to allow students petition to remain on-campus on a case-by-case basis? If so, that seems ripe for abuse. On the other hand, basing something like this on some semi-arbitrary family-earnings cutoff will probably leave some students who legitimately need housing out, right?

For local businesses, what about providing rent relief? Isn’t Williams the landlord for most of the Spring Street businesses?

#2 Comment By timothyjohn On June 4, 2020 @ 5:28 pm

I think a case-by-case basis will be best–it’s not perfect, but it’s better than a financial cutoff, I think. And the 20% cap is supposed to be generous, in part so that what the College will deem “abuse,” such as it is, will be egregious in nature. If you give most people in need what they want, the people taking advantage of such a policy should be pretty easy to pick out. And I don’t think 20% is too large a number for the College to handle on campus, and I don’t think there’s more than 20% of students who need some form of housing.

Yes, rent relief is a must, as I say in the post.

#3 Comment By abl On June 4, 2020 @ 5:30 pm

Whoops! Sorry I missed that re rent!

#4 Comment By PTC On June 4, 2020 @ 9:56 pm

Williams owns about 90% of Spring Street.

Don’t forget the new Inn. Those would be pretty cool student dorm rooms. 64 “corporate retreats.” You could use those to spread students out. Also another dining hall and student center. Many spaces that can be used for classrooms.

#5 Comment By PTC On June 6, 2020 @ 10:44 pm

https://www.iberkshires.com/story/62399/Massachusetts-to-Begin-Phase-2-Reopenings-on-Monday.html

Good news.

Looks like the State of MA is heading in a direction that would allow Williams to open.

#6 Comment By PTC On June 6, 2020 @ 10:50 pm

Looks like the new Williams Inn is taking reservations for July.