Two years ago we were sure that the most important aspect of Maud’s presidency — the topic which historians would focus on 50 years from now — was her efforts to bring free speech (back) to Williams. How wrong we were! Maud’s decisions during the CV-19 pandemic will define her place in the history books. Let’s spend a week or two discussing her latest message.
The biggest mistake is cancelling fall athletic competitions today.
The NESCAC Conference and the NCAA have issued statements about expectations for a safe return to play. Those statements leave a great deal to the discretion of individual schools, but strongly recommend a phased approach to return to play and competition. This means that any athletic engagement will begin and proceed slowly and with an abundance of caution. Knowing how important athletics is in the lives of many students, we hope to provide opportunities for team engagement. Teams will be able to practice outside in small groups if they adhere to social distancing guidelines, and may progress to more game-like practice activities if conditions improve. However it has been decided that Williams fall sports teams will not travel and compete during the fall semester. Our decision has been guided by the utmost attention to safety protocols to ensure the health and safety of our athletes, coaches, staff and community.
1) Get Maud an editor! This section, and the rest of the message, is absurdly verbose. And we know about verbosity at EphBlog! Is this the venial sin of an academic historian? Was the e-mail actually composed by committee? Did Maud think a longer message was more effective? Commentary welcome! Leadership 101 would have argued for a tight, personal message from Maud, supplemented by links and a committee report.
2) There was no reason to make this decision now. Wait till the end of August. Who knows how things will change? By announcing this now, you increase the odds of scores (hundreds?) of the 300-400 fall athletes will take a gap semester/year. Imagine what sort of chaos that might cause to financial planning.
3) There is no reason to cancel all competitions. The golf teams, for example, are 100% safe, assuming that they practice social distancing. Tennis is almost as safe. There is very little evidence that CV-19 is transmitted outside. Why cancel sports that you don’t need to cancel?
4) Even if you decide, come August, that travel in vans is too dangerous, nothing would prevent Williams from hosting teams who choose to travel to play us.
5) In a week or two, Massachusetts will enter Phase 3 and soccer will be allowed again. Won’t it be weird for Mount Greylock Regional High School to be playing a full season of soccer games, including travel, while Williams has no games? Again, I am not saying that we can know, for sure, today, how much soccer will be played in Massachusetts come September. But that is all the more reason to wait-and-see.
6) Bureaucratic fantasy: “Teams will be able to practice outside in small groups if they adhere to social distancing guidelines.” Just how does Williams intend to enforce this? Of course, they can order to have coaches do whatever. But when the basketball team decides to play a pick-up game, is Williams going to through them off campus? What happens when they go play in a Williamstown park? Just how much control does Williams expect to be able to exert over the students?
7) More nonsense: “health and safety of our athletes.” CV-19 poses almost no risk to athletic 20 year-olds. Williams would save a lot more students lives — at least in expectation — if it were to ban cars and bikes. Spouting this stuff just makes me (and you?) doubt everything they say.
As always, the people who run the College — from Maud on down — are smart and experienced. They want what is best for Williams. And most of the decisions they make are good. But some, like this one, are stupid. And that is why we have EphBlog . . .