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Williams College Message from President Maud S. Mandel

Some additional information is available on the Williams website, though most links say the same thing(s) in different ways. I’m happy to note that the administrators took some of my advice–only take-out meals, fall sports are cancelled, and there is strict swipe access. Further musings to come later.
Dear Williams community,
I’m writing to inform you that Williams plans to convene an in-person semester for fall 2020. Our plan includes extraordinary public health measures for everyone’s protection, options for people who are unable to come to campus because of medical or other concerns, and a full curriculum of hybrid and remote courses. These measures will provide flexibility for all, as well as protections for international students and those from vulnerable populations, and for everyone residing on or working on campus.
I’m eager to welcome our community back. As beautiful as this campus is, Williams without people just isn’t Williams. To do this responsibly will require significant adjustments to the ways we live and learn, and sharing the commitments and sacrifices needed to protect each other. When in doubt we’re going to err on the side of caution, because what’s at stake is the health and wellbeing of our extended community, to which we all have a collective responsibility.
The result of prioritizing health and safety is that the semester will be substantially different in many ways, which may feel restrictive to some. If you feel uncomfortable with the changes to the campus and academic program outlined in this letter, or prefer to wait for something more like a traditional semester—and there are many reasons why a person might want to do so—then you do have the option to take time off or remain off-campus and take your courses remotely.
Following is a high-level overview of our approach for this fall, which incorporates safety protocols from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. You can visit our Covid-19 website and FAQ for details and can read a summaryof the report from the Working Group on Returning for Fall 2020, upon whose outstanding work our plan is based. Many departments, programs and offices have also posted information and FAQs on their own sites (these are linked to from the Covid site, as well).
Finally, starting tomorrow (Tuesday, June 30) we’ll offer a series of town halls with college leaders and administrators from key areas, so that you can ask questions, learn more about the implications of our decision, and envision what fall semester might be like. Visit the Town Halls and Important Dates page of the Covid site for dates and times. You can also submit questions and comments anytime via the Covid comment portal. Continuing after the July 4 holiday, we’ll add information about virtual meetings and office hours around campus, too.
To get us started, here are the plan’s major points:

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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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My Advice: What to Do if On-Campus

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?

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The Case for Remote

This is by no means an all-encompassing list; what did I leave off? Not listed in order of importance.

The educational mission of Williams College will be fine if classes are held remotely. The reason things were rough this semester was because it was a slapdash effort that caught everyone off guard halfway through a semester. With a summer to prepare and feedback from us students, professors can design online courses that will give us the Williams education we signed up for. If I’m being honest, 2 of my classes actually went alright online, and with some minor tweaking would’ve been pretty similar to what they would’ve been like on campus. Our Williams education will be fine–not great, but fine–if it’s online for a semester or two.

The educational mission+ of Williams College is severely compromised even if classes are held on-campus. What I have planned for the poor students going back is a discussion for tomorrow! But even if you don’t end up agreeing with me, the point is the same–Williams will look very different in the Fall, and you can be sure the administration is going to try to curtail all the fun activities that make our time at Williams so memorable (regardless of whether you agree with that course of action or not). A remote semester has no bandage for this wound and there’s no use pretending it does–the argument is that things aren’t going to be that much better on campus anyways, so students really won’t be losing all that much if remote learning was instituted.

The financial status of Williams will be fine if classes are held remotely. Look, $3 billion is a lot of money. It’s not all liquid, but Williams is one of the few colleges in the country that has the money to weather through this storm. And isn’t this what an endowment is for–to provide a measure of financial security during times of distress?

The financial damage to the surrounding community (and the people Williams employs) can be minimized. I will discuss this more on Day 4, since it’s part of my grand remote plan; basically, with targeted, intelligent fiscal policies from Williams—and county, state, and federal gov’ts as well, hopefully—Williams can keep a lot of staff employed and maintain businesses on Spring Street. I’m not sure what the exact situation is (it’s hard to run a business in the best of times) but I’ve heard Blue Mango, for example, is doing quite well with takeout orders.

Existing disparities in education can be minimized if classes are held remotely. Again, will discuss more on Day 4; the gist is that Williams can extend aid like housing to the most vulnerable while providing other resources (think Internet) to the slightly less vulnerable. This is not a crazy idea–it’s what they did this semester, and it worked out relatively well, especially for a rushed plan.

The virus is far too dangerous to bring people back to campusNot to the young, of course, but to the immunocompromised, people with preexisting conditions, staff, and faculty. It’s foolish to think that we can separate out high-risk and low-risk groups in a collegiate setting. Bringing back students, many of whom will be asymptomatic (as young, healthy people tend to be) will be a death sentence for a lot of people at Williams and the surrounding community. It’s hard to teach or run a business if you’re dead.

Williams cannot stop the spread of the virus. The opposite side of this argument comes up tomorrow, and it’s touched upon on Day 4, but the sentiment is pretty simple and self-explanatory. Williams, with all its might, is powerless against the virus’ spread. It has neither the resources (where are the testing kits?) nor the legal authority (it’s not a gov’t) to control or prevent the spread of the virus amongst students. Even well-funded federal governments are having trouble! (And no, I’m not thinking of the U.S.–I would be hard-pressed to say any country did well, since most/all basically decided a “shut everything down/don’t see people/stay home” approach would be all that would work). What can Williams do against such a foe? Nothing.

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The Case for On-Campus

A week-long series, apparently! Here’s the schedule: Today is the Case for On-Campus, Tuesday the Case for Remote, Wednesday is the Requirements for On-Campus, Thursday the Requirements for Remote, and Friday is my conclusion, which has not been written yet because I can’t decide either way.

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This is by no means an all-encompassing list; what did I leave off? Not listed in order of importance.

The educational mission of Williams College is severely compromised if classes are not held on-campus. There’s a lot of reasons why my experiences with online classes were awful–they were unexpected and no one was prepared for it–but that doesn’t change the fact that on-campus classes will always be better than remote classes. This is a purely pedagogical argument–meeting with professors is more difficult and less personal over Zoom, labs are difficult or nonexistent, synchronous learning is all but impossible, group work is hard…the list goes on and on. There is a place in our society for online learning, but the educational environment that Williams has cultivated is ill-suited for this transition and is lessened by it.

The educational mission+ of Williams College is severely compromised if classes are not held on-campus. Williams is so much more than a great educational college, though, and what could ever replace that je ne sais quoi of sidewalk conversations, lab tomfoolery, stressful study sessions in Sawyer Library? Friends for life are made in entries, clubs, sports teams, and partners–sometimes for life–are found on campus (perhaps a little too frequently). Denying students this experience, no matter how different it may be from normal, would be damaging to them. What will the freshman do without entries? Sports teams without locker rooms? Clubs without classrooms to meet in? Williams is a residential college, and residential it should be.

The financial status of Williams (and the people Williams employs) will be severely compromised if classes are not held on-campus. Williams has a hefty endowment, but it still relies on tuition and room and board to run day-to-day operations, and it’s not like the endowment is sitting liquid in a bank account. Hiring has (mostly) been frozen, and decisions not to increase/maintain the size of the faculty can have an impact for a generation. And without students, what will happen to the custodial staff, trade staff, dining staff, etc.? Williams is generous, but it is still a business, and I find it hard to believe that custodians will still be paid if there is nothing to clean, or dining staff if there is no one to feed. Finally, classes less attached to the College as a result of online learning may give less for the rest of their lives, impacting alumni giving and engagement for a generation.

The financial situation of the surrounding community will be severely compromised if classes are not held on-campus. The businesses on Spring Street struggle as it is, not to mention further-flung places like North Adams or Pittsfield. If the thousands of Williams students don’t come back, restaurants will have no one to feed. And what about the renting market? Students, family, etc. get hotel rooms to move in, rent houses on Hoxsey, etc. Without students, Williamstown may just become Williams, as businesses fail and people become jobless.

Existing disparities in education will only widen if classes are not held on-campus. College is supposed to be a great equalizer between people of different backgrounds, and that just can’t happen if it’s online. Some people will suffer greatly if they aren’t in-person; others will not. The people who suffer will be disproportionately low-income and of color.

The virus isn’t that dangerous to the young. Classes can be safely held on campus with relatively minimal intrusion into a normal fall semester. So long as we are intelligent about who has to be super careful and who doesn’t, we can handle it.

Williams can stop the spread of the virus. I will discuss this further on Day 3.

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preventative health measures

Dear Faculty, Staff, and Students,

 

As we prepare the campus for potential spread of the COVID-19 virus, we recognize that not all members of our community are likely to be impacted in the same way.  According to the CDC, the immediate risk of being exposed to the virus that causes COVID-19 remains low for most people in the US. In addition, information so far suggests that for the majority of people who contract the virus, COVID-19 illness is mild.  At the same time, older people and people of all ages with severe underlying health conditions seem to be at higher risk of developing serious COVID-19 illness. For instance, COVID-19 may be more dangerous to people who have had chemotherapy; suffer from heart problems, diabetes or respiratory issues; or are immune-compromised.

 

If you fall into any of these categories and are concerned about continuing to work in your standard setting (whether that be attending class, working in an office, or another setting), we encourage you to reach out to us so that we can determine what sort of alternative arrangements might be possible in order to increase your safety. Faculty should reach out to Kashia Pieprzak (kpieprza@williams.edu); staff should reach to either Danielle Gonzalez (dg3@wiliams.edu) or Megan Childers (mab7@williams.edu); and students should reach out to Cyndi Haley (chaley@williams.edu) so that we can provide a streamlined, confidential process for your request.

 

All best wishes,

Denise Buell, Dean of Faculty

Fred Puddester Vice President for Finance & Administration and Treasurer

Marlene Sandstrom, Dean of the College

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Final FAST Updates

In other news…

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Additional steps for COVID-19 prevention and mitigation

Williams students, faculty and staff,

The COVID-19 virus is continuing to spread nationally, including a confirmed case in Clarksburg, MA, 7 miles east of Williams, and another in Bennington, VT. I am writing today to announce further steps to protect campus and prepare for the possibility that a case occurs here despite our best efforts. You can always find this information on the college’s COVID-19 website, too.

Since activities involving heightened personal interaction, including gatherings and travel, can be a source of exposure, we are making the following changes as of today:

First, college-sponsored international travel will not be allowed through April 30, 2020, with a possible extension beyond that time if it becomes necessary to ensure campus health. College funds may not be used for any trips occurring during this time. This is partly to limit the risk to our community, and partly because all of us as members of society have an ethical obligation to avoid activities that increase the risk of contagion. It is not a decision we make lightly, and we will continue to review the situation with the goal of lifting the prohibition as soon as evidence indicates it is safe to do so.

Second, we are canceling all campus events between now and April 30, 2020 that have an expected attendance of 100 or more. The college has meeting spaces that can accommodate crowds of fewer than 100 while allowing the recommended six-foot minimum distance between guests to limit contagion. For this reason, we believe 100 people is a meaningful cutoff point for now. Again, we are continually reviewing the situation and will inform you if it becomes necessary to extend or amend the policy. As part of our decision, we are also canceling Previews, our campus program for admitted students and families, which was scheduled to begin on April 20. There will also be no admission tours, info sessions or admitted student overnights during this time, all decisions comparable to those made by a number of other schools around the country.

The COVID-19 team has begun contacting many organizers of affected events. If you fall into this category, faculty with questions should please contact the Office of Commencement and Academic Events, while students should reach out to the Office of Student Life. Staff, your point of contact will vary, so please work with the appropriate liaison for your particular program.

This global outbreak challenges all of us, not just logistically or economically, but psychologically. While in the great majority of cases the symptoms of COVID-19 will resemble the flu, the uncertainty demands resilience. It is important that we take time to care for ourselves and each other, and especially to think about the most vulnerable. Any Williams employee with a complicating condition or circumstance should contact the Office of Human Resources to request accommodations. The HR team will offer a streamlined, confidential process. Students, if you have health concerns please call Student Health Services right away—they will not accept walk-ins for now, to limit the risk of contagion, but are there to help you. The college will work with every student to help you complete your academic program safely.

This outbreak is challenging schools to think creatively about how to guarantee academic rigor under adverse circumstances, and I thank our faculty and staff for problem-solving to keep us on mission. Indeed, I’m grateful to everyone, from custodians and dining staff to Health Services, Study Away, Admission and Financial Aid, CSS and deans, student leaders, event hosts, and others who are all adjusting your work—sometimes day to day—to keep people safe and the college operating smoothly.

Our team has reviewed the situation with local, state and national public health experts, and they consistently ask us to emphasize to campus that the number one thing we can all do to protect ourselves is to practice good hygiene: wash hands frequently and for a minimum of 20 seconds at a time, cover coughs and sneezes with the crook of an elbow, avoid touching our faces, and avoid contact or proximity with anyone who is already ill.

Again, I appreciate your cooperation with the prohibition on travel and the ban on large campus events. We will review the outlook on both decisions frequently, and will let you know whether we need to extend them or whether they can be curtailed. These decisions have real consequences for our mission, jobs and lives, and I appreciate your temporary sacrifices for our collective health and safety.

Maud

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Art Shuttle – Berkshire Cultural Resource Center

MCLA’s Berkshire Cultural Resource Center (BCRC) is pleased to offer a free shuttle bus, the ART SHUTTLE, to all MCLA and Williams College students. The ART SHUTTLE will launch on Thursday, March 3rd, from 3-6PM.  The ART SHUTTLE will provide students transportation to tour and visit four art institutions in both North Adams and Williamstown. The tour will make a loop that take students to The Clark Art Institute, The Williams College Museum of Art (WCMA), MASS MoCA, Gallery 51. The ART SHUTTLE is intended to give students a means to explore and enjoy the world-class art in spaces just beyond the borders of their campus. These four partnering institutions are working together to better serve and engage students.

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Coronavirus Email Updates & New Website

Update on coronavirus measures – Week of March 4th

Dear Williams students, faculty and staff,

Following is this week’s email on COVID-19. Because the situation is changing constantly, we’re going to launch a college website where you can find updates and additional information at any time. Look for an announcement once the site goes live later this week.

The first thing we want you to know is that the college’s academic mission and your health and safety are our top priorities. If decisions need to be made or actions taken, we’re going to do so with those concerns foremost in mind. A leadership team is conferring daily to review emerging developments and promptly make any necessary decisions.

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Election Results for FAST and the Williams Student Union

The results came in this evening, a little later than expected. I have included a link to the election results. JS is technically correct–turnout was lower than the Fall–but not by much (it was still, very, very low). It also appears that there is significant Task Force representation in the new organizations.

DDF UPDATE: For the benefit of future historians, here is a csv of the votes and here is an html summary.

https://williamscollegemassachusetts.simplyvoting.com/index.php?mode=results&election=88884

Hello everyone,

The RESULTS are IN! We again would like to thank the many student leaders that ran for either WSU or FAST. Regardless of the results the student body thanks you for both putting yourself out there and embracing a bold vision of student government. We would also like to thank the student body for voting in yet another important election and providing overwhelming support for a student government founded by principles of equity, transparency, and accessibility.

As of March 1st, 2020, College Council is officially defunct. FAST and WSU will assume their roles.

A brief timeline of what comes next:

Tonight: The election closes and representatives for WSU and FAST are announced.

03/01: College Council stands Abolished. The referendum served as a constitutional amendment that rendered the Constitution, bylaws, and any other structural documents of the College Council null and void. FAST and the Williams Student Union shall begin the work of supporting the student body, and shall have all powers and responsibilities enumerated in their respective Constitutions and bylaws. They will host a joint meeting this Sunday where this transition of power will occur.

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FAST and Williams Student Union self nominations, voting open!

They have not yet sent out the results of the election, which closed yesterday.

The era of our new student government has finally arrived. We again would like to thank the student body for their overwhelming endorsement and support of the plan. We would also like to thank the many student leaders who have submitted self-nominations. Regardless of the results of this election, together we are all welcoming a new era of diverse, equitable, and accessible governance.

Here are the self-nomination packets for the Williams Student Union and FAST. Please take a look through and support the candidate that you feel will best serve our campus. Your VOTE and voice are integral to helping the Three Pillars succeed where College Council has failed.

Elections will open today and will end on Saturday, January 29th at 5 pm! You will receive a personalized voting link immediately following this email.

Good luck to our candidates and thank you everyone for voting!

Submitted to the Student Body by the Task Force on Student Governance

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More Emails

Three Pillars Emails will be in a separate post.

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Et al. Emails

Update on coronavirus measures, week of February 17

Dear Williams faculty, students and staff,

Steve Klass and I are writing with this week’s update about the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.

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Applications for FAST and The Williams Student Union are OPEN Apply now!

Congrats again! Together we created a new government that supports students. The time has come to constitute this government with voices across campus who are dedicated to the ideals of equity, efficiency, and advocacy outlined in their charge.

Submit your self-nominations for Funding Facilitators and the Williams Student Union before Sunday (02/23) at midnight! Self-nominations should be no more than 500 words and may include a photo of your choice.

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What was to be a comment to abl…

David–having issues commenting, but thought this was relevant. Not sure what the issue is.

The referendum was presented as unconstitutional; it was stated that the vote turnout did not need to meet the requirements set out in the CC constitution; nor did the margin of victory; it was not publicized for two weeks; it was not an official amendment, etc.

That being said, the vote met the constitutional thresholds for turnout and margin of victory, and everyone knew what they were voting for or against. That leads me to an interesting question @abl and others–if the referendum was unabashedly unconstitutional, but ended up meeting the important technical requirements, should it retroactively be considered constitutional? I don’t have an answer.

Also, there is a lot wrong with the Three Pillars Plan (so many poorly thought out small problems–perhaps enough to sink the ship), but I would hesitate to go to the lengths Concernedeph has in denigrating the process and the involved students. Fundamentally there is nothing wrong with the idea (practically, there is a lot wrong) and while there were a lot of ‘leftist’ students on the Task Force, it remains to be seen how the Three Pillars benefits them in any concerted way. The Williams Student Union (the activist wing) is toothless and there will be a vote in Spring 2021 as to whether to abolish it because it is pointless–if I had to guess, it will be removed. Unsure how TABLE can become political, but without the WSU, it just might end up being the ‘activist’ wing by being very biased in committee selections…if ever more than one person applies for a committee position, which is a trend that doesn’t seem to stand a good chance of changing. And FAST will just run out of money by March next year, not selectively give money to some and not others.

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Official Results of the Three Pillars Referendum, Self-Noms open!

Perhaps the last post under the College Council tag.

To the Williams Community,

The Three Pillars Referendum Passes with 80.5% of votes in support, and 40% voter participation. Congratulations on welcoming a new era of student governance to Williams! The turnout for this election was the highest the College has seen in years, and the overwhelming support for the Referendum is a clear mandate for the Three Pillars Plan!

Forms response chart. Question title: Abolish College Council and institute the Three Pillars Plan. Number of responses: 868 responses.

The Task Force would like to thank every member of the Williams community who read the Three Pillars Plan, came to the Baxter Town Hall and voted on the Referendum. You all are the people that made this happen: you endlessly demanded structural change from an organization that hadn’t seen it in over forty years; you elected a diverse and representative group to advocate for your needs; and lastly, you voted for a radical new vision that puts equity at the forefront of governance! Thank you again, we should all be proud of what we have accomplished together.

 

As of 7:30 PM, February 14th, 2020, the Three Pillars Plan is ratified!

 

A brief timeline of what comes next:

 

Tonight: Self-nominations are now open for funding facilitators and members of the Williams Student Union. The solicitation period ends on 02/23 at 5 pm. Become a part of the Three Pillars!

 

02/24: The election period for FAST and The Williams Student Union opens. The voting period will end on 02/28.

 

02/27: Pub Night “Meet the Candidates” events. Come learn more about the students running for FAST and the Williams Student Union.

 

03/01: College Council stands Abolished. This referendum shall serve as a constitutional amendment that renders the Constitution, bylaws, and any other structural documents of the College Council null and void. Until March 1st, College Council shall be stripped of all powers and responsibilities except the oversight of FinCom.

03/01: FAST and the Williams Student Union shall begin the work of supporting the student body, and shall have all powers and responsibilities enumerated in their respective Constitutions and bylaws. Elections for TABLE will occur in late spring. Once TABLE elections have been held, the Task Force will dissolve and have no further obligations to their charge.

 

Congrats everyone!

 

Szőllősi Bálint ’22, Minority Coalition

Leo Lam Haines ’21, Community-Service Organizations

Onder Kilinc ’23, Minority Coalition

Porter Johnson ’21, College Council

Tyler Johnson ’21, Club Sports

Adam Jones ’21, At-Large

Shadae McClean ’21, Junior Advisors

Rebecca Park ’22, Faith-Based Organizations

Essence Perry ’22, Strategic Planning

True Pham ’23, College Council

William Ren ’21, At-Large

Natalie Silver ’22, Student Athletic Advisory Committee

Adly Templeton ’20, College Council

Hipólito Vázquez ’22, Minority Coalition

Nicolle Mac Williams ‘21.5, Performance Organizations

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College Council Minutes

I figure we aren’t getting any more of these, so here’s the CC minutes from the past several years.

2016-2017:

CC Minutes April 6 CC Minutes April 13 CC Minutes April 20 CC Minutes April 27 CC Minutes February 24 CC Minutes March 2 CC Minutes March 9 CC Minutes March 16 CC Minutes May 4 CC Minutes May 11 Minutes 10_5_16 Minutes 10_18_16 Minutes 10_25_16 Minutes 11_1_16 Minutes 11_8_16 Minutes 11_15_16 Minutes 11_29_16 Minutes 12_6_2016

2017-2018:

3_14_17 Minutes 4_4_17 Minutes 4_11_17 Minutes 4_18_17 Minutes 4_25_17 Minutes 5_2_17 Minutes 5_9_17 Minutes 10_31_17 Minutes 11_7_17 Minutes 11_28_17 Minutes 12_5_17 Minutes Meeting Minutes 1_11_17 Meeting Minutes 1_18_17 Meeting Minutes 2_7_17 Meeting Minutes 2_14_17 Meeting Minutes 2_21_17 Meeting Minutes 10_3_17 Meeting Minutes 10_17_17 Meeting Minutes 10_24_17 Minutes 1_4_2017 Minutes 1_11_2017 Minutes 2_28_17 Minutes 3_7_17 Minutes 11_14_17 1_8_18 Minutes 1_15_18 Minutes 1_22_18 Minutes 2_6_18 Minutes 2_13_18 Minutes 2_20_18 Minutes 2_27_18 minutes Minutes Meeting Template Meeting Minutes Template

2018-2019:

2_8_18 2_27_18 minutes 3_6_18 Minutes 3_13_18 Minutes 4_3_18 Minutes 4_10_18 Minutes 4_17_18 Minutes 4_24_18 Minutes_ 5_1_18 Minutes 5_8_18 Minutes 9_25_18 Minutes 10_2_18 Minutes 10_16_18 Minutes 10_23_18 Minutes 10_30_18 Minutes 11_6_18 Minutes 11_13_18 MinCo-CC Funding 11_13_18 11_27_18 Minutes 12_4_18 Copy of Copy of Copy of Meeting Minutes Template 1_8_19 Minutes 1_15_19 Minutes 1_22_19 2_5_19 Copy of Minutes Template__Old

2019-2020:

1_14_20 Minutes 2_12_19 2_19_19 Minutes 2_26_19 Minutes 3_5_19 Minutes 3_12_19 Minutes 4_2_19 Minutes 4_9_19 Minutes 4_16_19 Minutes 4_30_19 Minutes 5_7_19 Minutes 10_1_19 Minutes 10_8_19 Minutes 10_29_19 Minutes 11_5_19 Minutes 11_12_19 Minutes 11_19_19 Minutes 12_3_19 Minutes Minutes Template_New

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Release of draft Strategic Planning reports

To the Williams community,

It’s my pleasure to release the draft reports from the Strategic Planning working groups and strategic academic initiatives. You’ll find them all on the Strategic Planning website.

These drafts are the fruit of last fall’s extraordinary outreach efforts: Hundreds of faculty, staff, students and community members attended related meetings and events, while hundreds more, including alumni, parents and families, submitted online comments and participated in phonecasts.

As I develop the strategic plan this spring I’ll use the reports, which incorporate so much outreach, research and analysis, as a guiding source. Not every specific recommendation will find its way into the plan, which is meant to be a high-level statement of our aspirations for the next ten to fifteen years. But the reports will guide my thinking about our strengths and ambitions. Later on, they’ll also serve as a bank of ideas for “operationalization”: the phase when we translate the plan’s big ideas into concrete, practical steps that will get us where we’ve said we want to go.

Your comments on the reports are welcome via the online portal anytime between now and Friday, February 28. My colleagues from the planning process and I will review the feedback as we finalize the drafts and I begin deriving major themes for the strategic plan.

As you read, I hope you’ll join with me in thanking all those whose extraordinary efforts got us to this point: the members of the working groups, initiatives and Coordinating Committee, as well as the many people in our community who shared ideas and advice. Each of you is helping us chart a course for Williams’ excellence in the years and decades to come.

Maud

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It’s time to Abolish College Council; Voting is Open!

Additional documents provided below the break (including relevant CC minutes, which were not provided via email).

Click Here to Vote

Voting on the Three Pillars Referendum is now open! Click here to vote!

Voting will be open through 7:30PM on Friday. If you would like to learn more about the referendum, come to our Town Hall at 8:00pm Monday in Baxter Hall. We will also be tabling throughout the week in Paresky to answer questions about the Three Pillars Referendum and help people vote!

The Task Force will be hosting a Referendum Celebration in Baxter Hall this Friday at 7PM to announce the results of the campus-wide vote!

Attached to this email is the official full text of the referendum, as well as the transition plan. We’ve also attached a list of frequently asked questions about the Three Pillars Plan.

Click Here to Vote

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Et al. Emails

Welcome to the spring 2020 semester!

Dear students, faculty and staff,

It’s spring! Well… spring semester, anyway. The ground is still frozen, the days are too short, but the process of renewal is underway. Every season in the Berkshires has its pleasures, but it’s a special time at Williams when the coats and boots come off and the first green shoots of spring start pushing through.

This year the metaphor of renewal is even more apt than usual. From Strategic Planning to the curriculum, many new ideas are blossoming. Here are some examples:

  • After extensive outreach in the fall, the eight Strategic Planning working groups and three academic initiatives are almost done writing their draft reports. We’ll publish all 11 documents on the Strategic Planning website on February 12. Please read all that interest you, then use the comment portal to offer your thoughts.
  • Exciting new teaching and research projects spring up so often that I can’t possibly mention them all. Examples range from Assistant Professor of Chemistry Katie Hart’s lab, where students are working with her to understand how drug resistance develops at the molecular level; to a partnership between Associate Professor of History Aparna Kapadia and Assistant Professor of Art Murad Mumtaz, whose class invites students to consider Southeast Asian art from the WCMA collection as a lens into connections between art and power in the Mughal Empire.
  • In the administrative sphere, too, we’re seeing change and evolution. As I recently mentioned in a campus announcement, Professor of Psychology Safa Zaki will succeed Cluett Professor of Religion Denise Buell as Dean of Faculty in July. And after Vice President of Campus Life Steve Klass retires in June, Health Services and Integrative Wellbeing Services, the Chaplain’s Office, the Office of Student Life, and CLiA will join the Dean of the College’s team, while Dining Services, Campus Safety and Security, Mail Services and the Conferences and External Events office will report to the Vice President for Finance.
  • Vice President for Institutional Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Leticia Smith-Evans Haynes ’99 recently described the restructuring of the Davis Center—an important component of efforts to fully support inclusion and belonging at Williams, by building our capacity to promote inclusive learning environments, intra- and intergroup dialogue and restorative practices. Meanwhile, the Davis Center building project will make the Center itself a more welcoming, accommodating and accessible home for student life and student-centered work on these and other issues.
  • Tomorrow is Claiming Williams. This annual event is a very special aspect of Williams, and I hope you’ll participate. The program actually starts at 7:30 tonight in Chapin, when guest speaker Anthony Jack talks about his book, The Privileged Poor: How Elite Colleges are Failing Disadvantaged Students. Tomorrow we’ll hear from Iranian-American fashion blogger, writer and activist Hoda Katebi, who’ll speak in the ’62 Center for Theatre and Dance about, “Decolonizing Fashion from Tehran to Boston.” For a full schedule of the many workshops and events, visit the Claiming Williams website.
  • Finally, I’m pleased to share good news from Facilities staff member Dave Maselli, who was seriously injured in a work accident last fall. Dave reports that he’s making progress toward the goal of a full recovery. I join with him in thanking the Facilities, Athletics and Campus Safety staff who responded to the scene, as well as the many more colleagues and friends who sent him messages of support.

As these stories suggest, the semester ahead, like the spring that will come, is full of promise. I look forward to growing with you in the months ahead.

Maud

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Abolishing College Council and the Three Pillars Referendum

I encourage individuals to read through the email/documents and post about it. We’ll know soon enough whether the proposed changes will become reality.

Three Pillars Handout

FAST Funding Body Constitution

FAST Funding Body Bylaws

TABLE Constitution

Williams Student Union Constitution

Williams Student Union Bylaws

TL;DR

The Task Force recommends abolishing College Council and instituting the Three Pillars Plan for student governance. Vote YES on the campus-wide referendum starting this Sunday!

Over the past month, the Task Force has carefully examined the failures of College Council and how best to address them. Our recommendation to the Student Body is to abolish College Council and approve the Three Pillars Plan. The Three Pillars Plan directly addresses the years of inequitable and biased funding, lack of representation in student government, and the inability to effectively advocate for student concerns within College Council.

We acknowledge that no panel, body, or group of students could ever represent the multiplicity and range of life experiences, identities, and viewpoints Williams encompasses, but the Task Force has made huge strides in doing so. Our group of sixteen students, which span different class years, races, nationalities, socioeconomic backgrounds, sexualities, religious affiliations, and student organization affiliations understand the urgency and necessity of an efficient student government, especially at an institution like Williams. Our work has embodied the principles of accessibility, difference, tolerance, equity, and inclusion, and we hope you will support the Three Pillars Plan for the same reasons.

College Council currently has the following responsibilities: allocating funding, appointing students to student-faculty committees, and advocating for student interests. We propose that each of these responsibilities be handled as follows:

More email below the break.

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Coronavirus

Williams faculty, staff and students

I hope you’ve had a good Winter Study period, whether you were on campus or away.

As many of you know, a respiratory illness first identified in Wuhan, China, is now affecting various regions of the world. As of today, five cases have been identified in the United States. The virus, known as novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV), causes a pneumonia-like illness with fever, cough and shortness of breath.

In the majority of cases, coronavirus is treated like the flu and will pass within a few days. However, people who are immune-compromised or have lowered resistance, including some elderly people, may have an increased risk of more serious effects.

If you’ve traveled in or through known affected areas during January 2020 and have any of the above symptoms, please contact your primary care physician or the Student Health and Wellness Center.

Students, we strongly advise that you call the Center, rather than walking in. You’ll be asked a number of screening questions over the phone that can help you avoid coming in unnecessarily, and will also limit the risk of spreading any illness you may have. Given that there’s a strain of flu affecting people on campus right now, with similar symptoms, please avoid making self-diagnoses and call us instead.

Anyone using an off-campus provider should contact your provider’s office for advice.

While Williams isn’t aware of any cases of coronavirus in the campus community, we’ll continue to monitor the situation and keep you informed of developments. The Health Center will post such updates on the health education section of our website. If you’re hosting guests or visitors to campus, please feel free to share this information with them, too, so they know what precautions we’re taking.

For more information on the coronavirus itself, including how to prevent transmission, visit the coronavirus page of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) is just one of several respiratory viruses circulating at this time of year. We encourage anyone who hasn’t already had their flu shot for this year to get one as soon as possible. The nearest option is the Walgreen’s pharmacy in the Rite Aid at Colonial Plaza. Students may use the college’s prescription pickup shuttle to get there.

I also strongly encourage everyone to practice good hygiene in order to avoid spreading any illness by following the CDC’s basic prevention steps. These precautions protect you and help prevent the spread of illness for all of us.

Thank you for helping keep yourself and Williams healthy! I wish you all a happy start to the new semester.

Sincerely,

Deb Flynn

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Announcing our next dean of faculty

To the Williams community,

I am pleased to report that, after consulting with the Faculty Steering Committee, I have offered Professor of Psychology Safa Zaki the position of Dean of the Faculty, and she has accepted. Safa will assume her new role on July 1.

In her 18 years at Williams, Safa has earned broad respect as a collaborative educator and leader and as an advocate for both faculty and staff. She is chair of the Cognitive Science program, a position she has held since 2018, and teaches courses including Experimentation and Statistics; Concepts: Mind, Brain, and Culture; and Great Debates in Cognition. She has also mentored numerous students who have worked with her on her research into how the mind parses the visual world into categories. Her findings have been published in journals including Psychological Science, Psychonomic Bulletin and Review, and the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory and Cognition, and her studies have been funded by the National Institute of Mental Health.

Committed to enhancing the life of the college, as well as the life of the mind, Safa is a member of the Committee on Appointments and Promotions, and has chaired both the Committee on Priorities and Resources and the Faculty Steering Committee. She served on the most recent Presidential Search Committee and is currently a member of two strategic planning groups: the Working Group on Faculty Staff Development, and the Strategic Academic Initiative on Technology and the Liberal Arts. After earning her bachelor’s degree from the American University in Cairo and her Ph.D. in psychology from Arizona State, she joined the Williams faculty in 2002 and was promoted to associate professor in 2005 and then full professor in 2010.

In assuming the Dean of Faculty role, Safa succeeds Denise Buell, who last fall announced her plans to return to teaching and research at the end of this academic year. Over the five years of her deanship, Denise has helped diversify the Williams faculty, expand faculty orientation and professional development offerings, pilot new selection processes for faculty service roles, and create programs to support department and program chairs, among her many contributions. In my first days at Williams, Denise did so much to help me build relationships with our faculty, for which I’m deeply grateful.

I now look forward to working equally closely with Safa. We’re fortunate that someone of her abilities and experience will continue Williams’ tradition of filling senior administrative positions from within the faculty ranks. I want to thank the many faculty members who contributed suggestions to the FSC concerning the selection of the Dean of the Faculty, and to the members of the FSC themselves for their thoughtful counsel.I hope you will join me in congratulating Safa and welcoming her to her new role, in which capacity I know she will work tirelessly to support and advance Williams’ exceptional faculty.

Maud

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Summary of January 2020 Board of Trustees meeting

Dear faculty, staff and students,

The Williams Board of Trustees held their January meeting last Friday and Saturday. I’m pleased to summarize for you some of the topics and votes. Reports from past meetings are always available on the News from the Board website.

Last week’s agenda included the following:

  • On Thursday evening, before the meeting, Trustees joined students for dinner in Mission Park Dining Hall, as part of their continuing efforts to learn about people’s experiences at Williams.
  • On Friday, I provided the board with an overview of the strategic planning process. This included a few early observations from the working groups, as they draft their reports. The completed drafts will be made available to our whole community for consideration in February. I also talked with the Board about key directions that will likely feature in the Strategic Plan itself, which I’ll be developing in the spring.
  • I also gave a routine update on campus matters, including a summary of the statement on inquiry and inclusion, the search for our next Dean of the Faculty, and the ongoing reorganization of offices prompted by Steve Klass’s planned retirement in the summer of 2020.
  • Provost Dukes Love and Vice President for Finance and Administration and Treasurer Fred Puddester discussed approaches for funding emerging ideas in the strategic planning process through the annual budget process and fundraising efforts.
  • Dukes, along with Class of ’56 Director of the Williams College Museum of Art Pam Franks and a team from architectural consultants Deborah Berke Partners talked with the Trustees about developing a plan for a potential new art museum, as well as the ways in which such an effort might intersect with other emerging arts initiatives. This conversation remains hypothetical for now, since the Board will only vote on whether and how to move forward with a building project once all the programming issues have been fully studied. These include questions about the range of opportunities in the arts, connections between a potential Williams arts project and our partners and arts organizations in the region, as well as about the relationship between such a potential project and our overall strategic planning priorities.
  • Associate Vice President for Finance Matt Sheehy and Chief Information Officer Barron Koralesky led an annual update on the college’s risk management efforts, including recent work on business continuity and regulatory compliance. Information Security Officer Andy Powell also presented about our efforts to improve the college’s information security program and better protect our data. Among other news, Barron and Andy reported that we have achieved 100% participation in dual-factor email authentication among students and staff, and 79% among faculty. Before this effort, we logged an average of four compromised accounts per month, whereas since then we haven’t seen anyone compromised. I want to thank everyone who took this important step to help protect yourselves and all of us.
  • Chief Communications Officer Jim Reische introduced Audrey Francis and Jesse Reed, partners from the firms Elastic Strategy and Order, who are helping us update the college’s identity and publications. Audrey and Jesse then described for the Trustees some of the considerations that emerged from their research at Williams last fall.
  • The board confirmed the promotion of six Williams faculty members to associate professor with tenure as of July 1, 2019. See the recent press release for details. Congratulations to our faculty colleagues on their promotions.
  • The board approved the proposal to rename the Center for Development Economics to the “Henry J. Bruton Center for Development Economics.” The naming honors the late Professor Henry Bruton, who served as John J. Gibson Professor of Economics from 1962 until his retirement in 2004.
  • The board approved the granting of honorary degrees during the June 2020 Commencement. As always, the honorees will be announced in March.
  • Chief Investment Officer Collette Chilton reported on our endowment value and returns for the fiscal year to date. She also reported on the college’s impact investing activities, and the Investment Office’s plans to meet the Board’s impact investment goals. The office’s 2019 and prior annual reports are available on their website.
  • Vice President for College Relations Megan Morey reported on fundraising results since the successful July 1 conclusion of our Teach It Forward campaign. One highlight of Megan’s report was news about our new Women’s Giving Society, which is demonstrating philanthropic leadership among Williams alumnae and others.
  • The Trustees also heard updates on college finances and capital projects from Fred Puddester, including early thinking about Davis Center renovations and his report that construction of the North Building of the Science Center remains on schedule and within budget. Fred and our Planning, Design and Construction team will continue carefully managing that project to completion.
Once again, the Board committees did much fine work, as well. You’ll find information about them on the Committees page of the Board website.
I look forward to reporting on our next Board meeting this spring. In the meantime, I hope you all enjoy Winter Study, and winter at Williams generally!
Sincerely,

Maud

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A Few Emails from Williams

A few emails I’ve been negligent in posting. If anyone want to know what day they were sent, comment and ask (they aren’t in any sort of order). Also, the last one is a Daily Message I thought was interesting.

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Updates from the Office of Institutional Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Dear college community,

I write to share recent developments from the Office of Institutional Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (OIDEI) and the Davis Center. I will follow this message up with more details early in the new year.

This fall, OIDEI and the Davis Center have continued working on updating our vision. To support our vision, the Davis Center will lead our campus efforts to build inclusive learning and living environments, where all students, staff and faculty can thrive and feel a strong sense of belonging. We have also begun implementing changes to help prepare the Center for this expanded role, in sync with the planning phase of our Davis Center building project; the Committee on Diversity and Community’s multi-year study of classroom climate; college-wide strategic planning efforts relating to DEI; and the appointment of two Assistant Vice Presidents to support this work.

We’re now searching for a new Davis Center director, a program coordinator, and a dialogue facilitator as part of our plan. The dialogue facilitator (a new position) will work with colleagues to introduce and integrate restorative practices on campus. The overall restructuring, along with the advent of new staff, also requires us to rethink how existing positions are defined. I’ve already met with the current OIDEI and Center staff to discuss the possibilities and will continue working with them throughout the process.

During this time of change for OIDEI and the Davis Center, as we work to make Williams as inclusive as it can be, we’re grateful for the deep investment many of you feel in OIDEI and the Davis Center. I hope you’ll take every available opportunity to meet with the Davis Center building project architects, to share our job postings with promising candidates, and to support our work and Williams. My door is always open, too. I welcome your continued partnership in these endeavors.

Leticia Smith-Evans Haynes ’99
Vice President for Institutional Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

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We Need YOU!!

The anticipated makeup of the CC-established Task Force (to abolish CC):

Hi all!

Are you interested in a Winter Study course that includes no formalized assignments (except for a single collaborative document produced at the end of Winter Study), getting a stipend to spend on food and snacks for meetings, working mainly at your own pace with a group of your peers, and getting to be a part of an actual change making institution at Williams that will hopefully last long beyond your time here??
If so, then you should consider joining the TASK FORCE ON THE FUTURE OF STUDENT GOVERNMENT!!
We are looking for representatives specifically from a club sport, a performance based club, a faith based club, and a community service based club to serve as members of this body due to your unique and extremely valuable perspectives on this campus. The Task Force will spend Winter Study re-thinking what student government should look like here at Williams College. This group is incredibly important for student life, funding capacities, policy making potential, and much more, both for current AND future Williams students. If you’ve ever thought, “Student government at Williams should do x, y, and z…” then join the Task Force and make your voice heard!
 
We would love to hear from any and all of you that are interested in applying – fill out a self-nom for consideration at this link NOW! Spots close TOMORROW, so if you’re interested in coming aboard, don’t hesitate to reach out with questions or concerns to either Ellie Sherman (eas6) or Carlos Cabrera-Lomeli (cc15)!!
Best,
Ellie and Carlos :)
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IWS Scheduling Protocol Change

Dear Williams Students,

In January 2020, Integrative Wellbeing Services (IWS) will implement a modified scheduling protocol along with expanded student support resources. We’re taking this additional step to help close gaps in equitable access to our services as we explain below.

Because these changes will most immediately impact returning students who choose to continue treatment following the Winter Break, therapists were encouraged to let the students with whom they work know about this new model beginning last week. We’re now notifying all students in an effort to ensure everyone has accurate information about these changes, as inaccuracies can create unwarranted barriers to seeking care.

Rest of the email below the break.

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A statement on inquiry, expression and inclusion

To the Williams community,

For the last year, members of the Williams community have been discussing how best to live up to our obligation to ensure both free expression and inclusion. Today I’m sharing a statement developed by the Faculty Steering Committee with my input, and reviewed with the faculty as a whole, that affirms our commitment to those core principles.

The essence of the statement is this: Freedom of expression and inquiry matters. Inclusion matters. Both values are essential to the health of any community, and especially to a healthy learning community. For Williams to continue reaching its highest educational aspirations, we need to maximize our commitment to both values. We need to run toward the hard things.

I’ve been gratified by the intelligence and passion that many of you have shown in discussing, debating and sometimes protesting this most crucial issue. My job as president is to guide that energy into helping Williams excel: delivering the best liberal arts education imaginable, and preparing graduates to set the standard for civic virtue and engagement.

I want to thank Steering for their careful work, as well as the faculty members who offered their views on the drafts, the Ad Hoc Committee upon whose report the statement is based, the people who worked to ensure that our college policies reflect our values, and all of you—students, staff and faculty—who added your views to the discussion.

Maud

=============

MEMORANDUM

To: The Faculty
From: The Steering Committee and President Mandel
Date: November 13, 2019

Inquiry, Expression and Inclusion at Williams College

At Williams, our educational mission requires us to cultivate an inclusive environment in which each member of our community is equally respected and equally invited to speak and to be heard. This goal unites the college’s core commitments to freedom of expression and inquiry and to building a community in which everyone can live, learn and thrive, as enunciated in our codes of conduct for faculty, staff and students.

The college extends the same opportunities for expression and debate to anyone invited to speak or participate in a college event. Visitors are welcomed and expected to participate in open discussion and robust deliberation while they are on campus. We expect anyone inviting an outside speaker to create such opportunities as part of the visit.

The college publishes clear administrative procedures for event planning and rules for the use of college property. The college likewise retains the discretion to impose reasonable limitations on the time, place and manner of speech by visitors to our community as well as by its continuing members. The college exercises this authority sparingly, and never with the goal of suppressing a point of view.

Williams College does not consider an invitation to campus an endorsement of the visitor’s views. Further, in our encouragement of vigorous dialogue and the free exchange of ideas, we acknowledge that discomforting encounters will occur. In that knowledge, we will continue expanding ways to offer support to all individuals and groups within our community, as part of our mission to equip every community member with the tools they need for effective discourse, debate and dissent. We also recognize that free expression has its limits: speech that threatens, incites violence, or constitutes harassment has no place in our community.

Our policies, which are intended to protect and promote the freedom of every community member to communicate, debate and peacefully protest, can be found here. We recognize that in the past these freedoms have not been equally available to all people and that inequity of access persists today. The college is committed to supporting equal access to these freedoms and pledges to continue working to realize this commitment fully.

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