President Maud S. Mandel has announced that Williams will resume classes in the fall in a re-imagined way and with extraordinary public health measures in place for everyone’s protection. Some students will return to campus, and some will continue to learn remotely. In a letter to the campus community, she writes: “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.”
Following are highlights of the college’s plans for the fall. You can also view the report from the Working Group on Returning for Fall 2020 that informed the plan. We have scheduled a series of virtual town halls this week and next for the campus community to learn more and ask questions. Stay tuned for emails with specific instructions, deadlines and details from departments and offices. And please read President Mandel’s full letter for more details. You can find answers to your questions on the Students & Families, Faculty, Staff, and Alumni & Visitors FAQ pages.
Please note that Williams’ plan for the fall is continually evolving based on the most recent information available from our public health partners. If the situation worsens significantly before the start of the semester, the college may have to reconsider the decision to reconvene. And if things worsen once the fall semester has begun, the college may be required to announce a mid-semester shut down.
Fall Semester Highlights
How are classes being offered in the fall?
Faculty members have worked hard to develop courses that blend in-person and remote instruction. As a result, students who opt to study remotely will still have full access to our courses (though not necessarily all sections). Even students who return to campus may be joining classes remotely in order to manage class sizes, ensure social distancing and meet the needs of faculty for whom it’s not safe to return. A preliminary list of fall- and spring-semester courses is available here. Learn more about the academic calendar, credits and requirements, returning to campus, requesting a leave or gap year, and study away on the Students & Families FAQ.
Who is returning to campus?
Students may opt to return to campus or study remotely (or take a leave or gap year). With limited exceptions, and unless they are informed directly by their managers, staff should continue with their current remote arrangements until further notice. Faculty may access their offices as always but are asked to keep their campus visits to a minimum until Covid-19 testing is in place. Anyone on campus is expected to follow campus public health measures.
What public health measures are in place?
Everyone who returns to campus should expect to wear a mask or face covering and to practice social distancing (at least six feet apart) in all public spaces. Masks are required in all indoor public spaces on campus, including classrooms, dining halls and the library. The college will distribute three reusable face coverings to all students, faculty and staff working on campus and will have disposable masks available in high-traffic areas.
Covid-19 testing will be required for all students. There will also be testing for faculty and staff. Tests will be administered upon students’ arrival and then weekly throughout the rest of the in-person term. We’ve arranged with the Eli and Edythe L. Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard to provide testing via a minimally invasive, self-administered nasal swab, conducted under observation by a trained professional. All testing will be free.
More detailed information about measures for Students & Families, Faculty and Staff can be found in the FAQs. These measures incorporate safety protocols from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Please note that we’ll remain in close contact with these partners and our medical colleagues in the coming months to evaluate conditions.
Please note: Faculty and staff members who are sick or experiencing Covid-like symptoms should not report to campus. Students already on campus should remain in their dorm rooms until they can be evaluated and treated or cleared by Student Health and Wellness Services via telemedicine.
How is Williams ensuring cooperation with health and safety measures?
All faculty, staff and students will be expected to sign a commitment that affirms their understanding of procedures and policies, as well as their commitment to the Williams community. Copies will be sent to all faculty, staff and students later this summer. The college will undertake an educational campaign to ensure expectations are clear and well-communicated.
Are dining halls opening?
Driscoll Dining Hall, Whitmans Dining Hall, Lee Snack Bar, ’82 Grill, Grab-n-Go and the Eco Café will be open to students for takeout only. All other dining halls will be closed. Please visit the Dining Services website for specific questions about dining on campus.
Are campus buildings opening?
Please note that all Williams College buildings are closed to the public.
For the campus community, buildings will be restricted to card access only. Buildings without card access will have protocols in place that are clearly publicized at their locations and on their websites. Students will have card access only to their individual residence halls.
Will there be athletic competition?
NESCAC 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. Decisions about winter and spring teams have not yet been made. The Athletics Department will host a special town hall devoted to information and discussion of these issues.
Will tuition, room and board change to reflect all the changes on campus?
In recognition of the extraordinary circumstances and of this academic year and the uncertainty we face in the year ahead, the total cost of attendance has been reduced by 15%. Tuition, room, and board for the 2020-2021 academic year will be $63,200. Family contributions for students receiving financial aid will also be reduced by 15%. The Student Activities Fee has been eliminated for all students. Students who study remotely will not pay room and board for the time they’re not on campus.
For students receiving financial aid, Williams is waiving the work-study contribution for the entire 2020-2021 academic year. We already have eliminated this summer’s summer earnings contribution and committed to an additional free summer. Learn more about how Williams’ generous financial aid program is supporting students in these extraordinary times in the Students & Families FAQ.
What about tours for prospective students?
In an effort to prioritize people’s health and safety, the college has made the difficult decision to close the campus to all visitors. We look forward to welcoming you back in person when it’s safe to do so. In the meantime, please explore Williams virtually.
What else is changing about Williams’ program and operations in the fall?
There are still many details to be worked out, from how room selection will be handled to ensuring the safe delivery of food staples and office supplies. And we are working hard to transform the experience inside and outside the classroom—and everywhere in between—to deliver the best Williams education we can imagine. We will share details as we know them.
It’s important to remember that we won’t have all the forms of support on campus this fall that would be available during a conventional semester. We’re working diligently to ensure that these limitations don’t disproportionately affect our vulnerable populations, especially. For example, we’ve already expanded telemedicine options for medical and mental health services. More information is available at Integrative Wellbeing Services. The Dean’s Office can also help answer questions about support. Students and their families should please think carefully about how changes on campus will affect their decisions about the fall. The reality is that we will all have to adjust our expectations.
Answers to more specific questions can be found on the community-specific FAQs for Students & Families, Faculty, Staff and Alumni & Visitors. You can also narrow your search using the search bar at the top of any page. As we know more about the fall semester, we will post details to this page and FAQs, which will include links to more detailed information provided by specific departments and programs. You will also be hearing from campus leaders about virtual town halls that have been scheduled for this week and beyond.
President Mandel’s letter thanks those who have worked tirelessly since March “with the goal of making sure that, whatever decision Williams made, we’d make it well. … As troubled as the world is, and as cautious as we’ll have to be in reconvening on campus, our work—both outward- and inward-facing—is only growing more valuable, more urgent, more necessary and more rewarding all the time.”
The health and well-being of our community is Williams’ top priority, and we will continue working to protect our students, faculty and staff, to prevent or limit contagion and mitigate its impact.