Williams students, faculty and staff,
Yesterday Governor Baker announced plans to end Massachusetts Covid restrictions and waive the state’s mask guidance for fully vaccinated people starting on Saturday, May 29.
What does this mean for Williams? We will take a first step now by aligning our policies more closely with the state’s current rules. We will then make a number of changes to plans for our senior celebration on Monday, May 31, as described below,
First, to be clear, current state rules remain in effect until May 29, and hence so will our college policies.
However, to bring Williams in line with the state’s expectations, starting immediately we will no longer require faculty, staff or students to wear masks outdoors as long as you are not at an event and practice social distancing. This applies to both vaccinated and unvaccinated people.
Size restrictions on campus gatherings will remain in place.
Then, starting Saturday, May 29, in accordance with state rules, vaccinated people may also choose to stop wearing masks and practicing social distancing indoors, except in healthcare facilities, public transportation and a few other settings.
Even after May 29, people who are not vaccinated, or who have not completed the vaccination process, will still be required to wear masks indoors and at outside gatherings, and to observe all other public health rules, including social distancing.
As to the senior celebration, state restrictions have now relaxed in ways that enable us to open the day to broader participation, with some basic guardrails in place:
- I am pleased to report that we will return to our traditional guidance of six guests per student for the senior ceremony. Additional guests beyond that number will also be welcome to watch the celebration projected via livestream in an indoor campus venue. We will announce details once that venue is confirmed.
- As a result of this change, we will also no longer require tickets or registration for attendance.
- Faculty and staff, I am delighted to inform you that you will be welcome to attend and celebrate with the seniors if you wish.
- In the event of extreme weather (lightning, wind, and/or hail), we will shift to an entirely virtual celebration streamed via williams.edu.
- Students, the change will go into effect in time to allow you to celebrate with family and friends over the prior weekend. Starting Saturday, May 29, you may leave campus to attend such gatherings without asking permission first.
- Since the state rule change does not go into effect until the 29th, off-campus students who return on May 23 to participate in the celebration will still be required to test upon arrival and again on May 26, and to quarantine if not fully vaccinated.
- Families will be welcome into the dorms to help with move-out, but as a courtesy to the community are asked not to enter residential spaces before then.
- As mentioned above, we will continue to require any people who are not vaccinated or have not completed the vaccination process to wear masks indoors, practice social distancing and observe all other public health rules. This includes the significant number of students, faculty and staff who will not have completed the vaccination sequence by May 31, as well as guests. We ask everyone to adhere to these rules both on and off campus, out of respect for our community and care for those around you, some of whom are medically vulnerable.
- Anticipating a likely question, we cannot change our plans for Senior Weekend. Much as we would like to return to a “normal” year all around, with only two weeks’ notice for this huge change we need to focus on delivering a wonderful senior celebration and welcoming many more guests than we previously imagined possible.
The program itself will be shorter than a traditional, full-length graduation, but we are working to make it festive in honor of your accomplishments. Each student will have their name read and, if in attendance, have the chance to cross the stage and be recognized. The class speaker, poet, historian and musician will all be part of the proceedings. Because grades will not yet be determined, diplomas will have to be mailed to graduates over the summer.
I am so pleased that we can open the festivities to more family and friends, and only regret the short notice necessitated by the timing of the state announcement. We welcome all who can attend, and remind everyone that the whole celebration will also be viewable via live stream with captioning on the commencement website.
There are many details yet to be worked out, and I want to thank all of our colleagues who will need to work hard to update our plans quickly. We will send additional information in followup emails as plans come together. But we wanted to send you the good news as quickly as possible.
Seniors: setting all of these caveats and qualifications aside, on behalf of our entire community I want to note how pleased I am that we can ease the process and open your special day to more of your loved ones.