I look forward to your return to campus at the end of the month. Meanwhile, I would like to provide some important information about your arrival and the college’s plans for the fall semester.
Our COVID-19 vaccine requirement for students, faculty and staff is designed to help us safely provide the core aspects of a Williams education: in-person learning, chances to socialize with friends and classmates, and opportunities to engage with your local community and the world.
Unfortunately, vaccination is not a panacea. Over the last year and a half we have repeatedly seen evidence that the public health outlook can change at any time and without warning. So I will describe our current plans here while reminding you that any of these plans or policies may need to shift in response to emerging concerns. If such a change is necessary we will let you know promptly and explain our reasons.
To study at Williams this fall you must either a) be fully vaccinated for COVID-19 and have uploaded your vaccine documentation; b) have received a formal vaccine exemption; or c) made a plan with our Health Center team to be vaccinated upon arrival.
If you have not yet done any of these things, please reach out to the Health Center immediately. Otherwise you will not be permitted to return for the fall or to participate in study away via the Williams-Exeter Programme at Oxford or Williams-Mystic. (Other study away programs will establish rules of their own.)
If you have been diagnosed with COVID-19 within the last 90 days, please reach out to the Health Center to discuss your status right away.
In vaccinated people, the Delta variant can cause a sore throat, congestion, sniffles and other upper respiratory symptoms. This means it can easily be confused for a common cold. So please, do not take chances by assuming you have a cold: if you develop symptoms, put on a mask right away and contact the Health Center immediately to arrange a test. Please avoid in-person interactions until you have been tested and know the results.
Do not go to the college testing site, which is for testing asymptomatic people only.
If you are traveling to Williams from inside the U.S. we strongly recommend that you get a Covid test 48 to 72 hours prior to your campus arrival if you can.
Students arriving from international locations are required to secure such a test.
If your test is positive for Covid, do not come to campus. Instead, contact the Health Center immediately for help setting up a later arrival date.
The Residential Life and Housing staff have sent you emails explaining that you must sign up for a time slot for your campus arrival. The assignment of time slots is based on class year, pre-orientation obligations, athletics participation, and other criteria. Please review our materials to understand your options and then sign up by this Friday, August 13, via the Housing Portal if you haven’t done so already.
There are many details involved in check-in this fall, so the following will help you keep track:
While we require everyone to choose an arrival time to manage the flow, we also know travel is complicated. So we will be flexible. As long as you show up on or after your scheduled date, and during our check-in and testing hours for that date, you will be allowed to check-in.
If you arrive on a day before your scheduled date or outside of check-in hours you will need to find overnight accommodations off-campus until the check-in site reopens. We cannot check you in or test you after hours, and the college does not have overnight accommodations available for unplanned early arrivals.
When you get to campus, go straight to our Arrival Center in the lower level of the parking garage behind the ’62 Center. Please travel down Whitman Street and turn onto Adams Memorial Theater Drive, where you will be greeted and guided through the rest of the route. The Main Street driveway will not be available.
Students driving yourself will be asked to park and check in.
If you are traveling with family or friends, they may drop you off for check-in while they drive your belongings to your dorm. They will have to wait with their vehicle until you arrive.
If you need an accommodation, please notify your greeter and they will be happy to help you check in without having to exit your vehicle.
Returning students: please have your Williams ID with you at arrival.
New students: you will pick up your ID at check-in.
At the Arrival Center you will take a required Covid test, pick up your room key and get your ID activated for the new term. Returning students may then proceed to your residence halls to move in.
Students participating in pre-orientation should first check in with your programs. After that, you, too, may proceed to your residence halls.
Every student, regardless of vaccination status, must wear a mask on campus until receiving your first negative test result. After that you will have to mask during the term in accordance with the college’s newly announced masking requirement.
Family and other supporters who accompany you to Williams will be allowed to help you with move-in this year. In keeping with Maud’s recent email, they will simply have to wear masks while indoors, regardless of vaccination status, and may only enter the residence hall in your company. If they drop you at the Arrival Center for check-in and proceed to your dorm, we ask that they wait with their vehicle until you show up. And to keep everyone safe we ask that guests spend a maximum of one hour inside. Everyone is welcome to socialize outside afterward with no time limit.
While this still involves a few rules, we hope that allowing help with move-in this year will make the process easier and more enjoyable.
If you are arriving directly from an international location—regardless of your citizenship—please check the U.S. Department of State information page for your travel country of origin to understand your entry requirements and restrictions.
In order to board a flight to the U.S., you will be required by the CDC to present a negative result from a Covid test taken no more than three days before travel, or to provide documentation of recovery from Covid in the preceding three months.
Upon arrival at Williams, you will take the same Covid test as other arriving students. We will also require that you take a second Covid test on campus three to five days later. You will have to wear a mask at all times until you receive two successive negative test results.
If you are fully vaccinated when you arrive at Williams from outside the U.S. you will not be required to quarantine upon arrival.
If you are unvaccinated or have not completed vaccination you will quarantine until you receive the first of your two required negative results.
Students approved to live off campus this year must still sign up for check-in and arrival testing.
Students who were at Williams this summer
Students who have been at Williams this summer (living either on or off campus) must also sign up for arrival testing.
Public Health Expectations and Policies
To inform our pandemic measures, the college monitors guidance from the CDC, state officials and our local health board, and consults with national public health experts. So far we are optimistic that the vaccine and masking requirements will allow everyone to socialize and enjoy community in ways that were not possible last year. Please understand, however, that we may need to shift to more restrictive policies for public health reasons at any time.
As was the case last year, the college can and will take steps to create a safe environment. But no one can guarantee a risk-free campus. You need to also take steps to protect your own health and safety.
By enrolling at Williams for the fall, you are agreeing that you will do your part, avoid endangering yourself or others and comply with the college’s rules and protective measures. Like last year, enrolled students will be required to sign a Public Health Commitment and Acknowledgement attesting to this promise. Signing will be handled digitally via the StarRez Housing Portal.
You will receive an email notice from Residential Life and Housing once the form is available in StarRez. Please review, sign and submit your copy by Sunday, August 22. This step will be required before we can allow you to check in, receive your room key/code, have your ID card access turned on or study away for the semester.
If you wish to review the agreement in advance, a read-only copy is available on the Campus Life website.
In keeping with Maud’s announcement yesterday, all students, regardless of vaccination status or test results, will be required to mask indoors on campus. This includes classrooms and academic buildings, administrative buildings and other facilities.
In order to allow a sense of community and personal space, students for now are being allowed to continue going unmasked in residence halls and while eating in dining halls. As Maud noted, we are allowing this during a time when very few of you are living on campus. The rules may have to change once additional people arrive, or to address emerging pandemic risks.
Masks will not be required outdoors on campus for anyone, vaccinated or otherwise. However, in keeping with CDC recommendations, we strongly encourage people who are not fully vaccinated to mask outdoors if you are in a crowd or other setting where social distancing is not possible.
All students (whether living on or off campus) will be required to take an arrival test. This includes students who have been on campus this summer. Students arriving from international locations will be required to take a second test 3-5 days after arrival.
Mandatory testing for exempt or not yet fully vaccinated students
Students in either of these categories will be required to test weekly during the term. If you are in the process of vaccination you will be allowed to stop testing once you are fully vaccinated, which will be two weeks after receiving your last dose.
Optional ongoing testing for all other students
Fully vaccinated students without Covid symptoms may opt to continue testing throughout the fall. The CDC does not recommend such routine testing for people who are fully vaccinated and asymptomatic, but we are making it available to ease what we hope will continue to be our transition away from mandatory testing.
We will share details for the weekly testing program in a followup email soon.
If you have Covid-like symptoms you should not test at the college site. You should immediately contact the Health Center so they can arrange a test in safe circumstances.
Protocols for Positive Cases and Close Contacts
If you test positive for COVID at arrival or during the semester, the college will move you to a designated isolation space for ten days, per CDC guidelines. This will apply for both vaccinated and unvaccinated students.
Vaccinated students who are close contacts of known positives and are asymptomatic will remain in your usual room. You will have to wear a mask at all times and take all of your meals to go (via mobile ordering or Whitman’s takeout) until you receive a negative result from a test administered three to five days after exposure.
Unvaccinated students who are close contacts and asymptomatic will be moved into designated quarantine rooms for eight days. In order to complete your quarantine you will have to receive a negative result from a test administered seven days after exposure, per CDC guidance.
Unvaccinated students in isolation or quarantine will be restricted to your room, bathroom and a designated outdoor space. Your meals will be delivered to you, and you will have to work with your professors to agree on an academic plan for this period.
For now we are not imposing any limits on the size of social gatherings beyond pre-Covid capacity limits and rules. We hope not to have to regulate gatherings, but will do so if the public health outlook worsens.
To help avoid that outcome, please be cautious about your social interactions. Avoid unmanaged crowds, especially indoors. If you are in such a setting please mask up for your own protection, regardless of your vaccination status.
Official college events for the fall, including orientation, are being carefully planned with everyone’s safety in mind. You will be informed of any necessary precautions through the communications about each program.
We are not planning to limit or regulate student travel this fall. But we do ask you to keep such travel to a minimum to protect yourself and the community. Berkshire County has a relatively low rate of COVID right now compared to elsewhere in the state and country. Leaving our area thus increases your risk of exposure.
If you do travel out of state, you must follow CDC travel guidelines.
If you have a Covid vaccine exemption, you must also inform the Health Center in advance about any travel plan that could result in you missing a required test.
Guests in Residence Halls
As mentioned in the section above about move-in, family or friends who accompany you to campus can help you move in as long as they wear masks, regardless of vaccination status, and spend no more than an hour in the building.
Once move-in ends, off-campus guests who are not enrolled at Williams for the fall will be prohibited from entering residence halls for the remainder of the term.
During the term you will have swipe access to all residence halls, unless you are in quarantine, and may visit your friends in their living spaces.
Co-ops will be set to residents-only card access as they were prior to COVID.
As of now we expect that varsity teams will be able to practice and compete this fall. The Athletics Department and coaches will be in touch with everyone involved in varsity sports to provide details.
We expect that students will be allowed to eat together in the dining halls this fall. Please see the Dining website for a list of locations and hours. Board plans, cash, credit cards and Eph points will all be available for use at dining halls and retail locations.
Those are all the details we have to share for now. As we move into the start of the fall semester we will send you additional information about housing, Orientation and more. Meanwhile, I hope you continue to enjoy your summer. I am very excited to welcome you back to campus this fall.
All best wishes,
Marlene J. Sandstrom
Dean of the College and Hales Professor of Psychology