Campus speech policies and community

Dear Students,

Last Thursday, Maud wrote to invite everyone to a vigil entitled “Lament and Reflection on Events in Israel and Gaza.” That moving, ecumenical event, co-organized by the four chaplains, called us together to mourn losses to Israelis and Palestinians, and encouraged us to care for one another.

Members of our community are, understandably, struggling with how to do so. Expressions of antisemitism and Islamophobia have been on the rise. People in our community, including Jews, Muslims, Palestinians and Israelis, have expressed concern for their safety and the safety of others. This letter summarizes campus policies that relate to efforts to engage, including protest, in a time of violence and war, intense emotion and deep political disagreements.

As a college, we aim to provide maximum space for debate, protest and dissent. To that end, I want to direct your attention to the college’s poster policy. The “Clear Ownership” section states that postings must include valid contact information. That contact can be an anonymous email account as long as the college can communicate with the parties involved, and they will respond. This gives us a way to be in touch if issues arise related to the postings. The policy also prohibits posters in certain locations for safety reasons (e.g., on glass doors), and sets limits on duration, to allow room for multiple campus voices during the semester. On Wednesday night and Thursday morning materials were put up around campus that did not comply with this policy. They were taken down on that basis. Materials that comply with the policy will be allowed.

We encourage the exchange of ideas and opportunities for learning at Williams. In difficult times like the present, disagreements emerge. I remind everyone that actions or speech that foment hatred or intimidate individuals, including via doxxing or personal attacks, violate our code of conduct.

The chaplains, deans, Davis Center staff and other student-facing staff, as well as faculty, are working to support all community members. Always feel free to reach out to them.

Gretchen Long
Dean of the College and Frederick Rudolph ’42 – Class of 1965 Professor of American Culture