News Regarding Winter Break

To the Williams Community,

It’s hard to think about winter after the run of summerlike weather we’ve just had, but I’d like to do that for a minute.

Many of you know that for the past three years the college experimented with closing virtually the whole campus over Winter Break. The original thought, I’m told, was that we might considerably lower utility costs and greenhouse gas emissions, and reap the welcome byproduct of extending by four days the Winter Break for staff.

The college learned several things over those three years. The effect on utility use and emissions was real but not large, some faculty were burdened by not having (heated) access to their offices and labs, and staff found the added days off a boon.

Experiments are useful even when the result differs from what you expected, so the design going forward is to think of this as Staff Winter Break. Adding these days off for staff will keep us roughly in line with our peers, and they come at a time when it can be hard to get some kinds of work done because many staff colleagues have taken vacation. Faculty office buildings will remain open and heated. And the happy byproduct will now be the still somewhat lower than before levels of utility use and gas emissions.

Since this year’s staff holidays fall on December 23 and 26 and January 2, the Staff Winter Break will be December 27-30. Staff who must work December 27-30 will get time off, to be scheduled with their supervisors.

To make the break as full as possible for staff, all offices and departments are asked to let as many staff as they can be away on these days. As a result, Sawyer Library and the indoor athletics facilities will be closed. Fayerweather Hall will be open for approved international students through a system organized by the Dean’s Office and the Office of Student Life. Information on that is at

Another thing we’ve learned over the past few breaks is how to manage our buildings more efficiently year-round, which has been useful.

Our thanks go to all those who have helped to manage and then to analyze these experiments, all those who were inconvenienced by the old model, and to all staff, whose dedication to Williams we’re happy to acknowledge in this added way.

Adam Falk