Opening Day

To the Williams Community,

At the dawn of this academic year, exciting in its own right, we look forward to long-anticipated openings and new beginnings for our work together.

None is more central to the heart of the college than Sawyer Library, which, after more than a decade of planning, design, and construction, is now fully functional (despite the bits of scaffolding here and there). We’re fortunate to be the first users of this spectacular new space, which is designed flexibly to serve the college for many decades to come. If you haven’t been inside yet, please don’t miss your next opportunity to walk in and explore. And watch for details on the dedication ceremony scheduled for Saturday, September 20, at 4 p.m.

The keynote speaker at the dedication will be David Spadafora ’72, president of the renowned Newberry Library in Chicago. He’s one of six alumni who will receive Bicentennial Medals at that morning’s convocation, at which the main speaker will be Ethan Zuckerman ’93, director of the Center for Citizen Media at MIT.

Both of them have intriguing things to say in line with our yearlong initiative called The Book Unbound, which, under the energetic and creative leadership of faculty members Christopher Nugent and Edan Dekel, includes more than 30 courses and numerous talks, presentations, exhibitions, and performances that will explore “the diverse ways in which people preserve and convey ideas, creative works, data, and other forms of information.”

It’ll soon be opening day as well at the new Weston athletic complex, which has been redesigned as a spectacular home for field hockey, football, lacrosse, and track and field, along with club and recreational sports and the community that comes here to exercise, play, and cheer on the Ephs. The formal dedication of Farley-Lamb Field (football and lacrosse), Lee Track, and Williamson Field (field hockey) will take place October 11, when both field hockey and football play at home.

Later this fall we’ll see completion of the new Environmental Center, which, in addition to housing the Center for Environmental Studies and the Zilkha Center for Environmental Initiatives, will aspire to meet the Living Building Challenge and be for all of us a living laboratory in how to work and live sustainably.

This fall we continue the important ongoing review of all aspects of our work on sexual assault prevention and response, to ensure that our resources and processes serve students in the best ways possible, and that we’re up to date with best practices as they evolve. This close consideration is lead by Dean of the College Sarah Bolton and by Meg Bossong, Director of Sexual Assault Prevention and Response, in deep collaboration with our student affairs staff and with students, many of whom work with us on this issue with such commitment every day. We’re committed to the goal of ending sexual assault at Williams. We must do all we can to hasten the coming of that day, and until then, when sexual misconduct does occur, to support survivors and hold assailants accountable.

We’re also altering the process for selecting honorary degree recipients, including commencement speakers. The college’s laws grant the Board of Trustees the authority to award honorary degrees. However, we’re working with the leaders of College Council and the Minority Coalition on the best way to significantly broaden student involvement in the process.

With the start of the fall term, we’ll launch a national search for a vice president for institutional diversity to succeed Mike Reed. We’ll soon share the timetable for the search and the makeup of the search committee. The committee will gather input from the campus community before working with a search firm to identify the strongest possible candidates.

Lastly, I want to applaud and make you aware of a campus conversation beginning this fall, organized by a group of faculty, that will explore what the term “liberal arts education” means to us. This initiative grew out of discussions last year of the Committee on Educational Policy. Members wondered what students think they’re opting for in choosing to attend a liberal arts college. Is there a common understanding among them? Does it align with the views of the faculty on the nature of the education that we provide? There’s much more to come on this important campus conversation, which will advance throughout the fall in many formats and venues.

In addition to these large collective aspirations, we each individually begin the year with hopes and goals of our own. May this be for each of us a time of exploration, challenge, development, and fun.


Adam Falk