Public health rules and expectations

Williams students, faculty and staff,

Over the last few weeks we’ve regretfully had to convert two on-campus students to remote study status after they violated the college’s quarantine. Judging from the campus reaction, some people may not understand the reasons for our policies, or may feel we’re enforcing them too strictly. We want to take a moment to make sure everyone is aware of the seriousness with which Williams is upholding our quarantine and other public health rules.

While most of this message is focused on student life, faculty and staff are also receiving it because safety is a community-wide concern.

Since announcing the plan for fall, we’ve emphasized that the possibility of a successful return depends on testing and quarantine. Informed by data, expert advice and observation, we and the many other colleagues involved judged that it was possible to convene safely if students were brought back at a manageable pace, tested, and immediately quarantined until they were shown to be COVID-free (or, if they tested positive, to be provided with medical care).

If quarantine isn’t fully honored, this system fails. If a family member enters your dorm to help you move in; if you take a walk around campus before going into quarantine; if you travel out of Williamstown without permission, you’re incrementally increasing risk to everyone. Despite our desire to be forgiving, a “no harm, no foul” philosophy simply isn’t possible given the rate at which covid-19 is spreading on college campuses. Locally, Berkshire County has seen an increase over the last several weeks, too, after a summer with very few cases. While this uptick preceded the return of our initial, small group of students, it’s a reminder that we need to proceed extremely cautiously.

Students, we recognize how much pressure this puts on you. Regardless of who you are, if you’re unclear about the rules, help is available: you’ll find a great deal of information in the Fall 2020 Guide on Returning to Campus, which was also emailed to all students last week. If you still have questions after reading the guide, please contact the Dean’s Office, and we can assist. But we want to take this opportunity to reaffirm that each of you who’s living on campus or off-campus in Williamstown is required to sign and abide by the community health commitment and scrupulously follow our rules. It’s our best hope for keeping Williams open and safe this fall.

All of us are so happy to welcome you back. It was a pleasure to see a few of you arrive this week, and we’re looking forward to greeting more arrivals soon. We know how excited you must be to reconnect with friends and start classes, but also how anxious you may be about how to thrive in this new environment. We’ll continue doing everything we can to support your learning and growth, and ask that you work with us by doing everything you can to keep the community safe.

Maud and Marlene