Regarding the Wood house party and aftermath

Williams students, faculty and staff,

In the aftermath of the party at Wood House I want to share an informational update. As importantly, I also want to take this opportunity to reflect after an awful week for many of us.

Here are a few facts before I turn to broader thoughts about the situation:

  • As of now, 120 students are transitioning to remote study as a result of the party. Others may be doing so simultaneously for unrelated reasons.
  • Some of those who have come forward have since left campus, while others will depart soon.
  • There were no positive Covid test results among the 1,042 results received yesterday  (Saturday, March 6).
  • We saw only one student positive test and one faculty/staff positive test all week. We will continue to update the dashboard daily, and will inform campus if we note any warning signs of community spread, regardless of source.

Now I want to address the much more complex emotional and social dimensions of recent events.

Last weekend’s party unleashed tremendous feeling. It shook many campus and community members’ sense of safety. It resulted in painful consequences for students who acknowledged their involvement. And it is requiring that we say temporary goodbyes to people we care about. Some individuals have reached out to tell me how mad they feel, including about my decisions.

To the students who have gone remote or are doing so: thank you for coming forward and accepting responsibility. I know it was difficult.

To students remaining on campus: many of you are experiencing significant loss as friends leave for the rest of the term. I expect you will miss them very much.

To those expressing anger: I know you feel frustrated. But on social media some of you have descended into derision, stereotyping and stigmatization. This must stop. The college has already imposed consequences. It is gratuitous and cruel to pile on.

To everyone: this is a moment for grace. If you feel angry, try to extend compassion toward the objects of your anger. If you feel grief, know that this grief is shared and that, whoever you are, you are valued here. And if you need help to get through the turmoil, please reach out. We have organized options for you and will continue to do so.

I know some at Williams do not agree with how I have handled this incident or the pandemic as a whole. We have done our best to create a campus environment in which students could return, study and safely spend time with friends. But the ways in which we have done so have asked a lot of everyone. As you recover from the emotional strain of this last week, please know that I am sending you my thoughts and care, wherever this message finds you.