Welcome to the restart of Spring 2020 semester

Williams students, faculty and staff,

It has become a Williams tradition for the president to send a start of semester message on the first day of the fall and spring terms. Today I want to offer what I’ll call a “restart of semester” message, with good wishes for you all.

In one sense, we’re rejoining courses already in progress. In another, we’re at a new beginning whose significance isn’t captured by phrases like “remote learning” and “asynchronous delivery.”

Williams is reconvening amidst a global pandemic and economic distress. Students are spread across the globe, while faculty and staff are also mostly working from their homes. Many of us are returning to the semester while contending with the effects of illness, economic disruption and uncertainty in our personal lives. History has few precedents for the dislocation we’re all experiencing.

That includes dislocation from the classic image of the liberal arts: Instead of debating ideas in seminars and tutorials we’ll discuss them across time zones and borders. We’ll hold labs often without being able to lift a test tube, and performance-based classes without setting foot in a studio.

And yet our passion for learning will not be denied. Faculty have spent spring break creatively rethinking syllabi and course plans. Staff have been figuring out how to remotely help students with emerging needs. Students, in turn, have been generous with compassion and encouragement (and have come up with fun ways to stay connected, too).

My hope for you all is that in this restarted semester you’ll discover the familiar Williams spirit, expressed in new forms. Yes, we’ll now participate in classes from different surroundings. No, our discussions on Glow won’t feel the same as they would in Griffin. But we’ll still be a community: experimenting together, working through obstacles together, wrestling with ideas together.

I hope we can do so with an open mind and a commitment to learning from and helping each other. It will help us emerge from this trial wiser and better equipped to rebuild.

In this restart of the spring semester, despite significant hardships, let’s make the most of what we have together.

As always, I am wishing you and your loved ones the very best,