New option for college-sponsored travel

Williams students, faculty and staff,

Earlier this afternoon the NESCAC athletic conference announced plans to hold a shortened spring 2021 competition season starting in mid-April, subject to continued stability or improvement in the Covid outlook. We want to announce that Williams will participate, within the context of a broader plan that provides safe travel opportunities for academic and student activities-related travel broadly.

Taking advantage of Williams’ own experience, analyses and observations from NESCAC and peer schools, and the overall body of public health knowledge, we have designed the plan described below. Please know that some details are still being worked out.

In short: starting in mid-April, and assuming a continued safe outlook, Williams will allow travel for sports and other college-sponsored activities. Requirements will include participation in the campus Covid testing program and rapid antigen testing on the day of travel; traveling directly to the approved venue without stops; wearing masks at all times during the trip, including during competition; with all activities held outdoors unless otherwise authorized; and no spectators or guests.

Here is some additional detail about each of these expectations:

  • The plan will go into effect for travel starting in early April.
  • Our goal is to offer travel options for the widest range of activities possible, including athletics, academic and other college-sponsored purposes.
  • Faculty or staff supervision will be required on every trip.
  • If the trip or event will put participants in contact with anyone outside of the Williams testing protocol, then all travelers will be required to take rapid antigen tests provided by the college, on the day of travel, with a negative result.
  • Everyone who wants to participate in the trip must also be 100% up to date in the college’s Covid testing program.
  • Williams students will only be allowed to compete or interact with peers from schools that have testing protocols equivalent to ours, including day-of rapid testing.
  • If even one person scheduled to participate in the trip or event from either institution tests positive the trip will be canceled. Rescheduling will be allowed subject to availability and the same rules.
  • All events and competitions must be outdoors. Inclement weather may result in cancelation if the available indoor alternatives do not meet Williams’ stringent standards for occupancy, distancing and other safety factors.
  • No spectators or other attendees will be allowed at competitions or events.
  • Travel must be uninterrupted point to point, with no food breaks, fuel stops or overnights. Since vans may need the option of rest breaks, we will announce rules later to ensure this can be done safely.
  • Travelers must remain masked at all times during the trip, including competition, unless otherwise authorized by the college.
  • For athletics, the spring travel schedule will be set and managed by the Athletics Department. Non-athletics activities, including field trips for academic departments and programs as well as student clubs, groups, etc., can be requested via the Travel Exception request form. Requests will be reviewed for approval by Senior Staff with input from the Operations group.
  • This plan does not include off-campus student travel for errands and appointments along the Route 2 corridor or other personal travel. The process for those trips will be shared as part of Phase 2 of the campus reopening, currently scheduled to begin next Monday, March 15.

Please review these rules carefully. They are complicated but necessary because ensuring safe travel in a pandemic is a complicated enterprise. We want to give students the option to pursue off-campus activities as much as possible, and these rules will let us offer you that opportunity.

Please understand, too, that our plan is just a plan. We will need to continue reviewing the public health outlook, and if the situation worsens we will reevaluate and may need to hit pause.

Finally, we want to point out that our ability to offer this travel option to campus is due to hard work by the Athletics Department team, who, in preparing for a NESCAC decision, saw the opportunity to design a plan that would also open up space for activities of all kinds. We are grateful to them for their hard work on everyone’s behalf.

With vaccination efforts continuing, the first signs of spring emerging, and now this plan in place, we encourage students to take advantage of safe opportunities for travel to competitions and academic or other college-sponsored activities.

Marlene and Fred