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Williams: 120 Students Moved to Remote Status in Wake of Party

By Stephen DravisiBerkshires Staff
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WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — The president of Williams College on Sunday confirmed that 120 students are transitioning to remote study in the wake of a Feb. 26 incident at a residence hall.
"Last weekend's party unleashed tremendous feeling," Maud Mandel wrote in an email to the college community. "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."
The college's actions have included an investigation by its Campus Safety and Security Department into a Friday night party that reportedly drew 80 to 100 people to Wood House in contradiction to the school's COVID-19 protocols.
Before they could come on campus for the fall and spring semesters this year, Williams students had to sign a "Community Health Commitment" letter. The last line of the letter, printed in bold type, reads, "you agree that you will comply with the college's public health rules and protective measures, and that any failure to comply may be subject to sanction or discipline in accordance with college policies."
Being told to leave campus to study remotely is not the equivalent of a suspension and does not affect a student's academic standing, a college spokesperson said on Sunday afternoon.
However, there may be a difference in how the incident is reflected in a student's permanent record depending on whether they admit participation or are discovered through the college's investigation to have participated in the party.
"For students who came forward and accepted the consequence, the incident and transition won't show up on their permanent records," Williams Director of Media Relations Gregory Shook said. "There's no disciplinary note on their conduct record. And our academic transcripts don't indicate whether a student studied on campus or remotely.
"If a student didn't come forward and we later find out through other means that they were involved, they'll be transitioned to remote and will also go through the disciplinary process. Depending on the outcome, they very likely could be subject to further consequences, but that would be determined through our process."
Mandel in her letter thanked the students who have come forward and taken responsibility for their participation in the Wood House party.
She also noted that the college has seen low rates of COVID-19 infection since the start of its extensive testing program — mandatory for students and staff who are on campus — in August.
In the last seven days, those tests have turned up two positive results out of 3,588 tests administered, a positivity rate of 0.06 percent. Since Aug. 17, the college has administered 70,622 tests and turned up 39 positives (21 students, 18 faculty and staff) for the same positivity rate, 0.06 percent.
Mandel urged those who are angry about the Feb. 26 incident, which prompted the college to slow its plans to relax some campus restrictions, to show grace and compassion.
"[O]n social media some of you have descended into derision, stereotyping and stigmatization," Mandel wrote. "This must stop. The college has already imposed consequences. It is gratuitous and cruel to pile on."

Tags: covid,   Williams College,   

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White Withdraws From Williamstown Select Board Race

WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — Nicholls "Niko" White has removed himself as a candidate for the Select Board.
White had to run for the last year of the term being vacated by Jeffrey Thomas and had gained enough signatures to be placed on the ballot for the annual town election. White said he had announced to run for office when no other candidates had stepped forward and it appeared that the elected office would be uncontested or lack a strong progressive candidate. 
But as of last week, it had turned into a four-way race.
"I decided to campaign to make sure my positions were represented in the field," White said in announcing his witgdrawal from the race last week. "And now we have an embarrassment of riches in that regard. If we had ranked choice voting or another alternative to first-past-the-post, I'd view my candidacy as an asset regardless. So many folks have told me they're glad I'm running, and were eager to turn out for me. Unfortunately, we do use first-past-the-post here, which means I have to worry that by staying in the race, I will instead split the progressive vote at a critical time. I'm not willing to risk that."
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