When Security responded to a routine noise complaint last Monday, what they found was an almost disastrous surprise. After hearing loud voices inside the building, officers Peter Mazzacco Jr., Dennis Brignolo and Scott Braman went inside to find a visiting prospective student in Williams B unconscious from alcohol poisoning and covered in his own vomit.
According to a security report, the officers found both of the stairwells in Williams B and C littered with glass. Inside they discovered several students trying to wake up the prospective student, who remained unresponsive. The paramedics were immediately called and the prospective student was rushed by ambulance to the North Adams Regional Hospital.
According to Associate Director of Admissions Frances Lapidus, who went to the hospital upon being notified of the situation around 1 a.m. Tuesday morning, the prospective student was in full recovery after receiving treatment.
The effects of binge drinking can have very serious consequences and many college officials expressed their deep concern with such a development. “You just never know how alcohol will affect someone and it’s quite frightening,” said Director of Security Jean Thorndike.
“All students should be aware of how easily it can happen,” she said. “Fortunately, in this case, no one died but we were minutes away from having a tragedy on campus.”
Initially, Security was concerned that no one called to report what was happening. However, Thorndike commented that “students in the area knew that Security was at the dorm and made an effort to find officers. It appears that students saw the cruiser and knew that officers were in the dorm and were trying to get help. Initially, it appeared that no one was concerned about the prospective student but that was not the case.”
As part of its investigation into the matter, Security gave all of the residents of Williams B and C a disciplinary warning. According to a letter sent to all affected students, “only full and frank cooperation with the investigation will offer the possibility of clearing your disciplinary record of the warning.”
Last weekend was the first of two Previews weekends, which are run by the admissions office for accepted students. In response to what happened, the admissions office has included a letter in each registration packet expressing the College’s Standards of Conduct.
According to the letter, “in the event that you violate these Standards of Conduct, Williams College reserves the right to reevaluate your admissions decision.”
Dean of the College Peter Murphy and Director of Admissions Richard Nesbitt also circulated a letter to the entire first-year class reminding all first-years of the responsibilities of hosting. According to the letter, “The role of hosts must be to keep prospective students safe, and to show them a College that we can be proud of.”
Felton Booker ’01 and Beth Cadogan ’01, co-heads of the JA program, commented that Junior Advisors (JAs) do have a role in helping make decisions, but are not ultimately responsible for the fate of prospective students. JAs live with first-year students, but do so of their own will and are not members of the administration.
“Junior Advisors, in understanding the importance of a positive on-campus experience in a prospective’s decision making process, will continue to encourage our first-years to host prospective students,” they said in a joint statement. “And as we do regularly, we will stress to our frosh the importance of making reasonable choices and, in the case of Preview Weekends, helping guide their perspectives toward reason. With that said this is where the JA responsibility, and liability, ends.”
Additionally, first-year College Council representatives sent an e-mail to the first-year class encouraging their classmates to provide, “a fun, safe and welcoming atmosphere for the arriving prospective students.”