Last Saturday, the College inaugurated the 2020-2021 academic year with the annual convocation ceremony, albeit with a twist due to the ongoing effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The College announced last week that it will decrease the cost of tuition by 15 percent this coming academic year, waive the work-study contribution and provide a personal allowance to all students on financial aid for the upcoming academic year. The first to do so among peer institutions, the College announced these changes as students and families across the country have questioned and have even brought lawsuits against universities, arguing for decreased tuition for a partially or completely online education amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
Though students have been invited back to Williamstown for the fall semester, the campus that awaits them will be dramatically different from the one they have known. Whether students will actually abide by the College’s guidelines for campus life is another matter.
The College has announced that it will reopen the campus to students for the fall semester, though with stringent measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and with a 15 percent lower cost of attendance.
Last Wednesday and today at two extraordinary faculty meetings held on Zoom, President Maud S. Mandel and Dean of the College Marlene Sandstrom gave updates on next year’s academic calendar and faculty voted on changes to the class schedule and Pass/Fail policy, as the College figures out what next academic year will look like amidst the pandemic.
Here are the main takeaways from the meetings.
Faculty members have been asked to inform the College by yesterday, June 20, whether they would teach in person or remotely if the campus were to reopen in the fall. The academic subcommittee of the working group tasked with determining what an on-campus fall would look like sent an all-faculty email on June 10 to address curricular planning in the case that campus reopens in the fall. The College has not yet decided whether or not to open campus in the fall, with the decision deadline still set for July 1.
Faculty passes motion to reduce graduation requirements, administration announces no Division of the Day next year
At an extraordinary faculty meeting Wednesday, faculty overwhelmingly approved a motion put forward by the Committee on Educational Affairs (CEA) to temporarily adjust graduation requirements, allowing students who are enrolled next year to graduate with a minimum of 30 courses and three Winter Study credits.
Since the College announced its decision to postpone commencement until summer 2021, seniors and their families have had time to reflect on what the lack of commencement this year means to them. In response to an anonymous survey by the Record, several students expressed indifference to the cancellation of commencement, citing the loss of other events such as sports seasons and senior week as more significant. Still, a majority of responses lamented the loss of a meaningful experience that symbolizes the culmination of years of hard work and includes celebration with family and community members.
Last Sunday, the Task Force on Student Governance announced the results of the most recent elections for The Advisory Board for Lobbying and Elections (TABLE) and the Honor and Discipline Committee, which occurred on the same ballot.
While faculty and staff deliberate on various contingency plans for the upcoming semester, many students are also waiting on word from their study abroad programs. Rising juniors who planned to study away are uncertain whether fall semester and year-long programs will commence in person, proceed with an alternative learning environment or be cancelled outright.