Williams College cancels June graduation, reunion events

Williams College President Maud Mandel sent a letter to the college community Friday about a "hateful letter" sent to a school employee.

WILLIAMSTOWN — Williamstown police are investigating a threatening letter put into the home mailbox of a Williams College employee last week, an act the local police called "heinous."

The letter targeted the employee’s race, sexual orientation and gender identity.

"We are investigating this heinous act and are also providing extra patrols in a specific neighborhood," Police Chief Kyle Johnson said. "We ask that anyone with information contact us or Williams Safety & Security."

The letter prompted the school’s president to alert the campus Friday to what she and another administrator termed a “larger problem” involving hate messages.

“It is important to acknowledge that this incident is part of a larger problem,” Williams College President Maud S. Mandel wrote in a letter also signed by Leticia S. E. Haynes, the school’s vice president for institutional diversity, equity and inclusion.

“The number of hate-fueled incidents continues to increase nationally, and Williamstown and Williams have our own share of issues,” Mandel and Haynes said in their letter, distributed in a campus-wide email.

The letter was first reported in the Williams Record, the school’s student newspaper.

According to the newspaper, the employee received the letter Thursday in their home mailbox, outside of an envelope and tucked into a newspaper.

The all-campus email did not identify the employee. In an interview with the Williams Record, the employee described anxiety over the message, which school officials termed a “hateful letter.”

“I’m lying if I say I’m not anxious and I’m not nervous and … really questioning what it means to be safe here in Williamstown,” the employee said. “I’ve been Black and queer my whole life, so those questions are questions that I grapple with every day, but I’m grappling with them now more than ever.”

The Williamstown Police Department is providing special patrols by the employee's home, the newspaper said. 

Larry Parnass can be reached at lparnass@berkshireeagle.com and 413-588-8341.

Investigations editor

Larry Parnass joined The Eagle in 2016 from the Daily Hampshire Gazette, where he was editor in chief. His freelance work has appeared in the Washington Post, Boston Globe, Hartford Courant, CommonWealth Magazine and with the Reuters news service.