Williams College to reduce credit requirements for upcoming school year

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WILLIAMSTOWN — While plans for the fall and spring semesters at Williams College are still being deliberated, some things are becoming clearer, according to a letter to the college community from President Maud Mandel.

While college officials haven't decided whether either semester will be done remotely or on campus, they have decided to reduce the number of courses students are required to take from four to three per semester.

"For 2020-21 only we'll continue with two semesters as usual, but will reduce the minimum number of required courses per semester from four to three and will cancel Winter Study for January 2021," Mandel wrote. "These changes will maximize flexibility for students and limit the amount of time people are required to spend on campus, independently of whether we convene in person or work remotely."

She noted that "reduced per-semester credit requirements and more space in the calendar offers the greatest latitude to meet diverse needs without compromising the quality of our education."

Mandel has charged a working group with identifying the operational requirements Williams would have to satisfy before it could consider opening for a residential fall semester.

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Among other things, the working group will reach out to faculty, departments and programs to evaluate the implications for class size, major requirements, and other impacts. It will also address questions of faculty workload and evaluation, and survey faculty, staff and students about possible effects on the whole of the college community.

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The resulting data "will inform our thinking about how to support everyone at Williams," Mandel wrote.

She has vowed to announce a plan for the fall semester by July 1.

Mandel noted that reducing the number of credits required per semester "will entail also lowering the total number of courses required for graduation. This would have to apply to all students enrolled during academic year 2020-21. Faculty will vote on this matter, and will soon receive a letter from the Faculty Steering Committee about how deliberations will be organized."

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Meanwhile, the working group was developed in partnership with the Faculty Steering Committee. It will be co-chaired by psychology professor Safa Zaki, who is incoming dean of the faculty, and Edan Dekel, professor of classics and chairman of classics and the Jewish studies program, and includes faculty, staff and student representatives.

Williams College ended in-person classes on March 13, and dismissed students for spring break the next day — a week earlier than planned. Remote classes resumed on April 6. Commencement and reunion, which would have been held in June, have been cancelled.

The campus will remain closed for the summer, according to Williams spokesman Greg Shook. Summer experiences will not be on campus in June and July. Students who were planning to work with a faculty member on a campus research project this summer have been asked to work with their faculty member to determine whether and how their project might be accomplished remotely.

Scott Stafford can be reached at sstafford@berkshireeagle.com or 413-629-4517.


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