Message to Williams community- March 2, 2021

Dear Williams community, 

We hope this message finds you well, taking good care, and starting the spring semester healthy and strong. We all faced a great deal, individually and collectively, last year: a global health crisis and the ongoing pandemic of racism and racial injustice across the country. We continue to be reminded, too, that Williamtown is not immune to problems including harmful bias and discrimination. We want to describe in this message an important step we are taking to contribute to reshaping local policing and key aspects of community life for the better. 

As part of the College’s racial justice initiative, and with the goal of moving toward restoration, a group of students, staff, and faculty is looking into developing a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between Williams College and Williamstown. An MOU offers an opportunity to identify shared values and better define the relationship and terms of engagement between the campus community and the town, including town leadership, the Williamstown Police Department, schools, and the local community more broadly.

We are optimistic that a community-informed MOU will support our diverse communities by delivering greater clarity, predictability, and transparency—all of which will help minimize harmful bias and discrimination.

How will the MOU do this? It provides a format in which we can describe the relationship between the college and the town and ensure that the expectations are acceptable to both parties. It will include an affirmation of shared values, standards on which the relationship should be based, structures for communication and accountability, and it will detail operations consistent with articulated values and principles. 

We have been in touch with the leadership of Williamstown regarding this initiative, and they are receptive to this collaborative effort to reimagine the relationship between the college and the town. 

How can you contribute? We will offer the community a number of opportunities to help develop the MOU. Over the next few weeks, members of the working group will facilitate small focus groups with students, staff, and faculty as well as larger group discussions. These will be opportunities for you to share experiences from your own lives and offer thoughts and ideas on what might be included in the MOU.

You can also contribute via the webpage for the MOU working group. This is a place to get information about the process and MOUs in general, as well as the context under which the MOU is being created. You can also learn about upcoming events and confidentially share thoughts, ideas, and questions, including an anonymous option. We encourage you to participate in the ways that feel best for you, as this initiative will have the most impact when all voices are heard and considered.

We thank you in advance for your engagement in re-shaping the College’s relationship with Williamstown, including its police department, and we believe that this work is a crucial step toward advancing gender and racial justice for our community. We sincerely hope that the Williams College community and the larger Williamstown community will feel comfortable, motivated, and empowered to engage in this process. Together, we can take important steps in the right direction. If you have any additional questions, please feel free to reach out to any members of the working group.

With gratitude, 

MOU Working Group Members

Aseel Abulhab ‘15, Assistant Director for Intergroup Relations and Inclusive Programming, The Davis Center, Institutional Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
Bilal Ansari, Assistant Vice President for Campus Engagement, Institutional Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
Jamie Art ‘93, General Counsel
David Boyer, Director of Campus Safety & Security
Twink Williams Burns ‘06, Strategic Adviser for Admission and Financial Aid Community Engagement
Jennifer Ceolinski, Executive Assistant to the Vice President, Institutional Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
Christopher Goh, Professor of Chemistry; Faculty Fellow of The Davis Center and Institutional Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
Leticia S. E. Haynes ‘99, Vice President for Institutional Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
Austin Huang, Student, class of ’21
Kelsey Jones ‘08, Distinguished Visiting Professor of Education
Shinko Kagaya, Professor of Japanese
Gretchen Long, Professor of History
Mohammed Memfis, Student, class of ’21
Ngonidzashe Munemo, Interim Vice President for Institutional Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion; Professor of Political Science; Chair of Global Studies
Vaness Oeien, Student, class of ’22
Akhir Stewart ‘17, John A. Lowe III ’73 Special Collections Postbaccalaureate Fellow