Students are required to be thoroughly familiar with the policies stated below.
Any exceptions to academic policies are by petition to the Committee on Academic Standing with the understanding that not all exceptions are approved.
- Course Change Period
- Year-Long Courses
- Grading System
- Eligibility for and Completion of Majors
- Early Concentration Rules
- Course Load
- Approved Reduced Course Load
- Pass/Fail Option
- Extra Graded Course Option (aka Fifth Course Option)
- Withdrawing from a Course
- Deadlines for Coursework
- Failing a Course and Deficiencies
- Separation for Low Scholarship
- Withdrawal from the College in Good Standing
- Eligibility for Extracurricular Activities
- Dean’s List
- Phi Beta Kappa Society
- Awarding of Degrees
- Commencement Requirement Policy
- Graduation with Distinction (Latin Honors)
- Winter Study
- Student Records
- Parental Notification Policy
Williams College does not administer a general system of required classroom attendance. Students are expected to make full use of their educational opportunities by regular class attendance and assume the academic risks incurred by absences.
Instructors may set such standards of attendance as they deem necessary for the satisfactory conduct of their courses.
Students who fail to meet these standards may be warned by the instructor and notice sent to the Dean that continued absence could result in their being dropped from the course. A failing grade will be assigned to any regularly graded course dropped after the designated course change period. Students who do not attend the first-class meeting in a regular semester or Winter Study course may be required to withdraw by the instructor. Attendance is required at announced tests and final examinations unless the student is specifically excused by the instructor or a Dean.
Williams College Policy on Observance of Religious Holidays
Because no Williams student should ever have to choose between important religious observances and academic or athletic commitments, College policy provides for students who wish to participate in religious observances that conflict with other obligations to make arrangements with their instructors and coaches to do so.
The policy, approved in 1984 by the faculty and trustees in compliance with the laws of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, states that “Any student who is unable, because of his or her religious beliefs, to attend classes or to participate in any examination, study, or work requirement on a particular day shall be excused from any such requirement, and shall be provided an opportunity to make up such requirement which they may have missed because of such absence now—provided, however, that such makeup examination or work shall not create an unreasonable burden upon the College.” No adverse or prejudicial effects shall result to any student who makes use of this provision of College policy.
Course Change Period
Course changes may be made during the Drop/Add period at the beginning of each semester. No changes may be made after that period except with the approval of the Committee on Academic Standing, after consultation with the Dean’s Office. During Winter Study, a second Winter Study course may be added if the instructor approves but the original course may not be dropped. A late fee of $5 per day may be assessed for each course change accepted after the announced deadline.
Year-long courses are designated by an odd number and an even number joined by a hyphen; the work of the two semesters constitutes an integral, indivisible course. Therefore, if a student does not pass the second half of a year-long course, they forfeit credit for the first half and incur a deficiency as a result of the forfeiture. Students who register for a year-long course are required to do both semesters of that course within the same academic year.
Williams uses the following system of grades: A = excellent; B = good; C = fair; D = passing; E = failing. These letters, with plus and minus value, have the following numerical equivalents in calculating grade averages:
A+ = 4.0 (4.33 prior to fall 2020)
A = 4.00
A- = 3.67
B+ = 3.33
B = 3.00
B- = 2.67
C+ = 2.33
C = 2.00
C- = 1.67
D+ = 1.33
D = 1.00
D- = 0.67
E = 0 results in a course deficiency
A student receives credit for a course by obtaining a grade of at least D-.
Mid-Semester Student Advisories
In the middle of each semester, instructors report to the Registrar those students whose grades at that time are unsatisfactory. The students and their academic advisors receive these notices as a matter of routine.
Eligibility for and Completion of Majors
To be eligible for any major, students must have received grades of C- or better in each course in the major taken in the first two years of college and Pass on any Winter Study Project taken in the major department or program. A senior may enter a major only upon the approval of the department chair and the Committee on Academic Standing.
All semester courses in the major must be taken on an A-E graded basis, unless a course is the first in the major; in that case, it can be taken pass/fail. In rare instances, and only with the permission of the relevant chair, students may be allowed to count a second pass/fail course for the major. In addition to passing each major course and, where required, a major Winter Study Project, the student must maintain an average in the major of 1.67 or higher. Seniors who have an average below 1.67 in the major field normally will not be allowed to continue. A senior who receives a grade of E in the first semester of a required major course may be dropped from the College at mid-year. A student who falls below these standards may continue in the major only with the approval of the Committee on Academic Standing.
A senior major exercise is not required by every department but is by some. All departments requiring such an exercise specify it as such in the description of their major programs, and all students in those departments must complete the exercise satisfactorily.
Early Concentration Rules
During the first two years of study, students are limited in the number of courses they may take in one department or subject each semester as follows:
- First-year students may take no more than one course with the same course prefix, nor more than two in one department, in a semester.
- Sophomores may take no more than two courses with the same course prefix, nor more than three in one department, in a semester.
- Sophomores may take no more than three courses with the same course prefix, nor more than four in one department, during the full year.
- A student may take no more than a total of five courses with the same course prefix, nor more than eight in one department, during the first two years.
Any exception to the above early concentration rules may be requested by a petition to the Committee on Academic Standing (CAS) filed at the time of registration.
COVID-19 addendum: Students enrolled fall 2020 or spring 2021 are required to complete three courses each semester.
Students may not enroll in fewer courses than the required load unless on a documented and approved reduced course load.
If a student wants to enroll in four courses, a fourth course may be:
- Taken on a pass/fail basis (provided the course is designated pass/fail) or as a regular graded course.
- Dropped up to the sixth week of the semester.
- Used to repair a previously earned deficiency but not for subsequent deficiencies.
If a student wishes to withdraw from a fourth course beyond the sixth week deadline, they will have to go through the Dean of the College process for withdrawing from a course. Their record will indicate a “W” but a student will not have to make up the course.
Students failing a fourth course during fall 2020 or spring 2021 will not have to make up the course.
Students who complete:
- Three courses in both fall 2020 and spring 2021 semesters will be required to complete a total of 30 courses for graduation.
- Three courses in one semester and four courses in the other will be required to complete a total of 31 courses for graduation.
- Four courses in both semesters will be required to complete a total of 32 courses for graduation.
When fourth courses are used to make up prior deficiencies, they are not associated with an increase to 31 or 32 total courses for graduation.
Students are required to complete four courses each semester.
Approved Reduced Course Load
COVID-19 addendum: Students enrolled fall 2020 or spring 2021 on a reduced course load must be enrolled in a minimum of two courses each semester and complete their total number of required courses for graduation.
If a student with a disability believes that they are unable to pursue a full course of study, the student may petition the Disabilities and Accommodations Advisory Committee for permission to pursue a reduced course load. Such a petition must be accompanied by a professional evaluation that addresses the student’s inability to maintain a full course of study and discusses the rationale for a reduced course load. Upon consideration of a student’s petition and supporting documentation, the Disabilities and Accommodations Advisory Committee makes a recommendation to the Committee on Academic Standing, which renders decisions. Such cases are considered on an individual basis and may be initiated at any time during the student’s tenure at Williams.
A reduced course load permits students with documented need based on a disability to take three rather than four courses each semester. Students approved for a reduced course load must still complete all academic requirements of the college (including passing 32 courses, completing a major, and completing all of the distribution requirements) in order to graduate.
Academic rules of the college as they apply to students on approved reduced (three) course load:
- Minimum academic standards for a student on a reduced course load are three grades of C- (in any semester) or a grade of Pass (in spring 2020, fall 2020, and spring 2021) OR two grades of C- or better and a Pass each semester, and at least Perfunctory Pass on the Winter Study Project. The Committee on Academic Standing may require a student to withdraw from the college for a period of time for failure to meet these minimum standards.
- Students may take a fourth course as an extra course. This course may be taken pass/fail or for a grade, and will count toward the 32 course requirement.
- Students on a reduced course load should confer with the Registrar and with Dr. Wallace, Director of Accessible Education, at least once each year to make plans for completing the degree. Since the student will complete fewer than 32 Williams courses in eight semesters, the student will need to either take summer courses elsewhere or take additional semesters at Williams in order to complete their graduation requirements. Note, however, that only Williams courses can be used for completing distribution requirements.
- If a student wishes to take summer courses elsewhere, they must be pre-approved by the Registrar and must be taken at an accredited four-year institution and be in a field appropriate to the liberal arts.
- If a student wishes to take courses elsewhere that count towards the requirements of their major, those courses will need to be approved by the chair in their major department or program.
- If a student receives financial aid, that aid can be extended if the reduced course load requires additional semesters to complete 32 courses.
- The college requires all students to take a full course load. This means that students on a reduced course load must be enrolled in a minimum of three courses each semester. Students who come to the end of a semester having completed 30 or 31 courses, and choose to complete those remaining courses by petitioning to take an additional semester at Williams will be expected to be enrolled in three courses that final semester.
- As is the case for all students, students are permitted to withdraw from one course in the first year and one additional course during the remaining semesters at Williams, so long as the requirements for withdrawing from a course are met. If the student withdraws from a course, the deficiency must be made up in either the following summer or the next semester.
- Students on reduced course load who plan to study away should be sure to let both Dr. Wallace and the study away advisor know of their intention to take a reduced course load while away. Many study away programs permit students to take a three course load if they have been approved for that load by their home institution, but some programs are fully integrated such that taking only three courses is not possible without disrupting the academic integrity of the program.
- If a student is approved for a reduced course load without a specific ending date, Dr. Wallace will review the necessity of continuing on reduced load at the beginning of each term. He may contact the student to request updated academic or medical information if needed to determine the appropriateness of continuing the reduced course load accommodation.
For first semester first-years attending fall 2021 ONLY: Incoming first-year students will be able to take any or all of their fall semester courses on a pass/fail basis, as long as these courses are eligible for pass/fail. These courses will not count against the three courses that students may opt to designate as pass/fail beyond their first semester and can be used to fulfill distribution requirements (divisional; Writing Skills; Difference, Power, and Equity; and Quantitative/Formal Reasoning).
Spring 2020, fall 2020, spring 2021: For students who were enrolled spring 2020, fall 2020, or spring 2021, students were allowed to take any designated course pass/fail. Courses taken pass/fail (if designated) will not count toward a student’s total allowance of three pass/fail courses over the duration of their time at Williams and can be used to fulfill the distribution requirements (divisional; Writing Skills; Difference, Power, and Equity; and Quantitative/Formal Reasoning).
Beginning fall 2022 deadlines for pass/fail are as follows: in the fall semester students have until one week after grades are due to declare which eligible course they are taking pass/fail. In the spring semester, the deadline for graduating seniors is one business day after grades are due to declare which eligible course they are taking pass/fail. All other students, in the spring semester, have until one week after grades are due to declare which eligible course they are taking pass/fail.
No exceptions to these deadlines will be made for missing grades. Students should work with instructors of their course to determine class status if a grade has not been submitted by the deadline for pass/fail.
Students may take up to 3 courses on a pass/fail basis (but no more than one in any given semester). Students may designate a course pass/fail beginning the third week of the semester. Once a course has been designated pass/fail, however, this designation cannot be changed. Students must achieve a minimum grade of D- in a pass/fail course to receive a “P”. An “F” in a pass/fail course will be recorded as an “E” on students’ records and will count toward the GPA, but a “P” will not.
Courses taken pass/fail cannot be used to fulfill distributional requirements (divisional, WS, DPE, QFR). No course counting toward a major, certificate, or concentration can be taken pass/fail unless this course is the first one taken toward that credential. (In rare circumstances, chairs of programs or departments may grant exceptions to this rule.)
Students may designate a fifth course as one of their pass/fail options, beginning the third week of the semester. Courses taken pass/fail as part of a four-course load or as a fifth course to make up a course deficiency will count toward graduation; courses taken pass/fail as an extra course will not count toward graduation.
Instructors have the option of designating any of their courses (except tutorials) as eligible for the pass/fail option. These courses are available for students to enroll on a graded or pass/fail basis.
Extra Graded (fka Fifth) Course Option
COVID-19 addendum: Any extra course taken spring 2020 will not count towards the 32 to graduate UNLESS a student is taking it to make up a deficiency from a prior term.
Except in the case of the unbalanced course program described above, a student may, by the end of drop/add, enroll in a fifth course that must be designated as an extra graded course. An extra course may be dropped any time up to the sixth week of the semester. If a student chooses to continue in the course and the course is available for the pass/fail option, they must decide by the tenth week whether to complete the course on an A-E graded basis or change the course to pass/fail. An extra course graded “Pass” may not be used to fulfill distribution or major, concentration, or certificate requirements (under rare circumstances, the chair of the relevant program or department may grant an exception to this rule) or to accelerate graduation, but may be used to make up a deficiency from a prior semester as one of the 32 semester courses required to complete the degree. An extra course completed as a fifth A-E graded course may be used to fulfill distribution or major, concentration, or certificate requirements or to make up a deficiency incurred in a prior term, but not to accelerate graduation. The grade received will be included in the calculation of the student’s cumulative grade-point average.
Instructors have the option of designating any of their courses (except tutorials) as eligible for the fifth course option. These courses are available for students to enroll as a Fifth Course.
Policy exceptions apply to extra half credit Dance, Music, and Theatre courses.
Withdrawing from a Course
- During fall 2020 or spring 2021 students have until the end of the last day of classes to withdraw from a course.
- If a student wishes to withdraw from a fourth course beyond the sixth week deadline, they will have to go through the Dean of the College process for withdrawing from a course.
- In the case of a withdrawals from a fourth course past the stated deadline, the record will indicate a “W” but a student will not have to make up the course.
First-year and first-semester transfer students may be permitted to withdraw from one course (incurring a deficiency but no grade penalty) as late as the tenth week of the semester. Upperclass students also may withdraw from a course under the same conditions once in subsequent years. A withdrawal, recorded on the transcript as a “W,” is granted only with the approval of the instructor and a dean and only if there is complete agreement between the instructor and the dean that, despite conscientious effort to do the work, continuation in the course would be detrimental to the overall educational interest or health of the student. The deficiency thereby incurred must be removed in the normal manner.
Deadlines for Coursework
Deadlines for coursework are set by the instructor with the following limitations:
- for courses with final exams, the latest that written work may be due is 5:00 pm on the last day of reading period.
- for courses without final exams, the latest that written work may be due is 5:00 pm on the third-to-last day of the exam period.
- If work is due before these deadlines, the instructor may grant an extension up to these deadlines solely at their discretion. Short extensions beyond these deadlines may be granted by a dean but only with the concurrence of the instructor. No extensions will be granted beyond the examination period except in the case of serious illness.
- Instructors may require students who have missed announced quizzes or hour tests to present satisfactory explanations to a dean before they are permitted to make up the exercises.
- If a student is absent from a final examination, a make-up examination may be given only with the permission of a dean and at a time determined by the dean.
Failing a Course and Deficiencies
- Students failing a fourth course during fall 2020 or spring 2021 will not have to make up the course.
- A fourth course taken fall 2020 or spring 2021 may be used to cover a previously earned deficiency but not for subsequent deficiencies.
- A fifth or sixth extra-graded course taken fall 2020 or spring 2021 may be used to cover a deficiency incurred in a prior or subsequent semester.
When a student falls behind in course credits because of a failure or course withdrawal, they have a deficiency. Deficiencies are typically made up by courses taken after the deficiencies have been incurred; however students may petition the Committee on Academic Standing to make up a course deficiency due to failure or withdrawal with a previously-completed extra graded fifth course taken at Williams. Please note, this excludes an extra graded fourth course taken fall 2020/spring 21.
A deficiency incurred in the fall term must be made up before the start of the following academic year. A deficiency incurred in the spring semester must be made up prior to the start of the following spring semester. A student may, in consultation with the Dean’s Office, petition the Committee on Academic Standing with an alternate plan.
A student must make up a deficiency in one of these ways:
- obtain a grade of at least C- in a summer school course, approved in advance by the Registrar, at a regionally accredited four-year college or university; (the grade will not, however, be included in the calculation of the student’s cumulative grade point average)
- pass an extra course, either on a pass/fail or on an A-E graded basis, at Williams in the semester following the withdrawal or failure.
- in the case of a first-semester failure of a year-long course, obtain a grade of at least a C- in the work of the second semester of that course. The failure for the first semester will, however, remain on the student’s record and will be included in the cumulative grade point average. If a failure occurs in the second semester of a full-year course, credit for passing the first semester may be retained only upon the recommendation of the department concerned and with the approval of the Committee on Academic Standing.
A senior who incurs a failure in the first semester in a required major course may be dropped from the College at midyear.
Separation for Low Scholarship
It is the policy of Williams College not to permit a student to remain in residence after it has become evident that they are either unable or unwilling to maintain reasonable standards of academic achievement. At the end of each term, the Committee on Academic Standing reviews all academic records that fail to meet the following minimum academic requirements:
Four grades of C- or better, or three grades of C- or better and a Pass each semester, and at least Perfunctory Pass on the Winter Study Project.
Students whose records fail to meet these minimum academic requirements or whose records otherwise fail to show adequate progress may be required to resign.
Students who are required to resign from the College for academic reasons are normally not permitted to return for at least one year from the date of their resignation. A student who has been required to resign from the College may petition the Committee on Academic Standing through the Office of the Dean of the College for reinstatement. That petition must include (1) evidence that the student has made up all course deficiencies, (2) a letter to the Committee providing convincing evidence that the student is ready and able to complete work toward a degree at Williams.
Students who are required to resign due to failure to meet minimum academic requirements can appeal that decision by making a personal statement to the Committee on Academic Standing (in person, in writing, or via Skype/conference call). The CAS decision upon appeal is final.
When required to resign, students must vacate their rooms promptly. Financial aid students must also see the Director of Student Financial Services before leaving to discuss loan repayment and renewal of aid in the event of readmission.
Students are expected to vacate their rooms, including belongings, upon withdrawal and follow all housing deadlines for departure.
Withdrawal from the College in Good Standing
Students may request personal leaves of absence from a dean and, if granted, withdraw from the College. Such time away, often as a period of reassessment and self evaluation, can prove to be beneficial educationally. A withdrawal in good standing may be granted for not less than one semester and not more than three years. Students who withdraw in good standing are readmitted with the approval of the Dean’s Office and are expected to complete the degree without further interruption.
Students may request permission from a dean to withdraw at any time. If a student is granted a personal leave of absence after the semester begins, but before the end of the drop/add period, the transcript will list the date of withdrawal as the day before the term began. If a personal leave is granted after the end of the drop/add period, but before the end of the eighth week of the semester, the transcript will list the date of withdrawal, but the semester will not count toward the maximum of eight allowed to complete the degree. If a personal withdrawal is allowed after the eighth week of the semester, the transcript will list the date of withdrawal and the courses in progress, each with a W; the semester will normally count toward the maximum of eight allowed to complete the degree and the student will incur deficiencies that must be made up before returning to the College.
Payment refund or credit in the event of withdrawal is described in the Williams College Refund Policy.
Eligibility for Extracurricular Activities
A student is eligible to participate in any athletic, dramatic, literary, or musical event and be in the student government, or other organization as a member, substitute, or officer, unless they are declared ineligible:
1) by the Dean;
2) by vote of the Discipline Committee; or
3) by vote of the Committee on Academic Standing because of a dangerously low record.
The Student Honor Committee may recommend to the Dean loss of eligibility as a penalty for a violation of the Honor Code.
COVID-19 addendum: During fall 2020 and spring 2021, all students who attain a semester average of 3.50 or higher in a program of three or more courses taken on an A-E graded basis are placed on the Dean’s List for that semester. Students with two courses taken on an A-E graded basis and one pass/fail course are not eligible for the Dean’s List.
All students who attain a semester average of 3.50 or higher in a program of four or more courses taken on an A-E graded basis are placed on the Dean’s List for that semester. Students with three courses taken on an A-E graded basis and one pass/fail course are not eligible for the Dean’s List.
Phi Beta Kappa Society (amended fall 2019)
- The requirements for election to membership shall include the completion of all required Winter Study Projects. There shall be two elections of new members for each class, at the end of the junior and senior years.
- At the end of the junior year, all students in the highest five percent of the class, ranked by cumulative grade point average, shall be eligible for election provided they have met the requirements and have completed enough courses to be considered candidates for the B.A. degree in the following year. A student who leaves Williams at the end of the junior year to attend graduate school may be elected under the above procedures.
- At the end of the senior year, all students not yet elected and in the highest 12.5 percent of the class, ranked by cumulative grade point average, shall be eligible for election provided they have met the requirements. Seniors who have met the requirements can also be become eligible for election by nomination from a faculty member at Williams College. Nominations shall be approved by an election committee of at least three faculty members of Phi Beta Kappa, with one from each division; the members of the committee will be chosen by the faculty officers of the Williams chapter, in consultation with the membership. The total number of students elected shall not exceed 15 percent of the class.
- Students shall be eligible for election only if they have been students at Williams College for at least two years.
- Honorary members may be elected from distinguished alumni, faculty, or staff of the college. Nominations shall be approved by the election committee. The number of honorary members elected shall ordinarily not exceed two each year.
- Any student who shall have gained their rank by unfair means or who in the judgment of the Dean of the College is not of good moral character is ineligible to election.
- The name of a member elect shall be entered on the roll only after they have accepted the election and has paid to the Treasurer the regular entrance fee.
- Any undergraduate member who withdraws from the College before graduation or who falls short of the minimum Phi Beta Kappa scholastic standing may, upon a two-thirds vote of the members present at the annual meeting, be deprived of membership in the society.
- Any undergraduate member who is expelled from the College shall be deprived of membership in the Society.
- While connected with Williams College as an officer of instruction or administration, any graduate of Williams College who is a member of another chapter of Phi Beta Kappa shall be considered a regular member of the Williams chapter.
- While connected with Williams College as professor, associate professor or assistant professor, or an officer of administration, any member of another chapter of Phi Beta Kappa shall have all the privileges of the Williams chapter, including holding office and voting. While connected with Williams College, any other officer of instruction or administration who is a member of another chapter shall have all the privileges of the Williams chapter, except holding office and voting.
Awarding of Degrees
By vote of the Trustees, the degree of Bachelor of Arts is conferred at commencement upon students who have completed the requirements as to courses and grades to the satisfaction of the Faculty. The right to a degree may, however, be forfeited by misconduct at any time prior to the conferring of the degree. Students receiving their degree in absentia must communicate that decision to the Dean of the College and the Registrar no later than two weeks prior to commencement. Diplomas will not be authorized for students who have not paid College charges or have not returned all books belonging to the library.
Commencement Requirement Policy
Students who take a leave (personal, medical or for Committee on Academic Standing reasons) are allowed to participate in graduation if they have five or fewer courses remaining toward the Bachelor’s degree.
Students who are under disciplinary suspension during their 8th (final semester) are not allowed to participate in graduation until after the suspension is concluded and after they complete their credits.
Students who complete their requirements in fall semester or January semester will be invited to celebrate their accomplishment and receive their diploma during the annual commencement ceremony the following June.
Our transcript includes a statement that confirms completion of degree requirements. In addition, the Registrar can provide a letter stating completion of requirements and the scheduled conferral date for any student needing documentation prior to the next June commencement.
Graduation with Distinction (Latin Honors)
The Faculty will recommend to the Trustees that the degree of Bachelor of Arts with distinction (Latin Honors) be conferred upon those members of the graduating class who have passed all Winter Study Projects and obtained a four-year average in the top:
35% of the graduating class – Bachelor of Arts cum laude or higher
15% of the graduating class – Bachelor of Arts magna cum laude or higher
2% of the graduating class – Bachelor of Arts summa cum laude
COVID-19 addendum: A Winter Study term will not be offered during the 2020-2021 academic year. Students who enroll in fall 2020 and/or spring 2021 will only be required to pass three Winter Study courses.
Students must pass a Winter Study course in each of their four years. Winter Study courses are graded Pass, Perfunctory Pass, or Fail. All work must be submitted by the last day of the Winter Study term; work may be accepted after this date only with the permission of a Dean. Students who fail their Winter Study course or receive a second Perfunctory Pass will be placed on academic probation by the Committee on Academic Standing and will be required to make up the deficiency. Students who fail through gross neglect of work will normally be required to resign.
Williams College has policies regarding the kinds of information that will be included in the permanent record of students as well as policies regarding the retention, safety and security, and disposal of records. Its information-release policies respect the rights of individual privacy, the confidentiality of records, and the best interests of students and the institution.
Williams values the privacy of its students and complies with the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), which governs access and release of student education records.
The Student Records Disclosure Policy is emailed annually to ensure students are aware of their rights.
1. A student has the right to inspect and review their education records within 45 days of their request.
Even though the law allows 45 days, at Williams, requests are normally honored at the time they are submitted. Students should submit their requests to the persons maintaining the records to which they wish access, e.g. the registrar, dean, department chair, or other appropriate officials.
2. A student has the right to request that corrections be made to their education records if they believe the records are inaccurate or misleading or otherwise in violation their privacy rights under FERPA.
Students should address such requests to the official responsible for the record and must clearly identify the parts of the record which they wish amended and why they believe them to be inaccurate or misleading.
If the official responsible for the record does not agree to amend the record as requested, Williams will notify the student of the decision and advise them of the right to a hearing and the procedures for initiating one. If Williams decides after the hearing not to amend the education record, the student may place a written statement in the record commenting upon the information therein and the student’s disagreement with the college’s decision not to amend the record.
3. A student has the right to consent to disclosures of personally identifiable information contained in their education records, except to the extent that FERPA authorizes disclosure without consent.
Williams College generally will not disclose personally identifiable information from a student’s education records without his/her consent; however, the College may make authorized disclosures without consent as specified under the law.
Under FERPA, Williams College may, at the College’s discretion, release personally identifiable information from education records without the student’s prior consent in certain specified circumstances, including but not limited to:
- Disclosure to school officials with legitimate educational interests. “School officials” are Williams College employees in administrative, supervisory, academic or support staff positions; Williams College trustees; individuals and companies with whom the College has contracted to perform institutional services and functions, such as attorneys, auditors, consultants, volunteers, and collection agencies. School officials have a “legitimate educational interest” if they need to review an education record in order to fulfill their professional responsibilities;
- Disclosure to organizations involved in awarding financial aid;
- Disclosure to parents of financially dependent (see Parental Notification Policy);
- Disclosure to parents or legal guardians of students under twenty-one years of age regarding information about violations of college drug and alcohol policies;
- Disclosure to comply with a judicial order or subpoena (after making a reasonable effort to notify the student in advance of compliance so that the student can take protective action). An exception to this notification requirement exists if the subpoena is issued by a federal grand jury or for other law enforcement purposes and the requesting agency specifically ordered that the existence of the subpoena is not to be disclosed;
- Disclosure to appropriate parties in a health or safety emergency, in order to protect the health or safety of the student or other individuals; and
- Disclosure of the results of final student disciplinary proceedings to victims of violent crimes or sexual offenses.
Note that, upon request, Williams will disclose a student’s education records to officials of another school in which the student seeks or intends to enroll, as well as institutions where the student has already enrolled.
In addition, Williams may make public the following student “directory information” unless the student informs the registrar in writing by September 15 that their prior consent be required during that academic year:
- permanent and College addresses
- campus electronic mail address
- permanent, mobile, and campus telephone numbers
- date of birth
- major field
- extra-curricular activities
- height and weight of members of athletic teams
- dates of attendance
- degrees, honors, and awards
- other schools attended
Williams is very conservative in its use of this directory information and releases it outside the college community only when its release is deemed of benefit to students. Generally this information is not publicly available outside the Williams network, with the exception of the directory. The directory lists name, class year, campus address and campus e-mails.
A student may opt to consider directory information confidential and it will be flagged as such in the student’s record. To elect this option, the student must inform the registrar in writing by September 15 that prior consent is required to release directory information, and should contact the Registrar’s Office to discuss this request.
4. A student has the right to file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education concerning alleged failures by Williams to comply with the requirements of FERPA.
The name and address of the office that administers FERPA is:
Family Compliance Office
U.S. Department of Education
400 Maryland Avenue, SW
Washington, DC 20202–8520
- Records that document the academic progress of matriculated students: This series may include but is not limited to high school and other college transcripts, admission applications, major and concentration declaration forms, independent study petitions, summer school and study away petitions, petitions for exceptions to College academic policies, applications for withdrawal from the College, and transfer admissions to the College. These types of records are retained for five years from last enrollment.
- Records related to grades: Paper/email submissions of grades and grading changes, reports of unsatisfactory grades, pass/fail designations, fifth course options, withdrawal with W grade forms, and audit validation forms are retained for seven years beyond end of pertinent term.
- Official transcript at the time of graduation is a permanent record.
Parental Notification Policy
As noted above, FERPA regulations and state statutes assign students the right to release information contained in their educational records. Specifically, FERPA entrusts this right to students once they reach the age of eighteen or enroll in a postsecondary institution. Consistent with Williams’ efforts to promote each student’s personal growth and autonomy, and to preserve a climate of trust with them, the College will not release any information contained within a student’s educational record to parents without the student’s consent. However, when appropriate and as allowed by FERPA, the College does permit the release of certain information of financially dependent students to parents without the student’s consent. The specific instances in which Williams will and will not notify parents warrant particular attention.
Note: The College reserves the right to notify a parent or guardian of their student’s status in situations not specifically listed below if the circumstances warrant and if it is in the best interest of the student and the College community.
Notice of a Student’s Academic Standing
The College believes that each student is responsible for his or her academic progress and performance. Therefore, Williams communicates with students regarding their academic performance. For instance, in an effort to foster students’ sense of responsibility for their academic endeavors, grades and academic advisories are sent directly to students and are not released to parents or guardians unless a student specifically requests in writing to the Office of the Registrar that they be released. While students are encouraged to share information regarding their academic progress with their parents, Williams does not mandate it.
Academically, however, there are instances when the College will typically notify parents of a student’s academic performance with or without the student’s consent. Parents generally will be notified of a student’s academic standing regardless of consent when there is a change of status, i.e., when a student is required to resign (either temporarily or permanently) due to failure to meet academic standards.
Notice of a Student’s Disciplinary/Conduct Standing
As a member of the Williams community, the College expects each student to take responsibility for his or her actions. Our Code of Conduct serves as a standard and guide for students’ behavior. Violations of our Code of Conduct warrant a College response. Generally, the College will communicate any disciplinary response to a Code violation directly with the student, and parents or guardians will not be notified, unless the student chooses to inform his or her parents. However, if the College response results in a change in the student’s status (i.e., probation, suspension, or expulsion), the college typically will notify parents or guardians of the changed status.
Likewise, Williams reserves the right to inform the parents of any student if the student violates any Federal, State, or local law, or campus regulation governing the use or possession of alcohol or drugs.
Notice of a Student’s Health/Welfare Standing
Information regarding a student’s health and/or psychological welfare is protected by strict policies instituted to ensure the student’s confidentiality. While students are encouraged to share information regarding their health and/or psychological welfare with their parents, without students’ informed consent (typically in writing), the College cannot share this type of information with their parents or guardian except as set forth below.
Williams recognizes that situations arise in which a student may be unable to give informed consent. If a student is transported to the hospital in a critical situation, the parent or guardian of the student will be notified. Where possible, the College will allow the individual student time to make direct notification to parent or guardian or explicitly identify a third party to make contact with the parent or guardian. In such instances when a student is being treated by an external healthcare provider, the College expects the external provider to determine the appropriateness of parental notification and undertake such notification when deemed appropriate. Having the external provider directly notify the parents ensures that parents receive the most informed and precise information regarding their child’s well-being.
If a student is facing a health- or safety-related emergency or is deemed a threat to a person on campus, the College may decide to notify parents without the consent of the student. The College may also contact a parent or guardian if it comes to the attention of school officials that a student has been inexplicably absent from campus for a prolonged period of time.
Health and Counseling Records
As noted above, FERPA pertains specifically to education records and it does not address records that may be generated in Health and Wellness Services. FERPA’s protection of education records does not include those records: (1) relating to a student that are either created or maintained by a physician, psychiatrist, psychologist, or other recognized professional or paraprofessional; (2) generated solely to provide treatment to the student; and (3) not disclosed to anyone other than individuals providing such treatment.
Access to Williams Health and Wellness Services’ records is limited by departmental confidentiality policies, professional ethics, and state law. In particular, information shared, generated, and/or obtained during visits to Health and Wellness Services is protected from disclosure by specific policies regulating the release of such information.