Code of Conduct

As a residential college, Williams believes that for each student the experience of living with other students has an educational importance that should parallel and enhance his or her studies. For students to profit from living and working together, they must respect the rights of other members of the community in which they live and work—a community which includes students, members of the faculty and staff of the College, and other residents of Williamstown. The President, Trustees, faculty, and students of Williams College have established the codes of conduct described below to foster the learning that comes from living and studying with men and women of diverse backgrounds and from learning to honor opinions and beliefs that may differ from one’s own.

The College Laws authorize the faculty to make rules for the proper conduct of students and to establish penalties for failure to comply with the faculty’s regulations or for failure to conform to those laws and standards of conduct by which the larger community safeguards individual rights and social order. Students must respect the rights of others, their persons and their possessions, and refrain from any disturbance to the peace of the College or the community around it. The College will hold students responsible if they fail to maintain good conduct on the campus or elsewhere.

Individual Rights: Williams College does not discriminate on grounds unrelated to its educational objectives; it is committed to being a community in which all ranges of opinion and belief can be expressed and debated, and within which all patterns of behavior permitted by the public law and College regulations can take place. The community is varied, including people of diverse races, religions, national or ethnic backgrounds, gender expressions and gender identities, and sexual orientations, and its members may from time to time disagree with one another’s ideas and behavior. The College seeks to assure the rights of all to express themselves in words and actions, so long as they can do so without infringing upon the rights of others or violating standards of good conduct or public law.

Accepting membership in this community entails an obligation to behave with courtesy to others whose beliefs and behavior differ from one’s own; all members and guests of this community must be free of disturbance or harassment, including racial and sexual harassment.

Public Law: The College does not give students protection from the consequences of violations of federal, state, and local laws, and public authorities may act independently to investigate and prosecute any such violations. When students are charged with legal violations committed on or off–campus, the Dean of the College may also initiate disciplinary proceedings. The accused student, however, may request of the Dean of the College a suspension of the disciplinary proceedings until the conclusion of the court case. If the Dean of the College determines that the student is a potential threat to the personal safety or security of individuals, then the Dean may impose appropriate restrictions, up to and including suspension, without prejudice to the student’s record, until the conclusion of the court case. Interim suspensions, in such circumstances, are subject to an appeal to the President.

This request may be denied. In the case of a graduating senior, in the event the College disciplinary proceedings are suspended until the conclusion of the court case, the degree may be withheld.

Disciplinary Proceedings

Violations of individual rights, the general rules of conduct, or the specific rules of conduct listed below subject a student to disciplinary proceedings. The College does not attempt to describe every act that constitutes a violation of the code of conduct; but rather the College reserves the right to make determinations on a case by case basis. If in the judgment of the President the best interests of the College so require, a student may be immediately removed from the College.

Members of the community charged with violations of the standards of conduct are subject to disciplinary action through the established disciplinary procedures of the College (see Disciplinary Proceedings ). When violations are determined to have occurred, the College will impose disciplinary sanctions on students and employees, consistent with local, state, and federal law. Depending upon the circumstances of the case, the sanctions available to the College include: warning, probation, suspension, up to expulsion or termination of employment, and referral for prosecution by public authorities. The College may also require satisfactory completion of an appropriate drug or alcohol rehabilitation program before reinstatement or continued employment. Student employees participating in any federal grant or contract are subject to the Drug–Free Workplace Act of 1989 and must notify the Provost within 5 days of any criminal drug conviction for a violation occurring in the workplace. The Provost is required to notify the funding agency within 10 days of receiving notification of the conviction.

Retaliation prohibited: Students who make complaints or bring charges against another student for violation of the College Code of Conduct, including complaints regarding sexual misconduct, harassment, or discrimination, may not be subjected to retaliation of any sort, whether verbal, physical or in any other manner, for having done so. Any student who retaliates against another student in violation of this rule will be subject to disciplinary action through the established disciplinary procedures of the College.


Specific rules of conduct include, but are not limited to:

Alcohol and Drugs: Williams prohibits the abuse of alcohol and expects members of the College community to abide by federal, state, and local regulations concerning the possession and use, purchase, and distribution of alcohol. The College prohibits the unlawful manufacture, sale, distribution, dispensing, possession, or use of illegal drugs, or the unauthorized use of prescription drugs. See page NO TAG for the legal sanctionsconcerning alcohol and drugs.

Dating Violence and Domestic Violence:  refers to a pattern of behaviors committed by a member of a family (related by blood or marriage), a member of a household, a current or former intimate partner, or a current or former partner in a dating or engagement relationship who

-harms the victim physically,
-attempts to harm the victim physically,
-makes the victim fear that serious physical harm is going to happen, or
-threatens, pressures, or forces the victim to engage in sexual behaviors

Disturbances: The College has the basic obligation to maintain orderly and equitable conduct of its affairs, free of intimidation and harassment. While peaceful and orderly protest and dissent are the right of all members of the College community, any action from any quarter which obstructs or interferes with the fulfillment of this basic obligation cannot be permitted. Such obstruction or interference will be subject to disciplinary action, which may include dismissal from the College. College personnel may require students to leave public events at the College for improper behavior.

Weapons, Fireworks and Hazardous Chemicals: The possession or use of firearms, ammunition, air guns, spring guns, slingshots and paintball guns, or hazardous chemicals is forbidden. Possession or use of a knife with a double–edge blade, a spring blade, or a blade over 4 inches in length is prohibited by College policy and is against Massachusetts state law. Possession or use of fireworks in Williamstown is forbidden by College, local, and state law, and violators will be fined.

Fraternities: Williams students may neither join nor participate in fraternities during their time at the College. (Click here for details of this policy.)

Hazing: Hazing is prohibited by the College and is against the law in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. (See Hazing for laws concerning hazing.)

Personal Safety: Actions that threaten or endanger in any way the personal safety or security of an individual are grave offenses.

Property: Theft or damage to the property of individuals or the College subjects students to disciplinary action. Financial responsibility for vandalism to College property will be fixed in the manner described under “Damage and Billing Procedures”. The residential house (or entry or floor) will be billed if the individuals responsible are not identified.

Sexual Misconduct:  

Sexual Assault will not be tolerated at Williams College.   The Williams Code of Conduct forbids sexual assault as defined in Massachusetts law, and also enforces other expectations of our community.  Williams is a community based on trust whose very existence depends on adherence to standards of conduct set by its members. Sexual assault is a crime punishable by both civil and criminal legal action and is a serious violation of the Williams College Standards of Conduct.  Students at Williams are charged with the responsibility of being familiar and abiding by the standards of conduct set forth herein.

The Williams Code of Conduct requires consent for all sexual activity.  Non-Consensual Sexual Intercourse and Non-Consensual Sexual Contact are considered sexual assault, and are prohibited.  Sexual exploitation is also prohibited.

  • Non–Consensual Sexual Intercourse: Any sexual intercourse (anal, oral or vaginal); however slight; with any object; by any person upon any person; without effective consent.
  • Non–Consensual Sexual Contact: Any sexual touching; however slight; with any object; by any person upon any person; without effective consent.
  • Sexual Exploitation: Occurs when a student takes nonconsensual, unjust or abusive advantage of another; for his/her own advantage or benefit; or to benefit or advantage anyone other than the one being exploited; and that behavior does not otherwise constitute rape, sexual assault, or sexual harassment. Examples of sexual exploitation include prostituting another student, nonconsensual video or audiotaping of sexual activity, going beyond the boundaries of consent (such as letting your friends watch you have consensual sex), engaging in peeping tommery, knowingly transmitting STD or HIV to another student, and inducing incapacitation with the intent to rape or sexually assault another student.
  • Consent: Consent is a crucial part of both the Williams Code of Conduct and Massachusetts law. Consent means that at the time of the sexual contact, words or conduct indicate freely given approval or agreement, without coercion, by both participants in the sexual contact. Both parties have the obligation to communicate consent or the lack of consent. A verbal “no” (no matter how indecisive) or resistance (no matter how passive) constitutes the lack of consent. In addition, consent once given may be withdrawn at any time. If consent is withdrawn, the other party must immediately stop whatever sexual contact is occurring.An individual is unable to give consent if he or she is:
    • substantially physically or mentally impaired by alcohol or drugs
    • force or threatened
    • physically incapable of resisting, asleep, or unconscious
    • Unless an individual is substantially physically or mentally impaired, consent while under the influence of alcohol or drugs is valid consent.As is the case with other violations of the Code of Conduct, the use of alcohol or drugs does not minimize or excuse a person’s responsibility for sexual assault.

Stalking is a pattern  of conduct directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to feel fear, or to fear for the health or safety of a person they are close to, such as a friend or family member.

Stalking behaviors can include, but are not limited to

– non-consensual communication including in-person communication, telephone calls, voice messages, text messages, emails, social media site postings or messages, instant messages, posting of pictures or information on websites, written letters, gifts, or any other communications that are undesired or place another person in fear

– following, pursuing, waiting, or showing up uninvited at a workplace, place of residence, classroom, or other locations frequented by the victim

– surveillance or other types of observation, whether by physical proximity or electronic means

– trespassing, for example in a victim’s dorm room

– vandalism

– non-consensual touching

– direct physical and/or verbal threats against a victim or a victim’s loved ones

 – gathering of information about a victim from family, friends, co-workers, and/or classmates

 – manipulative or controlling behaviors such as threats to harm oneself, or threats to harm someone close to the victim

 – defamation or slander against the victim, for example by spreading rumors

Sexual Harassment: