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 is empowered 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.  This request may be denied.  In addition, the Dean of the College may impose interim restrictions as provided in the following section.

In the case of a graduating senior, in the event the College disciplinary proceedings are not concluded by Commencement, 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.  Also, 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 disciplinary proceedings or until the Dean determines that the student no longer presents such a potential threat.  Interim suspensions are subject to an appeal to the President. 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. The penalties a dean may consider include but are not limited to:  disciplinary warning (a letter from the dean, a personal interview, or both); disciplinary probation for a specified period (sometimes with specified conditions, e.g., loss of eligibility to represent the College, restrictions of extra-curricular activities); payment of a fine or restitution; suspension for specified time; or permanent expulsion.  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: Individuals who make complaints or bring charges against another Williams community member for violation of the College Code of Conduct, including complaints regarding sexual misconduct, dating violence, stalking, 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 Williams community member who retaliates against another individual in violation of this rule will be subject to disciplinary action through the disciplinary procedures established by the College. The process for investigation and adjudication for charges of retaliation will be that relevant to the original report.  That is, complaints of retaliation against those reporting or participating in investigations regarding sexual misconduct, dating/domestic violence, or stalking will be heard under the disciplinary process established for those conduct violations.


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 legal sanctions concerning alcohol and drugs.  See Medical Amnesty Policy below.

Guidelines for Alcohol Use

Relationship Abuse:  Williams prohibits relationship abuse. Relationship abuse is defined as the use of physical force, coercion, threats, intimidation, isolation, or other forms of physical, or sexual abuse toward a partner in a current or former personal, intimate relationship. Relationship abuse also includes manipulation or other forms of emotional abuse if they have the effect of creating fear*, isolation, or restriction of access to resources, education or work.  Relationship abuse includes behaviors that are defined as dating and/or domestic violence for purposes of remedies under Massachusetts law, Title IX, and for Clery Act reporting.

Relationship abuse is directed primarily against a person who is or has been involved in a sexual, dating, domestic or other emotionally, romantically, and/or physically intimate relationship with the respondent, although the abuse may be directed toward the family members, friends, pets, or property of the targeted partner.

Relationship abuse can encompass a broad range of behavior including, but not limited to, coercive, abusive, or violent behaviors that are physical, sexual and/or economic in nature. The also include psychological, verbal and/or emotional abuse if they have the effect of creating fear*, isolation, or restriction of access to resources, education or work.  The behaviors generally form an ongoing pattern of behavior, although one severe instance of physical or sexual abuse may be sufficient to establish relationship abuse.

Examples include, but are not limited to, situations in which the following behaviors are directed toward the targeted individual:

  • Threats and intimidation: coercion and manipulation, including threats of self-harm, used to compel the targeted individual(s) to behave as directed; exhibiting extreme possessiveness or jealousy to control or compel the targeted partner(s) behavior; threatening to share information which could damage the target’s reputation or relationships with others to compel the targeted partner’s behavior; threatening to harm the target’s family, friends, pets, or property; threatening the target with physical or sexual harm;
  • Isolation and restriction of freedom: isolating or confining the target for a substantial period of time; repeatedly depriving the target of personal freedom of movement or access to friends, family, or support systems;
  • Resource abuse: forcible or coercive denial of use or access to owned or shared assets, or limiting or controlling access to education or work; words and/or actions aimed at manipulating the financial or legal situation of the target;
  • Harm to property or pets: attempting to cause or causing damage or injury to property owned or controlled by the target, or the target’s pets; interfering with the target’s access to property they own or control, or their pets;
  • Physical abuse: attempting to cause or causing the target bodily injury or offensive physical contact;
  • Sexual assault, sexual exploitation, and sexual harassment as defined elsewhere in the Code of Conduct;
  • Stalking as defined elsewhere in the Code of Conduct

* In adjudication of cases, behavior that would cause a reasonable person to feel fear will be interpreted as constituting relationship abuse by this standard.

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.

Rape, Sexual Assault, and 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 affirmative 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.   Sexual assault and sexual exploitation are both forms of sexual misconduct.

Williams College encourages the reporting of sexual misconduct, including sexual assault.  Under this policy, if an individual reports or seeks care for an incident of sexual misconduct during which they consumed alcohol or drugs, they will not be subject to disciplinary action regarding the alcohol or drug use.

This policy is applicable to any student reporting an incident of sexual misconduct, whether they themselves experienced the incident or whether they observed misconduct against another person.

Non-Consensual Sexual Intercourse: Any sexual intercourse (anal, oral or vaginal); however slight; with any object; by any person upon any other person; without effective consent.

Non-Consensual Sexual Contact: Any sexual touching; however slight; with any object; by any person upon any other 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, engaging in voyeurism or setting up the voyeurism of others (such as letting your friends watch you have sexual interactions without the knowledge of your partner), knowingly transmitting STD or HIV to another student, and inducing incapacitation with the intent to rape or sexually assault another student.

As is the case with all violations of the Code of Conduct, the use of alcohol or drugs does not minimize or excuse a person’s responsibility for committing sexual assault or sexual exploitation.

Key Policy Definitions Regarding Sexual Misconduct:

     I.   Consent

Consent is a crucial part of both the Williams Code of Conduct and Massachusetts law.  The Williams College Code of Conduct requires affirmative consent for all sexual activity.

Consent means that at the time of the sexual contact, words and conduct indicate freely given approval or agreement, without coercion, by all participants in the sexual contact.  Consent may not be inferred from silence or passivity. In addition, consent once given may be withdrawn at any time. If consent is withdrawn, whatever sexual contact is occurring must immediately stop.

Individuals are unable to give consent if they are:

  • substantially physically or mentally impaired by illness, alcohol or drugs
  • forced, coerced, threatened or subject to intimidation
  • physically incapable of communicating, asleep, or unconscious

Consent while under the influence of alcohol or drugs is valid consent unless the person is under the influence to the point of being substantially impaired.

     II.   Coercion

Coercion is the use of pressure to compel another individual to initiate or continue sexual activity against an individual’s will. Coercion can include a wide range of behaviors, including intimidation, manipulation, threats, and blackmail. A person’s words or conduct are sufficient to constitute coercion if they wrongfully impair another individual’s freedom of will and ability to choose whether or not to engage in sexual activity. Examples of coercion include threatening to “out” someone based on sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression and threatening to harm oneself if the other party does not engage in the sexual activity.

     III.   Substantially Impaired

Substantially impaired means an individual lacks the ability 
to make informed, rational judgments and/or to coherently communicate those judgments.  Substantial impairment may result from illness or from the use of alcohol and/or other drugs. Substantial impairment is a state beyond drunkenness or intoxication. The impact of alcohol and other drugs varies from person to person; however, warning signs that a person is or may be approaching substantial impairment may include (but are not limited to) slurred speech, vomiting, unsteady gait,  combativeness, or unusual emotional volatility.

Williams College encourages the reporting of sexual misconduct, including sexual assault.  Under this policy, if an individual reports or seeks care for an incident of sexual misconduct during which they consumed alcohol or drugs, they will not be subject to disciplinary action regarding the alcohol or drug use.

This policy is applicable to any student reporting an incident of sexual misconduct, whether they themselves experienced the incident or whether they observed misconduct against another person.

     IV.   Retaliation

Retaliation is harmful action taken against someone who has filed a complaint, provided testimony, or in some other way participated in a disciplinary investigation or process. It could also include actions taken against someone who has intervened as a bystander to stop or attempt to stop harassment, discrimination, or misconduct.

It can include intimidating, threatening, coercing, or discriminating against an individual because of their participation in a disciplinary process, or because they opposed behavior that was in violation of our Code of Conduct.

If the actions directed at that individual would deter a reasonable person in the same circumstances from reporting misconduct, participating in a disciplinary process, or opposing behavior in violation of our Code of Conduct, it is deemed retaliatory.


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:  means unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature when (1) submission to such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of an individual’s employment, instruction or participation in other College activities; (2) submission to or rejection of such conduct by an individual is used as a basis for making academic, employment or personnel decisions affecting that individual; or (3) such conduct has the purpose or effect of creating an intimidating or hostile educational or working environment.

Medical Amnesty Policy: Williams College supports a safe and holistic learning environment that enhances academic achievement and student success.  A Medical Amnesty Policy fosters responsible decision making and encourages our studentsto take active steps toward wellness and self-care. The collegerecognizes that there may be times when students face medicalemergencies involving excessive drinking and/or drug use.Under this policy, if an individual seeks medical attention (for themselves or for another) due to a medical emergency,student conduct disciplinary action will not be taken against the student for consumption or possession of alcohol or drugs.

Medical Amnesty applies only to the possession or consumption of alcohol and drugs. It does not preclude disciplinary sanctions due toany other violation of the Code of Student Conduct. Other suchviolations include, but are not limited to, assault, property damage ordistribution of illicit substances. Additionally, the Policy does not prevent action by police, other law enforcement personnel, or other third parties.

The Medical Amnesty Policy is applicable to:

  • A student requesting emergency medical care for oneself;
  • A student(s) requesting emergency medical care for another person;
  • Student Organizations where members request emergency medical care for another person

Medical Amnesty is only granted to students and organizations who seekmedical assistance .  (Note: there is a separate medical amnesty policy for students who are reporting sexual assault. Please see LINK for that policy.)

The student needing medical assistance will be required to meet with a Dean from the Dean of the College and may be expected to complete the following:

  • A mandatory meeting with a Health Educator or other educational referrals;
  • Responsibility for costs associated with hospitaltransportation, treatment, assessment, or damage;
  • Parental notification

Medical Amnesty is not intended to be used more than once.  If a student has been involved in prior alcohol/drug incidents and/or utilized Medical Amnesty in the past, the request will be evaluated by the Dean of the College to determine whether or not Medical Amnesty will be granted.  Typically, repeated situations will be handled through meetings with a Dean and/or the Student Conduct process.  Students whose drinking behavior puts them at risk repeatedly may also be required to take a medical leave from the college to address the behavior and enable them to live safely in the community when they return.

Tips to Address Alcohol and/or Drug Poisoning:

An alcohol overdose is a MEDICAL EMERGENCY. It is important to call for help right away if you see any of these signs of alcohol overdose:

  • Irregular breathing (8 breaths a minute or 10 seconds or more between any two breaths)
  • Vomiting while passed out and they don’t wake up while vomiting or afterward
  • Choking
  • Skin is pale, cold and/or bluish-purple
  • Unconsciousness/unresponsiveness

Call 911 or Campus Safety and Security at x4444. Don’t wait. Minutes can be critical.