Working with Williams: A Guide for Families

Because all Williams programs ultimately support the intellectual and emotional growth of our students, parent and family programs in the Dean’s Office aim to help us as families become productive educational partners in our students’ undergraduate experience.

How? By helping families understand Williams’ educational philosophy and learn about the many opportunities and resources here, so that we can encourage our students to take full advantage of everything Williams has to offer.

Williams also asks us to understand the college’s legal responsibility to protect our students’ privacy—and its educational commitment to support our students’ transition to independent adulthood.

How can we, as Williams families, work with the college to improve our students’ experience?

  • Encourage our students to reach out for themselves to a dean, a professor, a counselor, a coach, an academic support specialist, a chaplain.
  • Encourage our students to get to know at least one faculty member well enough to feel entirely comfortable asking for a graduate school or job recommendation—and to befriend one adult on campus with whom they can be completely themselves.
  • Get to know as much as we can about all the opportunities Williams has to offer—and share what we’ve learned with our students, so that when they need help or seek new challenges, they’ll know for themselves where to go.
  • Encourage our students to invite appropriate family member(s) and others involved with paying term bills to register for access to Williams’ Student Account Center, which permits the Bursar’s office to discuss the student’s account information with those individuals.
  • In case of emergency—if we have reason to believe that a student is at risk of harming her/himself or others—call Campus Safety and Security at 413.597.4444.

What can’t we, as family members, do?

  • See our students’ transcripts, disciplinary records, or health records without written permission from our students themselves.
  • See our students’ term bills and other billing information, or discuss it with the Bursar’s office, unless our student has invited us to register for Williams’ Student Account Center and we have completed that registration process.
  • Call professors, academic advisors, or coaches to check on our students’ progress or contest a grade or decision.
  • Ask a Williams employee to solve a student’s problem without telling our students we’ve asked an employee to do so.

What can Williams deans do?

  • Guide students in every imaginable circumstance to all the resources and opportunities Williams has to offer. Deans help students communicate with their peers and with faculty members and coaches, find appropriate medical and counseling professionals, arrange study abroad and time off from college, and much, much more. All that needs to happen is for our students—not their families—to come into the Dean’s Office or call to make an appointment.

What can’t Williams deans do?

  • Share with family members a student’s transcripts, disciplinary records, or health records without written permission from the students themselves.
  • Share (without a student’s written consent) any of the above information with Williams colleagues unless they’re employed in core student-services functions (deans, medical professionals, psychological counselors, chaplains, and campus safety officers). Even then, such information is shared only if deemed necessary for the wellbeing of the student. (In cases of emergency, course, the deans will alert Campus Safety and Security.)

What can the director of parent and family programs do?

  • Help families understand how Williams works, so that we, as families, can give our students specific guidance on how to access resources and take full advantage of opportunities here.
  • Help clarify expectations and set boundaries, so that we families can better understand Williams’ legal responsibility to protect our students’ privacy support their transition to full, independent adulthood.
  • Advise families whom on campus we should encourage our students to reach out to.
  • In cases of emergency, alert Campus Safety and Security.

What can’t the director of parent and family programs do?

  • Access student transcripts, disciplinary records, or health records. (Such information is protected from the director of parent and family programs as it is from families themselves.)
  • Intercede with a professor or coach on behalf of a student.
  • Attempt to assess a student’s situation at the request of a family member.

What can Williams employees who are not core student-services professionals do?

  • Everything that we encourage families to do above.
  • When in doubt, contact the Dean’s Office or encourage a student to do so.
  • Refrain from sharing with anyone except a core student-services professional any confidential information they might learn about a student.
  • In cases of emergency, alert Campus Safety and Security. 

What can’t Williams employees who are not core student-services professionals do?

  • Access any student records without written permission from the students themselves.
  • Share with anyone except a core student-services professional any confidential information they might learn about a student.
  • Intercede with a professor, coach on behalf of a student.
  • Attempt to assess a student’s situation at the request of a family member.