Committee on Educational Affairs (CEA)

The CEA evaluates and implements changes in the curriculum, both graduate and undergraduate. Here is more information about the duties and membership of the CEA.

  • The curricular review process begins in December. Chairs and Administrative Assistants will receive an email at that time with process information to share with faculty in their units.

    Due January 15

    Curricular Revisions Report

    The Curricular Revisions Report should include all substantial changes to a unit's curriculum (the CEA should have been alerted to any changes prior to receiving the report).

    Examples (including, but not limited to) of changes in major, concentration, or honors program:

    • Number of courses required for major or concentration.
    • Changes in specific courses required.
    • Changes and/or additions to prerequisites for core courses.
    • Additions or changes in non-course requirements (e.g. colloquium).

    Due February 1

    Catalog Status

    For courses currently in the 2018-19 catalog, indicate their 2019-20 status on the Catalog Status tab of your Unit Curriculum workbook:

    • Offered 2019-20
    • Not Offered
    • Deactivate (coded as "Inactive" in PeopleSoft—course will not be listed in catalog, nor on unit site)

    Per accreditation standards, courses not offered within a four-year cycle will be removed from the catalog, but will remain on your unit website's list of offerings. Those courses are indicated on the Catalog Status spreadsheet.

    We will request scheduling information (fall, spring, fall/spring) in February.

    New/Revised/Reactivated Courses

    Current faculty, please submit new, revised, and reactivated courses by February 1. For pending hires, new courses should be submitted as soon as possible so they can be included in the catalog for April preregistration.

    Courses that must be submitted via the online course form:

    • New
    • Revised (all revisions, both major and minor, of courses currently in the catalog)
    • Reactivated (previously removed from the catalog and now should be included)

    Please note new procedure—all revisions of courses currently in the catalog must be submitted via the online form—major revisions will be forwarded to the CEA when appropriate and the catalog will be updated with minor revisions.

    Before submitting the form:

    • Faculty should review the course submission checklist to ensure courses adhere to established guidelines.
    • Course descriptions should be finalized, copy-edited, and ready for both CEA review and publication in the catalog.

    There will be a final proof in April, prior to preregistration.

    Due March 1

    Class Hours

    For information about class hours:

    • Refer to the email with the subject line “Class Hour Requests 2019-20"
    • Class Hour instructions can help guide you through the process.

    Due March 22

    Unit and Program Descriptions (fka Mastheads)

    Beginning in February, Chairs and Administrative Assistants can edit unit and program PDF descriptions in WordPress (the tool used to manage websites)—course descriptions can NOT be edited in WordPress—only the catalog content that proceeds course listings.

    Be sure to include any changes that were submitted to the CEA in the annual Curricular Revisions Report.

    Please update faculty titles and leave patterns to the best of your ability. The Registrar's Office will do a second proof and update accordingly in July prior to publication of the full catalog in August.

Course Submission Guide

Information about requirements and policies as they pertain to course descriptions.

  • Designation Revisions

    The Writing-Intensive (WI) designation requirement has been changed and is now known as Writing Skills (WS).

    In order for a current Writing-Intensive course to carry the Writing Skills designation, an explanation of how the course meets the new standards must be provided. To do this, please submit a course revision (offered and not offered courses) providing justification via the online form by February 1 for review and approval by the Committee on Educational Affairs (CEA).

    Any current Writing-Intensive course that has not submitted an explanation will have the designation removed.

    2019-20 WS Catalog Description

    The goal of this requirement is to improve student writing proficiency across disciplines. Students in these courses will receive guidance on structure, style, argumentation, and other significant aspects of writing throughout the semester. This may be achieved through brief assignments spaced over the semester, sequenced assignments leading to a longer final paper, etc. WS courses may also include multiple drafts, peer review, conferences or class discussions designed to improve writing skills. (A course with a single long paper due at the end of the semester, but with no required or structured means of addressing writing issues, would not be considered a writing skills course.)

    The primary function of the WS designation is to indicate that the course will provide consistent and ongoing feedback on students’ writing. Thus, the amount of writing should be substantial and well spaced, followed by timely evaluation and suggestions for improvement. Specifically, a WS course should require multiple assignments, each returned with comments which address writing problems and strategies, as appropriate. Because WS course instructors must pay attention to students’ writing skills as well as to their mastery of the content of the course, WS courses have  a maximum enrollment of 19.

    All students are required to take TWO WS courses: one by the end of sophomore year and one by the end of junior year. Students will benefit most from WS courses by taking them early in their college careers and are strongly encouraged to complete the requirement by the end of sophomore year.

    Unit-Level Discussions and WS Designation

    WS designation is determined by unit chairs in consultation with faculty seeking this designation. Syllabi and course descriptions for WS courses must include an explanation of how the course fulfills the purpose of the WS requirement.

    Examples of WS Designation Justifications

    Good, clear justifications, all include a statement of how the instructor will provide feedback on writing skills as well as details about assignments:

    • Three thesis papers at five pages each (each receiving critical feedback from
      professor); one thesis paper revision with critical feedback from professor and peers, including one letter of revision explaining the student's revision process; one keyword glossary where students develop rigorous definitions of course key terms; one roundtable discussion based on the final paper.
    • Each student will write five 5- to 7-page papers on which I will provide written feedback regarding grammar, style, and argument. Each student will write five 3-page critiques of their partners' papers. As the final assignment, each student will revise one of their five papers.

    Instructor must specify some or all of the following: nature of the assignment, length, frequency/timing of assignments, the nature and frequency of faculty feedback on writing, etc.

    Not a WS course:

    • Any course that does not include instructor’s feedback on students’ writing skills;
    • Any course that has only one or two written assignments (whatever the length);
    • Any course in which comments on writing skills will not be available early enough in the semester for students to benefit from them before the next assignment is due.

    Examples of writing-intensive courses that do not count as WS courses:

    • “35 pages long research paper due at the end of the class”
    • “weekly journal due at the end of the class, and a term paper”
    • “a 10 pages long midterm paper and a 30 pages long final research paper”

    These example would be considered insufficient justifications:

    • “several short papers”
    • “several papers”
    • “four papers”
    • “a number of writing assignments”
    • “several short assignments and a final project”
  • All Williams College students take ONE DPE course as part of their distribution requirement.

    DPE catalog description.

    Further Explanation for Faculty

    There are three main axes upon which the DPE requirement hinges: the centrality of DPE themes and ideas throughout a course; a balance of DPE-related content and DPE-related skills; and consideration and agreement of a DPE designation at the unit level.

    The Centrality of DPE-Related Themes

    Students should know why a course in which they are enrolled is a DPE course. In the catalog, in the course description, on the syllabus, and in class throughout the semester, instructors of DPE courses should be specific about how the course addresses the issues of difference, power, and equity amongst groups and the nature of the theoretical tools or perspectives used to understand these issues.

    A Critical Balance Between DPE Content and Skill

    It is imperative that DPE courses strike an important and necessary balance between engaging course content and materials that explore various forms of difference, power, and equity, and facilitating the development of skills that will help students address the implications of said forms. Courses may consider current examples, historical examples, or some combination thereof. The focus may be on examples within the US or may be international, but should go beyond exposure to the variety of human experiences and instead foster critical engagement with the practice and experience of difference.

    DPE courses should foster difficult, but carefully framed conversations about how difference works and has worked, how identities and power relationships have been grounded in lived experience, and how one might both critically and productively approach questions of difference, power, and equity. While different DPE courses employ a variety of pedagogical approaches, methodologies, and theoretical perspectives, these courses are uniform in actively promoting a self-conscious and critical engagement with the practice and experience of difference, especially as it relates to the dynamics of power in structuring that experience. The list of themes that could be a possible focus of a DPE course should be taken as a starting point; other areas of difference (ability/disability, body size, national origin, political affiliation, for example) may well suit a DPE course. DPE courses may focus on multiple themes or intersections between them, or may examine only one theme. Faculty proposing DPE courses are encouraged to choose topics and materials they are passionate about.

    DPE courses, like courses that receive the Quantitative/Formal Reasoning (QFR) and Writing Skills (WS) designation, are skill-building courses, and as such, should lead to the development of critical faculties that will prepare students to serve society at large. The pedagogical approaches employed vary significantly by discipline and content, but share the key aims of enabling students to 1) understand how power comes to be distributed unequally across difference, and 2) draw informed, responsible judgments about when and how to intervene to change such inequalities.

    Unit-Level Discussions and DPE Designation

    DPE designation is determined by unit chairs in consultation with faculty seeking this designation. Syllabi and course descriptions for DPE courses must include an explanation of how the course fulfills the purpose of the DPE requirement.

    Here are results of a CEA student member survey soliciting topics for DPE courses of particular interest to students.

    Browse DPE courses for examples of designation explanations.

  • All Williams College students take ONE QFR course as part of their distribution requirement.

    QFR catalog description.

    QFR courses must have regular and substantial problem sets in which quantitative/formal reasoning skills are practiced and evaluated. Courses which require only a few illustrative problems to be solved, that involve merely plugging numbers into formulae, or that spend only a small portion of the semester on formal skills would not qualify for this designation.

    While qualitative descriptions of scientific and mathematical topics can be worthwhile approaches to a discipline, these are not the main thrust of a QFR course. This is not to say that prose answers can play no role. In order to meet the QFR requirement, a course must clearly emphasize the skills of quantitative and formal reasoning. Translating real world phenomena into a mathematical description, computing quantitative results, and relating those results in words are the sorts of skills we would like to develop in a QFR course.

    Unit-Level Discussions and QFR Designation

    QFR designation is determined by unit chairs in consultation with faculty seeking this designation. Syllabi and course descriptions for QFR courses must include an explanation of how the course fulfills the purpose of the QFR requirement.

  • Enrollment caps, expected enrollments, and enrollment preferences are used by students in selecting courses during preregistration.


    Enrollment caps may not be added or lowered after preregistration for the semester, per faculty legislation.


    If you have an enrollment cap, you should also include enrollment preference information—who has priority for spaces if the course over-enrolls.

  • Pass/Fail Option policy catalog description.

    By default, students can enroll in a course on a graded or pass/fail basis.

    Faculty-approved pass/fail legislation mandates that if a course is designated as pass/fail, that option is made available to all students in a given course and should not be offered to individual students selectively or midway through the semester.

    When determining whether or not to offer a course pass/fail, it may be helpful to consult with unit chairs or colleagues.

    A pass/fail designation can't be changed after pre-registration—please check that your course is designated correctly.

  • Fifth Course Option policy catalog description.

    By default, any course (except a tutorial) is available for students to enroll as a fifth course.

    Consultation with unit chairs or colleagues may be helpful when determining if a course is not available for the fifth course option.

Annual Reports

Curricular Revision Reports and new courses, by division, for faculty review.