Policies & Terms of Use

The Office of Communications, with guidance from the college’s Information Technology Committee, oversees Williams’ web presence and manages web publishing platforms available to faculty, staff, and students. College community members are invited to use these resources to conduct the business of the institution and express themselves as members of the community. The policies below are intended to clarify how these resources may be used and what options are available to those publishing content on the web.

Website URLs

The majority of sites hosted by the college and managed by the web development team have URLs based on the college’s top-level domain (TLD): williams.edu. These URLs take two different forms depending on their purpose and the server on which they are hosted:

Subdomain: http://name-of-site.williams.edu
URLs of sites hosted on the college’s primary web server follow the subdomain model. The name of the site, without spaces or special characters, precedes the college domain.

URLs of this type are available to sites described by one of these criteria:

  • Academic department or administrative office
  • Major college initiative
  • Major perennial college event

Responsibility for managing such a site must be assigned to a permanent college employee.

Subdirectory: http://sites.williams.edu/name-of-site
Sites residing on our “sites” WordPress installation always follow the pattern above. The domain, sites.williams.edu, precedes the name of the site, again with no spaces or special characters.

This server is available to all faculty, staff and students with active college logins. By default, the URL of a site created by an individual is the domain followed by their user ID. For example:

The web team can activate sites with URLs not tied to a specific user upon request (for special projects, conferences, class blogs, etc.). Examples are:

Email [email protected] to request a URL of this type.

Terms of use for sites.williams.edu

Current Williams faculty, staff, and students may create and maintain a website hosted by the college. The nature of the content posted to these sites is left to discretion of the site owner, but the college reserves the right to remove any content deemed inappropriate.

By creating and maintaining a site on a Williams server, you agree to abide by all applicable codes of conduct, including but not limited to the Williams honor system, policies stated in college handbooks, and U.S. copyright law. Failure to adhere to these rules and laws may result in your site being removed from the server.

The college offers no guarantee that sites and their content will be retained or archived after an individual has left the institution, whether by graduation, retirement, or for other reasons. If you are leaving Williams and would like a copy of your site’s content, please contact the webteam by email ([email protected]) and we will attempt to make an exported version of it available to you.

WordPress plugin installation and management

Plugins are software programs written to work with WordPress to extend its functionality. One question we’re often asked is, “Can you add this great plugin I found to WordPress so I can use it on my site?” We don’t like saying no, but we have to think carefully before we say yes, because plugins are inherently risky, and your site is likely hosted on a server with many other websites. So a poorly designed plugin could break your site and a lot of other sites, too.

There is no central authority that certifies WordPress plugins as safe, so while there are many great ones out there, a larger number are poorly written and create serious security risks. So, it’s incumbent on us to safeguard our WordPress content management system (CMS) by looking closely at any plugin we consider installing. Here are some of the factors we weigh:

  • Does the plugin work as advertised? With our version of WordPress?
  • If there are multiple plugins that offer the same utility, is this one the best option?
  • Are there known security vulnerabilities or bugs?
  • Does the plugin code use the WordPress API correctly and follow security best practices?
  • Is there an active community supporting and continuing to develop this plugin?
  • Would a non-WordPress alternative be a better or more appropriate solution?
  • Does the plugin offer important utility currently lacking in the CMS?
  • What’s the potential benefit of this plugin site-wide?

One other important consideration is the cost of maintaining plugins. Though most plugins are free to download and use, their cost can be calculated in the number of hours the web development team spends managing them–testing, upgrading, and retesting–work that is time-consuming but essential to keeping the CMS secure and available to all. So if you’re interested in a plugin, please contact us, and we’ll explore it.