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Recommendations for an optimal conclusion to Hampshire College (opinion)
"Hampshire College: Fold, Don’t Merge: Michael Drucker proposes what he thinks would be an ethical conclusion to the experimental college."



"When I say my alma mater is an experimental college, I mean it literally. No grades. No majors. No tests. We are different by design and intention.

My academic adviser would ask me, “What are you curious about in the world?” and “How are you going to find the knowledge you need to answer those questions?” Since we have no majors, we have no list to follow telling us exactly what courses to take to complete our degree. Students must not only study the material in their chosen areas of concentration but also figure out what that will be. Simply being a student at Hampshire College is an act of experiential education.

Hampshire’s educational philosophy asks: What is possible if students are studying for the sake of learning instead of competing for letter grades? What is possible if students are studying not only for the sake of learning but also for innovative, interdisciplinary applications of that knowledge?

Do Not Resuscitate

In January, President Miriam E. Nelson announced the search for a long-term strategic partner for Hampshire and questioned first-year class enrollment. Student activism ignited. Alumni, faculty and staff comments in support and dissent flooded in. A petition calling for shared governance collected thousands of signatures within days. On Feb. 1, Hampshire announced it would enroll only early-decision admits and students who previously deferred.

A partnership, or a merger, could be great if I’m allowing myself to be optimistic. But it’s increasingly difficult to sustain optimism, as my idealism feels more like naïveté with each passing day. Staff layoffs may begin as early as April. Early-decision admits are told a new affiliate will likely control how any diploma they earn will be awarded. Notable alumnus Jon Krakauer writes in The New York Times that in the merger “it is not at all clear how much of the Hampshire philosophy -- to say nothing of the Hampshire soul -- will survive.”

I feel more and more confident that Hampshire’s soul will not survive. If that’s the case, I do not want to keep our institution on life support. I respectfully submit my request to the Hampshire Board of Trustees to consider ordering a DNR for our beloved and complicated alma mater.

Without our educational “soul,” what remains is still something beautiful: a liberal arts campus with provocative course material, progressive ideologies and the harmonious clashing of overlapping countercultures. But that’s something students can find at many other colleges around the world. It’s not enough for me to want Hampshire to continue for the sake of its name living on.

The pedagogical tenets of our educational experiment make us who we are. Without them, we are not Hampshire College. Some might ask if it’s really that bad to have majors, grades or tests. No, it’s not the end of the world, but it is the end of Hampshire.

I’m only 27, and I’ve lost both of my parents. My dad died when I was a third-year student at Hampshire. The day he passed, I was at ACPA’s annual convention with Hampshire student affairs representatives. My first professional mentor was there and consoled me the night I found out. My mom passed in the summer of 2017 -- too young and too soon.

I know what loss, mourning and grief mean. I’ve already begun mourning Hampshire as I’ve done before while preparing myself emotionally for the painful departure of a loved one. I do not want Hampshire to close, but I know that it is an option. My personal experiences make it easier for me to consider it as a viable one. I’m not afraid of it.

My preference for Hampshire to close, rather than merge, is not about me throwing in the towel on a good fight to save our college. It’s about respecting its legacy. It’s about preferring to honor it in memory rather than seeing it diluted in its new form. It’s about thanking Hampshire for what it has been and letting it pass peacefully.

It may be over, but it’s not a failure. We had 50 years of magic. We existed. We were here. It mattered. It will continue to matter.

An Ethical Conclusion

Closing Hampshire College is not as simple as one human being dying (which is, of course, not simple at all). Closing the college would have an immense economic effect on its employees and the local Amherst community. It has four classes of active students to consider. But I would support closing rather than merging if we could spend our energy and resources developing the best conclusion possible. There is potential here for us to truly live out Hampshire’s philosophy until the end.

From what I can gather, however, what is happening right now is not an ethical termination. Amherst College faculty members wrote an open letter to President Nelson criticizing the recent decisions made without adequate faculty input, noting, “No leader in any field can violate long-standing professional norms for long without compromising his or her credibility and losing the confidence of core constituencies.” Hampshire’s Executive Committee of the Faculty authored their own letter declaring that the president’s Jan. 15 announcement considering not accepting an incoming class “turned a financial crisis into a catastrophe” -- in essence making it so that Hampshire then had no choice but to fulfill this self-defeating prophecy and spiral down toward helplessness. The staff, faculty and administrators are now in the midst of learning of layoffs. Those who must leave have only 60 days to prepare; those who stay are headed into the unknown. Either way, there is harm done. It seems the employees and students living and working on the campus right now are being neglected in the shuffle.

Do this, but do it right. Gather all Hampshire constituencies for planning the conclusion of Hampshire in the spirit of shared of governance. Generate ideas, cross over disciplines and break boundaries -- discover the beauty in something tragic. Lengthen the window of time for shutting down. Create a four-year plan for closing up shop. Do everything we want to do in that time.

Provide accurate information to all employees with at least six months' notice, if not more, for changes or termination. Use your remaining resources to financially ease the transition for all your employees.

Let current students grieve and be angry. Offer them what you actually can offer them. Don’t hold out with information you know is inevitable. If current first-years need to transfer to have full college experiences, tell them as soon as possible and help them do it. Learn from other colleges that have closed. Replicate their better practices and learn from their shortcomings.

Last, let’s throw Hampshire the most perfectly Hampshire going-away party we’ve ever seen. Let’s celebrate what we’ve done. Let’s document our innovations and accomplishments. Let’s show others how to resurrect what Hampshire did if the financial and political tides turn. Invite alums back to campus for a weekend of acknowledgment, celebration and community. If we were to lean into this direction now, we have the potential to do something extraordinary.

Before anything, the people making the decisions need to reveal the status of the merger’s development. The board and senior administrators must gamble on showing their cards. It would take a radical amount of vulnerability to show us all what our options are -- and an even greater amount would be to let us all have a say in which direction we go.

The students organizing in Hamp.Rise.Up are demanding just that: a say in what’s happening. It’s not typical for a college to do that in this dire situation, but we’ve never been typical. What would it mean to have a Hampshire-wide democratic vote on the future of our college? Even if we vote to close the institution in light of unfavorable mergers, what could we teach to the rest of higher education by the process through which we got there?

We are a college that lives our motto, Non Satis Scire: “to know is not enough.” So far, we don’t know much, and that is clearly not enough. But given the chance, what could we create?"
hampshirecollege  2019  michaeldrucker  alternative  education  learning  howwelearn  highered  highereducation  maverickcolleges  experience  experiential  grades  grading  ethics 
march 2019 by robertogreco
College of Theseus | Easily Distracted
"A lot of those 1960s institutions have lived on the edge of failure for their entire existence. They were responding to a temporary surge in demand. They did not have the benefit of a century or more of alumni who would contribute donations, or an endowment built up over decades. They did not have names to conjure with. They were often founded (like many non-profits) by single strong personalities with a narrow vision or obsession that only held while the strong personality was holding on to the steering wheel. Newbury is a great example of this. It wasn’t founded until 1962, as a college of business, by a local Boston entrepreneur. It relocated multiple times, once into a vacated property identified formerly with a different university. It changed its name and focus multiple times. It acquired other educational institutions and merged them with its main operations, again creating some brand confusion. It started branch campuses. It’s only been something like a standardized liberal-arts institution since 1994. In 2015 it chased yet another trend via expensive construction projects, trying to promise students a new commitment to their economic success.

This is not a college going under suddenly and unexpectedly after a century of stately and “traditional” operations. This is not Coca-Cola suddenly going under because now everyone wants kombucha made by a Juicero. This is Cactus Cooler or Mr. Pibb being discontinued.

Let’s take Hampshire College. It’s a cool place. I’ve always admired it; I considered attending it when I was graduating high school. But it’s also not a venerable traditional liberal arts college. It’s an experiment that was started as a response to an exceptionally 60s-era deliberative process shared between Amherst, Smith, Mount Holyoke and UMass Amherst. It’s always had to work hard to find students who responded to its very distinctive curricular design and identity, especially once the era that led to its founding began to lose some of its moral and political influence. You can think about Hampshire’s struggle to survive in relationship to that very particular history. You should think about it that way in preference to just making it a single data point on a generalized grid.

Let’s take Green Mountain College. “The latest to close”, as Inside Higher Education says–again fitting into a trend as a single data point. At least this time it is actually old, right? Founded in 1834, part of that huge first wave of educational genesis. But hang on. It wasn’t Green Mountain College at the start. It was Troy Conference Academy. Originally coed, then it changed its name to Ripley Female Academy and went single-sex. Then it was back to Troy Conference. Then during the Great Depression it was Green Mountain Junior College, a 2-year preparatory school. Only in 1974 did it become Green Mountain College, with a 4-year liberal arts degree, and only in the 1990s did it decide to emphasize environmental studies.

Is that the same institution, with a single continuous history? Or is it a kind of constellation of semi-related institutions, all of which basically ‘closed’ and were replaced by something completely different?

If you set out to create a list of all the colleges and universities by name which have ever existed in the United States, all the alternate names and curricular structures and admissions approaches of institutions which sometimes have existed on the same site but often have moved, you couldn’t help but see that closures are an utterly normal part of the story of American higher education. Moreover, that they are often just a phase–a place closes, another institution moves in or buys the name or uses the facilities. Sure, sometimes a college or university or prep school or boarding school gets abandoned for good, becomes a ruin, is forgotten. That happens too. We are not in the middle of a singular rupture, a thing which has never happened before, an unbroken tradition at last subject to disruption and innovation.

This doesn’t mean that we should be happy when a college or university closes. That’s the livelihood of the people who work there, it’s the life of the students who are still there, it’s a broken tie for its alumni (however short or long its life has been), the loss of all the interesting things that were done there in its time. But when you look at the story of any particular closure, they all have some important particulars. The story being told that flatters the disruptors and innovators would have us thinking that there are these venerable, traditional, basically successful institutions going about their business and then suddenly, ZANG, the future lands on them and they can’t survive. At least some of the institutions closing have been hustling or struggling or rebranding for their entire existence."
hampshirecollege  2018  timothyburke  history  disruption  colleges  universities  experimentation  alternative  greenmounaincollege  newburycollege  2019  highereducation  highered  maverickcolleges 
january 2019 by robertogreco
A Response from Hampshire College Faculty, Staff, and Alumnx to Recent Announcements by Hampshire College Senior Leadership
"We, the undersigned Hampshire College staff, faculty, and alumnx, write to express our dismay and deep concern about the recent announcement and decision making process regarding future directions for the College. We call on the senior leadership to admit the fall 2019 first year class and to immediately put in place a process that ensures that faculty and staff will be truly and fully engaged in a transparent and collaborative decision making process that reflects Hampshire’s tradition of shared governance.

Not accepting a fall 2019 first year class has been presented as a strategic, ethical, and economic decision, but this does not necessarily account for the human costs to our current community—among these, layoffs that could destroy the careers and livelihood of Hampshire employees who have dedicated their personal and professional lives to make Hampshire what it is, and the impact on existing students who may feel compelled to leave the college. We are concerned this path forward will exacerbate exactly the budget issues that the Trustees have fiduciary responsibility for, and risks irreparable damage to the educational community in the supposed guise of saving the institution. This decision betrays the trust of the current students, faculty, and staff. If the people and the values and the work that built Hampshire are sacrificed in pursuit of a strategic merger, we no longer have the institution. Instead of creating a possible downward spiral, we need to bring in a new class that has chosen Hampshire for our unique curriculum, and who will work alongside us to forge a new future for the college.

In our boldness in living, learning, and teaching from our values, the people are the most important asset here. The current strategy has not taken into consideration this most precious asset. Yet, there has been a manufactured and false sense of democratic input that violates our open, shared governance covenant. These decisions appear to have been made prior to and independent of the democratic work of the visioning committees and governance committees we are promised. The recent major decisions about us—Hampshire students, faculty, staff, and alumnx—have been made entirely without us.

It is essential that any new strategy for the future of the College includes and prioritizes the retention of current faculty, staff, and students, including our financial and professional protection going forward. We have been told that care for the interests of students, faculty, and staff is a guiding principle informing recent decisions, but these interests are not reflected in the processes and practices we have seen. Without the people who have built Hampshire, against great odds and always with the utmost heart and dedication—the faculty, staff, and students who ARE Hampshire—there is no Hampshire.

We reject any future for Hampshire that treats the mission and vision of the College, as well as the current community of faculty, staff, and students, as collateral damage in the search to secure Hampshire’s longevity in a time of massive change. Those of us on campus, aware of the challenges facing liberal arts colleges, have long anticipated that many changes would be coming. We have always offered our wisdom to support a path forward. We are ready and willing to co-create change with care, courage, and nuance, and we must be part of creating a collective vision of a Hampshire future."
hampshirecollege  2019  highereducation  highered  colleges  universities  alternative  maverickcolleges 
january 2019 by robertogreco
Hampshire College looks for partner, may not enroll freshmen in fall
"Hampshire College, the nearly 50-year-old experiment in self-directed education, facing "bruising financial and demographic realities," looks for a partner."
hampshirecollege  2019  highereducation  highered  colleges  universities  alternative  maverickcolleges 
january 2019 by robertogreco
The Evergreen State College Archives
"Archives are the corporate memory of the institution. Included are the business and operational records of the College that are no longer actively in use in offices throughout the institution :

The materials available in Archives must also be either of continuing administrative, legal, or historical importance.
Archives provide institutional researchers with documentation on:

• past policy, procedures, and documentation of official activities on behalf of the college.

• activities of administrators, staff , faculty - includes personal papers of retired or deceased administrators, faculty, and staff who have been part of the Evergreen Community.

• academic and leisure education programs - includes program histories.

• student academic work and student organizatons - includes examples of individual and student group academic work and the corporate records of campus student organizations.

Note: The search function has been removed from this page until it can be upgraded. Changes to the coding have made the search function inoperable. Please use the search box on the main TESC web page. It should provide links to Archival materials held in this repository."
evergreenstatecollege  washingtonstate  education  highered  highereducation  maverickcolleges  archives 
september 2014 by robertogreco
Historical Documents at Evergreen
"• No academic departments
• No academic requirements
• No faculty rank
• No grades

--Charles J. McCann

The Evergreen State College is often noted for what it isn't, perhaps most famously by the "Four Nos" first articulated over 40 years ago by founding president Charlie McCann. Before Evergreen opened its doors, direction for the new college was as much about what it shouldn't be as what it should. State Senator Gordon Sandison said the Legislature did not want "just another four year college" bound by rigid structures of tradition. Governor Dan Evans expressed the need to "unshackle our educational thinking from traditional patterns" to create a "flexible and sophisticated educated instrument."

Knowing what you aren't can be immensely freeing, but it doesn't tell a fuller story of what you are. The documents listed below are some of the college's primary texts and key secondary sources. We hope they shed light on how Evergreen became the college it did and how it continues to define and redefine itself.

If you don't see something that you think should be here, contact John McLain, ext. 6045. To learn more about Evergreen's history, visit the Archives in Library 0426 or contact Archivist Randy Stilson, ext. 6126."
evergreenstatecollege  washingtonstate  history  charliemccann  maverickcolleges  highered  highereducation  bibliography 
september 2014 by robertogreco

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