Amherst keeping close eye on changes at Hampshire College 

  • The Cole Science Center at Hampshire College in Amherst.   GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 2/6/2019 10:36:03 AM

AMHERST — As a major employer, a significant landowner and a key part of the region’s identity as the Five College area, the future of Hampshire College is critical to both the town and the Pioneer Valley, according to Town Manager Paul Bockelman.

With the acknowledgment of the college’s importance, Bockelman said Tuesday that he is closely watching what is unfolding on the campus in South Amherst and engaged in trying to find the right role for the town to play as the college confronts financial challenges.

“Any enterprise that large utilizes a lot of services in the region,” Bockelman said. “Anything like that we care a lot about.”

Last week, the college’s board of trustees voted to not accept an incoming class this fall, a decision that came just two weeks after President Miriam “Mim” Nelson announced Hampshire would be seeking a strategic partner. The college did offer acceptance to 77 students who had already been admitted.  

But Bockelman said there is uncertainty about what strategy he and the town can use without more specifics about what is happening at the college and what it will look like going forward, including who the strategic partner will be and whether Hampshire’s unique culture can be maintained.

Bockelman said he has reached out to college officials and hopes to connect with Nelson at some point to discuss more specifics. 

Whatever changes loom at Hampshire, for the employees and for the nearly 648 acres of college-owned land, Bockelman said he believes impacts will be felt by the town and throughout western Massachusetts.

While as town manager his first priority is promoting the town’s interests, Bockelman is also an alumnus of Hampshire College. He said he would like to see the college continue to play a leadership role in higher education.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at


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