Five College Consortium ‘eager as anybody’ to know where Hampshire is headed

  • Hampshire College’s campus. Hampshire College

  • The Five Colleges Inc. building in Amherst. FIVE COLLEGES INC.

Staff Writer
Published: 2/28/2019 11:42:37 PM

AMHERST — As big changes loom for Hampshire College, the Five College Consortium is in a holding pattern.

Already, the University of Massachusetts Amherst is not allowing students to register for courses at Hampshire, where the fall class schedule is unclear after the college decided not to admit a full class amid financial problems and an ongoing search for a partner. And the head of the Five College Consortium says the organization is on “standby” waiting to see how those decisions might affect the consortium.

“The short answer is we don’t actually know yet,” Five Colleges Inc. Executive Director Sarah Pfatteicher said.

Pfatteicher defined her organization’s role as helping all five separate institutions “play together.” Through Five Colleges Inc., the area’s campuses share resources and facilities, programs, joint departments and transportation.

Normally, developing the consortium’s budget is a six- to eight-month process, Pfatteicher said, but some of those efforts are slowed as the organization waits for news from Hampshire. Pfatteicher didn’t seem fazed, however.

“It’s rarely the case that I have all the information that I want when I’m putting things together,” she said. Currently, the consortium knows what a budget would look like with full participation of all five partners. “We’re waiting to hear what it would look like with less than full participation from all five partners.”

Pfatteicher said the other institutions are committed to making sure Hampshire College students continue to have access to the courses they’ll need. The agreement that allows students to take classes on any of the five campuses remains intact and is not dependent on any institution’s tuition or enrollment.

“If there are things that we’re able to do to help cushion some blow in some way, I think we want to do that,” Pfatteicher said. “But it’s got to be in line with what we have funding available to do.”

In a statement, UMass Amherst spokesman Ed Blaguszewski said that the university is holding off on allowing students to register for classes at Hampshire until the college’s fall course schedule becomes clearer. Hampshire College has yet to announce any faculty layoffs.

Said Blaguszewski, “Our provost has told his counterpart at Hampshire that we will do all we can to provide access to our courses for Hampshire students who need them to progress in their academic programs.”

Amherst College spokeswoman Sandy Genelius said that Amherst’s deans have decided to allow students to take three courses on campus instead of the two they’re ordinarily allowed to take.

Hampshire College, in its public statements about its search for a partner institution, has said that it is considering a wide range of possibilities. That means the possibility of Hampshire bringing in a new member to the Five College Consortium, or potentially exiting the consortium.

Pfatteicher said that all of those options would be on the table but would have to be worked out through the consortium’s governance structure. The Five Colleges Inc. board of directors consists of the presidents of Hampshire, Amherst, Smith and Mount Holyoke colleges, the chancellor of UMass Amherst and the president of the UMass system.

It wouldn’t be the first time that the consortium has had to change. The consortium dates back to collaborations in 1914, and subsequent efforts in the 1950s, among Amherst, Mount Holyoke, Smith and UMass Amherst. The consortium was expanded in 1966 with Hampshire’s addition.

But before any Five College decisions could be made or even contemplated, everyone has to wait until Hampshire announces its plans for the future.

“We are as eager as anybody to hear what the future is going to be, but the nature of our existence is we are secondary or supplemental to the individual campuses,” Pfatteicher said of Five Colleges Inc. “There are probably effects we will need to think about.”

Dusty Christensen can be reached at dchristensen@gazettenet.com.


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