Hampshire faculty table vote of no confidence

  • Hampshire College’s campus. HAMPSHIRE COLLEGE

Staff Writer
Published: 2/27/2019 2:53:47 PM

AMHERST — Faculty at Hampshire College have tabled a vote of no confidence in the school’s leadership.

The decision to table the vote follows a similar vote last week that was nullified on a technicality and comes after Hampshire College’s president announced on Jan. 15 that the school was searching to partner with another institution amid financial woes. On Feb. 1, Hampshire’s board of trustees voted not to accept an incoming class this fall, resulting in faculty and staff layoffs at the largely tuition-dependent college.

The faculty’s vote of no confidence would have applied to the college’s president, top members of the board of trustees and the college’s vice president for finance and administration. But the faculty have backed away from that option, which President Miriam “Mim” Nelson previously said could have led to the departures of senior leaders and further uncertainty in the college’s transition.

“This was a positive step,” Salman Hameed, an associate professor at the college, said of Tuesday’s decision. Hameed said the faculty overwhelming supported tabling the no-confidence vote, and that it comes amid an easing of tensions after last week’s dramatic events. “Some progress finally is being made to listen to some of the concerns that faculty have raised.”

For example, keeping Hampshire independent is at least being discussed as a potential option now, Hameed said: “When it was raised in the last month and a half since the Jan. 15 announcement, that was dismissed out of hand. Now that option is at least theoretically on the table.”

In a statement, incoming chairman of the board of trustees Kim Saal said that engagement with the Hampshire community is essential to the work ahead.

“Hampshire’s Board and senior leadership team look forward to continuing our work with the faculty, as well as with staff, students, and alumni, on exploring options for securing a sustainable future for the College,” Saal wrote.

Hameed said he and the majority of other faculty are part of the college’s chapter of the American Association of University Professors, and that initially, the college had agreed to negotiate with their legal counsel around issues such as layoffs and severance. But he said Hampshire’s legal team has not been negotiating with the chapter, and that has become a major sticking point.

“We are not a union, because we are not allowed to unionize, but this was a way of bargaining collectively,” he said, adding that he hoped the administration would resolve that issue.

Hampshire College spokesman John Courtmanche wrote in a statement that the college “will be discussing faculty related issues directly with a group of faculty formed by the faculty for this purpose.”

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

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