Hampshire College cutting 24 staffers, reducing faculty contracts

  • Interim Hampshire College President Ken Rosenthal, seen here in 2016. STAFF FILE PHOTO

  • Charles and Polly Longsworth Arts Village at Hampshire College, Tuesday, April 30, 2019. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Johnson Library Center at Hampshire College, Tuesday, April 30, 2019. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • The Johnson Library Center at Hampshire College is shown Tuesday. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Robert Crown Center at Hampshire College, Tuesday, April 30, 2019. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Robert Crown Center at Hampshire College, Tuesday, April 30, 2019. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • A Hampshire College facilities truck rests outside the Charles and Polly Longsworth Arts Village at Hampshire College, Tuesday, April 30, 2019. Facilities department employees were among those laid off. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

Published: 4/30/2019 11:36:17 AM

AMHERST — In an effort to reduce its budget amid financial trouble, Hampshire College is taking steps to reduce its workforce, which will include laying off 24 staff members by June 30, interim president Ken Rosenthal announced Tuesday.

In addition to the staff layoffs, many faculty members will not return to Hampshire next year, while some will return in reduced capacities.

The college cut the budget for faculty salaries by 45 percent, with 26 faculty taking voluntary leaves of absence from Hampshire, though many will remain within the Five College Consortium by taking visiting scholar positions at the area’s other colleges, Rosenthal said in a letter to campus.

Another 21 faculty members will have their hours reduced from full time to part time, while eight faculty are immediately retiring and three will have phased retirements, according to the letter.

Additionally, the college did not renew the year-to-year contracts of 12 visiting faculty members, although the college’s board of trustees has approved four visiting faculty appointments for next academic year.

“Seeing friends and colleagues leave couldn’t be harder,” Rosenthal wrote. “But we are also a deeply caring community, and I hope we can do our best to support each other through this change and transition.”

Hampshire began last Friday informing the 24 staff members that their positions will be eliminated by June 30. Affected staff members are being given a 60-day notice, and they will be briefed on their eligibility for severance.

“This year at Hampshire has not been what we expected, and this decision is not your fault. We so appreciate and value your service,” Rosenthal wrote to staff members whose jobs were eliminated.

An email request for comment sent to the college’s Staff Advocacy Committee was not immediately returned on Tuesday. Several staffers did not return phone or email messages.

The staff layoffs come after nine staffers were informed in February that they were being laid off, bringing the total to 33. That’s in addition to the 34 food service workers who will lose their jobs come Aug. 1 after the college did not renew its contract with Bon Appétit Management Co., a third-party contractor that runs the Bon Appétit café on campus.

Faculty reductions

Faculty are not classified in the same way as staff because each professor has a contract with the college, and Rosenthal wrote that many of the faculty have decided to voluntarily choose reductions to their Hampshire contracts so they can teach as visitors within the consortium.

One of those taking a position at another college is Jennifer Hamilton, a professor of legal studies and anthropology. She has accepted a two-year position at Amherst College, teaching in the sexuality, women’s and gender studies department.

Hamilton is also the president of the Hampshire chapter of the American Association of University Professors, or AAUP, which helped to figure out the specifics of how to cut the faculty salary pool while keeping as many faculty connected with the college as possible. She said that process included surveying faculty about what they were able and willing to do themselves.

“There was great willingness on the part of the faculty to sacrifice in this way to ensure that Hampshire stays intact as it could,” Hamilton said.

Tuesday’s announcement was a far cry from what was being considered earlier this year, she added.

“Had we followed through with the original plan, 50 percent of us would have been laid off this week with no connection to the college,” she said.

Campus spokesman John Courtmanche said that, in total, 73 faculty members have “chosen to retain their affiliation with Hampshire next year,” down from 114 this year.

Hamilton said the faculty presented their “reapportioning” plan to the board of trustees on Saturday, and she described the trustees’ acceptance of that plan as “bittersweet.”

“It’s a step towards the restoration of shared governance,” she said. “If only we had been given this opportunity last semester, or on Jan. 15, I think we would have been in a better position.”

It was on Jan. 15 that then-college president Miriam “Mim” Nelson announced that Hampshire would seek to partner with another institution to solve its financial woes. But that sudden announcement was met with backlash from many in the Hampshire community, eventually leading to the resignation of Nelson, the chairwoman of the board of trustees and a board vice chairman in early April, after which the board voted to pursue independence for the college.

The event that precipitated the layoffs and faculty reductions was the board’s decision, on Feb. 1, to accept only 77 students for fall 2019 — a combination of early admission students and those who had been accepted the previous year but took a gap year. At a school where tuition accounts for almost 90 percent of revenue, the absence of a full new class this fall will hit Hampshire hard financially.

Rosenthal has said he expects Hampshire to be a college of 600 or 650 students next year. In this academic year, Hampshire had 1,175 students. Applicants have until Wednesday, May 1, to make a deposit with the college, at which point the school will know how many students are attending this fall.

A network of alumni and friends of the college has already raised pledges of close to $5 million as part of a capital campaign aimed at helping keep Hampshire financially afloat. Over the next year, Hampshire is aiming to raise $15 million to $20 million and as much as $100 million over the next five to six years, Rosenthal recently told the Gazette.

Luis Fieldman can be reached at lfieldman@gazettenet.com. Dusty Christensen can be reached at dchristensen@gazettenet.com.


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