Hampshire College students warned of readmission, graduation limits

  • Hampshire College's campus. Amanda Schwengel—HAMPSHIRE COLLEGE

Staff Writer
Published: 3/6/2019 11:59:36 PM

AMHERST — Hampshire College has told students who are on medical leave or withdrawn from the college that they will not readmit anyone who expects to graduate after May 2022.

Hampshire’s future is deeply uncertain after college President Miriam “Mim” Nelson announced in January that the school is seeking to partner with another institution in order to ensure Hampshire’s financial survival.

“We will not readmit any student for fall 2019 who expects to graduate after May 2022,” a March 1 letter from the college’s Center for Academic Support and Advising to students reads. “This means students must have completed the equivalent of four full semesters at Hampshire to be eligible for readmissions.”

The announcement caused a stir in the Hampshire community.

“Absolutely horrific update,” reads a post on the website of the group Save Hampshire College, which consists of alumni, parents and students. “This includes those who may be taking leaves of absence for health or personal reasons.”

In response to the concern, the college’s advising office sent a follow-up email to students on Wednesday clarifying what exactly was meant by the message.

“First, we want to say we understand that it caused concern, and we’re sorry for that,” the email reads. “As we’ve stated earlier, we’re committed to supporting all our current students as you work toward graduation by May 2022.”

The email notes that if a student decides to take a one-semester personal leave of absence, they do not need to apply for readmission, as has long been the policy at Hampshire. However, any students currently on medical leave or withdrawn from the college would have to apply to return to Hampshire.

“However, we cannot promise that you would be readmitted under the current academic program,” the email reads.

For students who expect to graduate by May 2022 and wish to take personal leave, the college “cannot, at this moment, promise that you would be graduating from Hampshire’s current academic program,” the email continues.

In an email to the Gazette, spokesman John Courtmanche said any students who missed coursework this year — or plan to miss any in the future — need to work with their faculty advisers, a dean or the Center for Academic Support and Advising to develop a plan to get back on track to graduate by May 2022.

“We don’t have a number for the number of students currently affected by missed coursework, as we’re in the middle of the semester,” Courtmanche wrote.

At least one family, however, is concerned that the announcement will affect them directly.

Suzanne Perkins is a Hampshire alum whose daughter is a first-year student at the college, but had to take a leave of absence this semester because of complications resulting from muscular dystrophy.

“She had a medical leave agreement that they seem to have ripped up,” Perkins said.

Hampshire’s website specifies that each student’s situation will be individually reviewed in April, adding that the college will need to consider each student’s capacity to earn a diploma by May 2022 “along with input from the student about specific needs and expectations of campus-based resources.”

Perkins said her daughter had failed a few classes in high school after missing time due to her medical condition, but when she applied to Hampshire the college “looked at her as a whole person” and accepted her — something Perkins doesn’t think other colleges would have done.

Now, however, Perkins is concerned her daughter will be unable to complete her degree at the college she has long dreamed of attending.

“It’s very distressing,” Perkins said.

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


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