A different path: Hampshire community to unveil plan to trustees Sunday

  • Signs on doors in the Cole Science Center where Hampshire College Students are having a sit in in response to the colleges decision around enrollment.

Staff Writer
Published: 3/22/2019 4:21:12 PM

AMHERST — An alternative plan for preserving Hampshire College — keeping it autonomous and financially secure while continuing to pursue its core mission — is being formally unveiled by a coalition of faculty, staff, students and alumni.

The Re-envisioning Plan will be presented to college trustees when the board meets in Amherst on Sunday.

Those advocating for this plan, which has been endorsed by former Hampshire presidents Charles Longsworth, Adele Simmons and Gregory Prince, see it as a chance to pursue a different path than the one laid out by President Miriam “Mim” Nelson on Jan. 15, when she said Hampshire would be seeking a strategic partner.

To pursue this plan, the coalition will depend on fundraising efforts by two alumni groups. The plan is setting a $5 million fundraising target by April 20 and a $20 million goal by Oct. 20. A Campaign for Hampshire College and Hampshire Future are the main fundraising efforts.

Christoph Cox, a professor of philosophy at the college, wrote in an email that even if the coalition misses those targets, it doesn’t mean the project fails.

With the college not enrolling a first-year class this fall, though, there is more financial uncertainty, Cox said.

“The precise amount needed to carry Hampshire next year without an F19 class is not exactly clear. That’s why we're aiming high,” Cox said.

There are three components to the Re-envisioning Plan:

*Creating a “Community Commons” that will attract and retain students through collaborative leadership, peer mentoring and community partnerships.

*Capitalizing on Hampshire’s reputation as an undergraduate research college by establishing a flexible curriculum organized around interdisciplinary research centers responsive to contemporary issues.

*Ensuring financial sustainability through innovative administrative structures, cutting costs, renewed fundraising, global outreach and better collaboration with Five College partners.

Suzanne Perkins, research facilitator and co-founder of Save Hampshire, said the group is endorsing this plan and its calls for a council made up of faculty, staff, students, alumni, Five College colleagues and others in the Hampshire community “that will initiate the work of imagining the college’s future.”

A promotional video featuring documentary filmmaker and Hampshire alumnus Ken Burns has been put together to promote the initial fundraising: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ebTmTNzCQNc

Meanwhile, Save Hampshire and a food service workers union concerned with the college’s future are asking for more information so good decisions can be made.

Food service workers who are part of New England Joint Board Unite Here Local 164 labor union have sent a letter to Nelson and Treasurer Mary McNeany about the future of their jobs. These workers are requesting to be part of ongoing discussions on campus.

The Save Hampshire group recently asked the administration to provide detailed financial information so it can assess the college’s situation.

Having not yet received a response to the information sought, the group’s legal facilitator, Evan Brandes, issued a statement.

“We are concerned that the Hampshire community — including the full board — have access to all relevant and accurate financial documents,” Brandes said. “We have not seen any indication that the board or President Nelson has been forthright with operating budgets, financial analysis, or their own data. In the coming days Save Hampshire will be providing the board and Hampshire community with an independent analysis of revenue, expenses, and discount rates, showing a relatively stable if precarious position.”

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.

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