UMass President Meehan opens up about talks with Hampshire College

  • University of Massachusetts President Martin T. Meehan applauds during remarks by Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy during commencement, Friday, May 11, 2018 at McGuirk Stadium. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 4/5/2019 5:54:55 PM

AMHERST — In February, the Gazette obtained emails that shed light on conversations between high-ranking officials at Hampshire College and the University of Massachusetts Amherst, including a request from Hampshire leaders to expedite an agreement to partner.

Until now, state education leaders have been quiet about the extent of those talks. But in a Friday interview on WHMP, UMass President Marty Meehan broached the subject with Bill Newman, director of the ACLU of Massachusetts’ western Massachusetts office, and Massachusetts Teachers Association Vice President Max Page.

In the interview, Meehan said that there had been discussions about a possible partnership or acquisition.

“You look at that campus, and it would be a great addition,” Meehan said of Hampshire College. “But it never to my knowledge got to the specifics of what would a term sheet look like, what would happen with faculty, what would happen with students, what programs would go where.”

The preliminary nature of those conversations, he said, differed from the level of detail involved in the ultimately productive discussions around UMass Amherst taking over Mount Ida College.

The acquisition of Mount Ida played a role in shaping UMass’s attitude when talking with Hampshire, Meehan said. That’s because the deal became controversial as Mount Ida students and their families were thrown into uncertainty over their educational futures.

“UMass kind of got into the middle of a storm,” Meehan said. “So I think UMass wants to be careful about what the perceived role is when a college or university is having trouble.”

Any proposal for a partnership or acquisition would come from UMass Amherst Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy, Meehan said, adding that he would work on any such proposal with Subbaswamy before the board of trustees decided whether to move forward.

With that said, Meehan added that he doesn’t think there’s any “detailed dialogue” going on right now between the parties.

“But that’s up to the campus,” Meehan said, referring to UMass Amherst.

Meehan was clear, however, that UMass can’t take over any college that isn’t financially viable. 

“We’re supportive of efforts that are being made to keep it open,” Meehan said of Hampshire College. “But we can’t take, basically, student tuition money from UMass Amherst students and put it into something that’s going to lose money.”

Dusty Christensen can be reached at


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