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Why I Love Hampshire College

Zilong Wangby Zilong Wang 09F, student trustee

There is no unconditional love, so here I wish to explain why I love Hampshire College.

I love Hampshire because it is imperfect. An imperfect school makes a perfect place for critical thinking.

Hampshire College is never a finished product; it is a constant experiment and improvement. The students are not just service receivers; we are the creators and we take this responsibility eagerly and seriously.

I love Hampshire for its paradoxes.

Let me name a few:
Hampshire has a tradition of breaking the traditions. Hampshire is in the business of thinking outside the box. Therefore, Hampshire has an inherent restlessness in its genes. It has to keep reinventing itself and to engage in painful self-reflection and self-criticism.

Another paradox is that the best Hampshire students are the most critical of the school, and they are often the ones who take the most off-campus classes. This is a sign of Hampshire success, just as the parents are successful when the child leaves home and recognizes the parents’ mistakes. But the child only loves the parents more.

A third paradox: Hampshire was unique in the 1970s, but less so now because other schools have borrowed Hampshire’s idea. This is exactly what Hampshire set out to achieve—to unsettle rigid higher education. But Hampshire’s success has led to loss of comparative advantages, so Hampshire has to find a new edge to be the pioneer in the next round of progress. The appointment of Jonathan Lash as Hampshire’s new president is a decisive step.

I love Hampshire because it is doing the society a great favor by being the “venture capitalist” in education. Amherst College is like a successful pension fund, investing in only those blue chip stocks with low risk and sure returns. Amherst students would probably still be successful without Amherst—they would have been admitted to other Ivy Leagues, or their daddy would figure something out. In contrast, Hampshire is the venture capitalist who welcomes unconventional students, giving them a chance to discover and express themselves, and in many situations to have a second life. There’s no other place like Hampshire. Hampshire shows the world that there is more than one definition of success—all roads lead to Rome. More important, Hampshire makes you realize that Rome probably is not where you really want to go.

I love Hampshire because I am pushed to work extra hard. First, we must have a command of the orthodoxy. Then we have to critique it. Finally, we have to create something new and better. Another way to look at it is that Hampshire students have to take care of spiritual and material worlds at the same time. Being successful is not enough; we have to do good.

Of course, Hampshire is full of its own shortcomings. My biggest objection is people showing up late for appointments. Also, critical thinking might turn into self-righteousness. Sometimes, I am quite disturbed by the situation in the College, but soon realize that this disturbance is an invaluable education.

To conclude, I will tell a story. At the age of 18, I meet a girl. She is unique, creative, energetic, and sometimes crazy. She is sincere, unpretentious, not totally mature, and loves nature. I decide to spend four precious years with her. She makes me laugh, and she makes me angry. Sometimes we fight and try to break up. Eventually, I get to know a lot about her, and through her I have learned even more about myself. We are growing together, and this mutual growth will never end.

I love her, and I think you know her name.

“I love Hampshire because it is imperfect. An imperfect school makes a perfect place for critical thinking.”

 

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