NEASC Self-Study, 1997
Self-Study for NEASC Accreditation. Hampshire College, Amherst, Mass., Fall 1997
Standard One: Mission and Purposes
A President's Sense of Mission: Excerpts from a letter to a recent alumnus:
Hampshire's mission is to provide an outstanding liberal arts education to students who have the commitment and perserverance to pursue that education through a distinctive progressive pedagogy based on the philosophy of John Dewey. This has been the core of the College's educational program since its founding.
The liberal arts focus of this mission is common to many educational institutions--to develop a student's capacity to think clearly, critically, and creatively; to judge wisely and to act humanely, responsibly and collaboratively; and to communicate effectively. To acquire those capacities requires different kinds of knowledge and skills as well as a commitment to a set of principles that must guide academic exploration and discourse.
Hampshire's pedagogy incorporates student-initiated programs created with faculty, confirmed in mutually agreed-upon contracts, pursued through multidisciplinary programs, and evaluated through portfolios rather than grades. At the core of those components lies the principle that knowledge alone is not the goal but rather knowledge used in the service of humanity--Non Satis Scire, To know is not enough. The community service requirement and the Third World expectation give scope and substance to that principle.
Many institutions use such a distinctive pedagogy, but most only do so with a small percentage of the students. Hampshire's distinctiveness lies in the belief that such an education is best for all students and that any individual, whatever his or her background and preparation, will grow the most in this learning environment. All students, not just a select few, benefit from having such an educational opportunity.
Hampshire College, since its founding, has dedicated itself to making a constructive, progressive contribution to the well-being of our society. It does so first and foremost through the knowledge it generates and the contributions of its graduates (the traditional means pursued by all liberal arts colleges). It goes further by emphasizing that the institution itself must make a contribution through its own policies and the projects that it adopts.
Gregory S. Prince, Jr.
What is Hampshire's mission? I believe it is to teach students to ask questions, and to answer them; to take responsibility for their own education; and to use the tools of the various scholarly disciplines to examine and analyze critically issues of importance to society and themselves. Hampshire's mission is to lead students not only to acquire knowledge, but to contribute to its sum, then apply that knowledge (cf., the college's motto, Non satis scire) to make the world a better place.
Susan Dayall, Assistant Director of the Library (p.1)
Standard Two: Planning and Evaluation
Hampshire's challenges are easily named. Undercapitalized at its founding, the 27-year-old institution struggles to contain the high costs of its individualized and therefore highly labor-intensive program while building its small endowment, raising funds from a young alumni/ae body, and restraining the rate of increase in tuition and room and board costs. The financial struggle is omnipresent. So, too, is the tension created by maintaining the college's admissions posture as a highly selective institution, making sufficient financial aid available to attract a well-qualified, diverse class, and keeping true to its primary mission as a distinctive, experimenting liberal arts institution. If the challenges--internal and external constraints--can be summarized in three words, "money, applicants, and retention," the institution's strengths happily comprise a much longer list. A talented faculty, dedicated staff, lively students, a unique, rigorous academic program that stretches each student who negotiates it, and a beautiful location are among Hampshire's greatest assets, giving it a distinctive position in an increasingly competitive marketplace. Administrative and staff talent is another sometimes unrecognized asset...(p.9)
Standard Three: Organization and Governance
In the early 1970s Hampshire College structured its governance according to a magnificent ideal--that people who are affected by its policy in any aspect of the college should have voice and vote in the making of that policy. As an ideal it is superlative; in practice, it is confusing, maddening, extremely time-consuming, and occasionally, highly satisfying. But if one of the purposes of higher education is to prepare individuals to be effective agents in the institutions of society, then those individuals, as obvious as it sounds, must learn, actively, how to be effective agents in institutions, in government. And learning is confusing, maddening, extremely time-consuming, and occasionally, highly satisfying. I have found no better place to do it than Hampshire College. Though it bumbles along the never-ending path toward its ideal, it leaves in its wake clever, responsible, powerful individuals. I hope it never strays from that path.
Rebecca Saunders (95F)
Chair, Community Council (p.15)
...While the constitution served the college well for more than 20 years, the document needed revision in order to reflect current administrative organization and to reduce the duplicative bureaucracy of governance/committee structure. A Constitutional Review Committee of faculty, student, staff, and administration representatives of major governance bodies and affected constituencies was established in spring 1991. After examining the current governance structure, the committee proposed a major constitutional revision that would recognize the strongly felt value of participation without the burden of an overly complex and overlapping structure. The drafting of what is, in effect, a new constitution, has been a lengthy undertaking; reviewing the draft in the Faculty Meeting and in Community Council added to the length of time this process has take. Finally, in AY 1996-97 a revised constitution was forwarded to the trustees for review and comment. As this self-study is being drafted, that process is still under way; however, the campus agreed to implement one element of the proposed constitution--the elimination of the Senate and the establishment of its successor body, the Educational Policy Committee, formerly a subcommittee of the Senate.
The proposed constitution, approved by the Senate and Community Council in May 1996, will:
1) recognize the offices of the dean of student affairs and the school deans;
2) reduce the number of governance bodies and clarify the purpose, scope, and jurisdiction of those that remain, including the faculty executive committee;
3) empower the president (and others) to create ad hoc task forces... (p.17)
Projection: Harmony: Why It's Not a Goal
The protracted effort to revise the constitution reflects many fundamental tensions about power and governance written into Hampshire's founding documents over issues of power and participation and the differences between voice, vote, and veto, a phrase Hampshire borrowed from Connecticut College. On a campus that must husband its resources carefully, one on which there is seldom enough to go around, those tensions at times can be acute. Hampshire's academic program, in which students negotiate their course of study with faculty, moreover, requires that students strain boundaries that would be inflexible on other campuses. Thus, campus governance at Hampshire is highly participatory but often enriched by competing demands for power--i.e., ultimate say in decision making. The trustee bylaws clearly articulate administrative and faculty roles and responsibility and the constitution and practice delegate considerable decision-making responsibility to students; nevertheless competition for the power to decide remains enthusiastic. A similar theme is sounded by staff, some of whom feel outside the system because there is not an elected staff trustee. The theme surfaces again when groups do not feel adequately consulted, and although the administration makes what to some of its members appear to be Herculean efforts to consult, the truth is that such criticism is at times justified, as the Romney Report documents.
A revised constitution is under review. A major faculty study of the organization of the schools has begun. External consultants have undertaken an enrollment management project that will overlap with the faculty study. The trustees may ask the administration and faculty to fine-tune revisions to faculty personnel policy. As the self-study is drafted, it is thus difficult to appraise, given the certainty of change, or to project, given the nascent stage of most of these initiatives. The college is about to enter a new phase, and can say fairly that this evolution will preserve the college's great strengths. Those strengths come at a high price. Its collaborative form of governance will be protected by a new constitution, which should eliminate bureaucratic redundancy but which will also keep some decisions from being made swiftly. The reorganization of the faculty will allow for recommendations about how we organize what we teach--a subject guaranteed to rouse strong feelings.
Although Hampshire's interdisciplinary curriculum already lends itself well to revision and change, across-the-board recommendations have potential to be unsettling and anxiety-producing. But Hampshire College thrives on such challenges. (p.19-21)
Standard Five: The Faculty
...Even apart from specific organizational arrangements, the inquiry goal of Hampshire's education is inherently demanding. Although the educational goal does include students' retaining some facts and learning how to apply techniques, it also includes convincing students that certainties are at best elusive, that analytical techniques embody important assumptions affecting results, that critical questioning is necessary for learning, and that artistic impulse has to be brought into a relationship with intellectual history. Integral to this process, students must take intellectual risks, and making mistakes is a necessary and productive part of academic progress. Therefore, each piece of student work must be evaluated with the thoroughness that faculty, under ordinary circumstances, might reserve only for professional colleagues' efforts. But a significant part of the process is students' learning to revise substantively, not once but many times, and learning also to resolve sometimes contradictory faculty feedback. The difficulty of coming to closure on a faculty member's responsibility to student work, together with a narrative evaluation (as distinct from a numerical measurement) of student academic progress, often leaves faculty, especially new faculty, without a clear idea of how much effort is enough. Yet another part of the faculty's work at Hampshire, and one that gets very little formal attention, is the importance of older faculty's active involvement with new faculty, as mentors and guides through their early years in this very demanding system of education...
The demands of a course system and a divisional examination system, together with the intensive advising and governance responsibilities necessary to make them work, made the initial student-faculty ratio of 16:1 too high. In response to these pressures, reducing faculty work load became a college priority during the late 1970s, and a combination of planned and unplanned changes in faculty numbers and student enrollments led to a significant net reduction of the student-faculty ratio, which in 1996-97 was 11.7:1. (Faculty sabbatical leaves, leaves of absence, and released time, which often are only partially replaced, mean that the actual student-teaching faculty ratio is a bit higher.) This clearly is more manageable on average for faculty, although the average does obscure the extent to which the work load is spread unevenly among faculty, and we will discuss the distribution of work later in the section on schools.
From an institutional perspective, the principal danger of work load pressure is its potential for eroding the faculty's ability to maintain high academic standards. To some extent, the divisional examination system functions as a monitor, protecting standards of faculty as well as student work. As already mentioned, the same divisional examination system designed to individualize student work requires cooperative work among faculty through the divisional examination committees. The public nature of the divisional examination system for faculty means that every decision a faculty member makes about a Division II student's academic progress is available to faculty colleagues on the student's Division II Concentration committee. The Division II committee reads the student's Concentration portfolio, which includes all of the student's work and the various instructors' responses to that work, whether or not the course instructor is a member of that student's Concentration committee. Some schools also constitute a faculty committee to read all final divisional reports.
The best safeguard of standards, of course, is consistently responsible action by all faculty members. That this has generally been the case at Hampshire does not alter the reasons to emphasize the effect of the college's general structures. An ethos of responsibility, goodwill, and shared commitment must be nurtured by the institution and supported by its policies and practices. And Hampshire's unusual set of arrangements appears to be quite effective in doing so. (p.51-53)
Standard Six: Student Services
A Descriptive Overview; Student Affairs
Students arrive at Hampshire with diverse interests and skills. A few know from the first semester what their areas of academic and intellectual interest are; the majority investigate various fields before designing a tailored course of study. What this heterogeneous group has in common, though, is acute curiosity and intellectual courage to match. There is a fearlessness to the student who writes and performs a one-woman show on her experience as a refugee. There is an audacity to the team of students that together have designed and built a releasable harness for wheelchair-assistance dogs. Fearlessness and audacity are wonderful qualities of the mind. When shared by 1035 students on a single campus, though, the challenge is great for that part of the college exclusively dedicated to providing the services and environment these bright students need to thrive during their college years.
Student affairs meets this challenge by working to maintain and promote a safe, socially active, and aware community through educational outreach and through ongoing diversity, service, and leadership programs that complement the academic program. The office of the dean of student affairs oversees residential life, athletics, student activities, health services, career services, public safety, and judicial and disciplinary proceedings. The office works closely with the advising office, dean of faculty, dining services and the treasurer's office. Professional staff strive to examine student life and educate in innovative and alternative forms, with ideas and living environments that encourage the development of relationships, community, and intellectual and experiential discovery beyond the classroom...(p.65)
Students of Color
Hampshire College is committed to increasing diversity on campus and to creating a congenial environment for students of color and continually strives to improve current programs and initiatives. These efforts have resulted in a minority student graduation rate equal to that of majority students.
While it is every Hampshire community member's responsibility to promote diversity and create a climate conducive to optimal learning for all students, this support is especially important for students of color. During AY 1996-97 a number of initiatives began to address a general feeling of discontent among students of color, similar to what can be seen on many campuses. We are, however, concerned about this malaise and continue to improve our services by introducing new programs specifically designed to address issues particular to students of color and to draw those students into helping design solutions. It is our belief that students who are active in their own learning and campus life will feel more a part of a community, be more comfortable in their environment and persist in their education. Among these initiatives were the creation of the associate dean for community development, the Re/Source team, and the ADVANCE multicultural leadership program...
The dean of multicultural affairs, who is a faculty member and reports to the dean of faculty, also supports students of color on campus, working to meet their academic needs and to develop an academic environment most conducive to their learning. The dean's office was established in 1988, in response to concerns of students, faculty, and staff, to enrich and challenge the curriculum. The dean represents the office at AdCom and the deans' meetings and on the Third World Studies Committee and the EPC. The office participates in orientation, works with the admissions office, and supports a variety of events sponsored by individual faculty, student groups, and schools and offices at Hampshire College and Five Colleges, Inc. During AY 1997-1998, the office is under review by the dean of faculty and is administered by a four-faculty advisory committee...
One highlight of Hampshire's diversity outreach is the James Baldwin Scholars Program, designed to promote and encourage the educational success of urban high school students. Each year Hampshire College awards up to ten full tuition and room and board scholarships to African American and Latino students from area high schools and community education agencies. A one-year scholarship is the main component of the program that prepares recipients for a rigorous academic program. The program provides preparation for students who have these qualities but could benefit from a year to improve general academic skills. The Baldwin Scholars program is an excellent opportunity to enrich the student experience and the Hampshire Community... (p.66-69)
NEASC Accreditation Report, 1997
New England Association of Schools and Colleges Evaluation Team Report, November 1997
The following report was prepared after the institution's self-evaluation report and a visit to Hampshire College on November 16 through 18. It represents the views of the evaluation team as interpreted by the chairperson...
MISSION AND PURPOSES
Hampshire has a clearly articulated mission and a sense of purpose enthusiastically endorsed by all of the college's constituencies.
Hampshire has a strategic planning process in place which should assure that the uniqueness of Hampshire is maintained and that it continues to fulfill its committment as an experimenting college. In the words of President Prince, "Hampshire is really a story that continues to be told, it is a work in progress."
There are many issues under consideration concurrently (i.e., reorganization of the schools, the revision of the constitution, the fundraising campaign and facility planning), which have caused somewhat of a morale problem on the campus.
The exciting spirit of change and experimentation at Hampshire should be continued. However, contentious structural issues should be resolved as soon as possible so that efforts can be directed primarily to the critical academic purposes of the college...(p.2)
ORGANIZATION AND GOVERNANCE
In all of the team's conversations with members of Hampshire's governing bodies, a counter-intuitive tension became quickly evident. The current structural configuration of the systems of governance exacerbates, rather than facilitates, the prevalent institutional culture of consultation and participation. It was apparent in discussions with faculty, students, and staff that there is a lack of clarity about juridiction, process, and decision-making. This lack of clarity seems to lead to confusion about where, when, and how issues of campus-wide concern will be considered, and ultimately decided upon. As a result, a paralysis sets in in the name of the democratic process. (p.4)
PROGRAMS AND INSTRUCTION
The current discussions about the reorganization of the school structure are causing concern to most of the faculty. The college should make the decisions necessary to allow consideration of other important campus issues. While any reorganization of the composition of the schools will have consequential implications for the choices of courses confronting students, the college must move to consider this. Thought should also be given to keeping the positive aspects and strengths of the present composition of faculty in certain areas which have clustered within schools...(p.5)
Hampshire possesses a mission and sense of purpose which is shared enthusiastically by all college constituencies.
Hampshire has a well-qualified and productive faculty and staff that are deeply invested in the distinctive goals of a Hampshire education and a bright, engaged, and energetic student body, committed to an active involvement in the Hampshire learning process and very appreciative of faculty efforts on their behalf.
The college has a set of educational structures which are well suited to Hampshire's mission. It is an enterprise bold in its conception and impressive in its implementation. The commitment of the faculty to the unique method of instruction and advising is impressive. The committee feels that the community should take great pride in its achievements and continue the boldness of thought and perservere in its willingness to experiment, as has been part of the institution's heritage...
The impact that the reorganization might have on curriculum, on faculty morale, and on Hampshire's ability to address important issues is great. For instance, the curricular issues that are consequential in the re-organization being discussed might have an impact on the strengths of present groups of faculty.
The current governance structure which has led to a lack of clarity about jurisdictions, process and decision-making should be addressed.
Although there is agreement on the need to pull together a strategic plan, and many parts are already in place, a time frame and an agreement on what such a plan might entail needs attention, with the outcome being committed to by all of the college constituencies.
The college needs to develop more timely financial information and to communicate that information to the entire community.
While the college is to be commended for the diversity of its Board of Trustees and faculty greater attention should be given to assuring comparable diversity in the student body and staff.
The college should pull together their various planning instruments into a single comprehensive strategic plan, marrying budget priorities and fundraising efforts into a general timetable and reflecting institutional needs.
The reorganization process and constitutional revision should be completed as quickly as possible to assure clear lines of authority and effective decision making. (p.22-23)
Maguire Associates Marketing Study, 1997
Hampshire College: A Marketing Opportunity and Image Analysis. Maguire Associates, Inc., November 1997.
Volume IV: Executive Summary & Strategic Recommendations. Click here to download a pdf of this report.
A team from Maguire Associates has worked with administrators and faculty members at Hampshire College over a period of eight months, conducting research that will enable the College to have a clearer understanding of how it is perceived by some of its most important constituencies. These include prospective students and their parents, admitted students (both enrolling and non-enrolling), faculty, staff and current students...
The purpose of this volume is to summarize the most important findings of earlier reports and to translate these findings into strategies. The recommendations offered in this report are designed to inform the College's strategic planning and marketing efforts, to provide the building blocks of a strong recruitment program and to increase the conversion rate of inquiries to applicants--thus providing an even stronger pool of candidates from which Admissions staff can construct a freshman class... (p.2-4)
HAMPSHIRE'S DISTINCTIVE FEATURES
It is abundantly clear from this data that Hampshire College occupies a perceived niche in the minds of its inquirers, some of whom know the school very well, and others only slightly. While many schools - particularly liberal arts colleges - have to cope with vague, undifferentiated images such as "good school" and "small school," more than a third of Hampshire inquirers make top-of-mind associations with the College that include independent, freedom, different, unconventional and innovative. When asked about the good things they know or have heard about Hampshire, students are notably specific, including a third of the sample who cite design your own major and coursework as a feature of the College, and others who mention independence, less structure, different and no grades. A question regarding negative aspects of Hampshire elicits comments about too much freedom, unstructured and not enough discipline.
The concerns inquirers raise about Hampshire initially are verified when they are asked why they choose not to apply to the College. Their responses include the lack of structure in the curriculum, that the school just "doesn't fit" them, that it is too far away, or that it does not have their major... (p.9)
...The following are recommendations that are suggested by the research outlined in this section...
--Review carefully the analysis of "distinctively Hampshire" themes that are summarized in this report when crafting recruitment publications and presentations.
Much of the data here can be construed as contradictory and requires careful analysis to determine which audiences should hear what theme when. The current Hampshire publications have obviously been quite effective, given the readily recognized Hampshire messages documented in the research. In constructing a flow of communications, the operant strategy should be to maximize opportunities to reach the most appropriate candidates for Hampshire at each stage of the selection process.
--Continue to use the bold approach of identifying who should not apply to Hampshire in Student Search and other outreach mailings.
While some may view this approach as risky, it can be supported by the research. It is not enough to know Hampshire as a different academic experience; one also has to want Hampshire and that experience. A process that gives broad exposure to these educational concepts, but at the same time tries to winnow down the masses to those prospective students who most resonate with the concepts, makes sense.
--Develop, through anecdotes, a more comprehensive portrayal of the five-college consortium and the advantages it offers Hampshire students...
--Work on positioning Hampshire as an undergraduate institution that is particularly well suited to being viewed "like a graduate school."...(p.13-15)
...The analysis of variables related to academic image yields a rich set of messages to be emphasized and issues to be addressed at Hampshire. Among them are the following:
--Enlighten all involved in marketing Hampshire about the very significant role that "quality of area of concentration" plays in the college selection process...
--Continue to respond in a timely and thorough way to inquirers' requests for information about academic areas of interest....
--Create a long-term plan for the improvement of academic facilities at Hampshire...
--Work on testimonials that describe how students are challenged academically at Hampshire...
--Ensure that the climate and policies at Hampshire support the selection and retention of highly-qualified and talented faculty...
--Expand messages that reinforce images of student-faculty rapport at Hampshire and detail the availability of research opportunities.
Although students associate Hampshire with providing access to faculty that is not restricted to in-class learning, the connection to enhanced research opportunities is not necessarily made. The faculty and staff's positive evaluation of research opportunities at Hampshire must be made explicit to students by communicating examples of student-faculty research projects. Profile these partnerships in publications, and go beyond the people-focus by listing a range of research studies and the extent to which students are responsible for them.
--Promote the accomplishments of Hampshire faculty and their students through both internal and external publications...
--Convey Hampshire's unique ability to prepare students for graduate or professional school...
--Ensure that faculty members are provided with the best available information on current students, enabling them to provide helpful academic advice... (p.22-26)
...The concerns raised in this section have serious implications for both recruitment and retention at Hampshire. With few exceptions, the high expectations that students bring to campus will inevitably yield some sense of disappointment in the environment that apparently exists on campus. To minimize potential problems, it will be important to accurately assess the campus climate, to change for the better what can be changed, and to portray the atmosphere on campus as accurately as possible to prospective students. Some recommendations to consider include:
--Consider undertaking a comprehensive retention study that will clarify some of the issues raised by current students, faculty and staff in this image study...
--Continue to emphasize examples of how Hampshire students "put their learning to good use in the world." ...
--Emphasize to prospective students the availability of social and cultural events in the greater Amherst area...
--Explore objectively the quality of on-campus housing at Hampshire compared with competitors and commit to making strategic improvements where necessary...
--Probe reactions of visitors to campus more deeply, going beyond feedback about campus appearance and Admissions-associated activities...(p.32-35)
AFFORDABILITY AND VALUE
...The following recommendations are made based on the research findings outlined here, and on the experience of these consultants:
--Reinforce the concept of the value of a Hampshire education when addressing audiences of prospective students and their families...
--Set Hampshire's tuition in strategic relation to the College's top competitors...
--Enhance prospective students' awareness of, and appreciation for, the commitment Hampshire makes to financial aid by creatively marketing scholarships and grants.
Hampshire allocates a tremendous amount of resources to financial aid, yet is not necessarily recognized for that among its inquirers. In order to maximize the benefits of financial aid, it must be promoted at a point when it can influence a student's decision to apply. This may mean more "named" scholarship opportunities focussed at groups of students who are of particular interest to the College. The most common scholarships to be promoted in this way are merit-based awards, but this strategy can also be employed with need-based funds.
--Emphasize the concept of net cost from the outset of a family's search for the right college or university...
--Create the most cost-effective and professional career services program possible at Hampshire...
--Develop a method and schedule for cross-training between the offices of Admission and Financial Aid... (p.37-41)
Retention Committee Report, 2001
Retention Committee Report
February 15, 2001
In January 2000 dean of faculty Aaron Berman and dean of students Michael Ford established the retention committee to examine the impact of the Hampshire experience on student retention and, based on this examination, provide recommendations to increase graduation rates within the next five years. The retention committee consists of co-chairs Yaniris Fernandez, Roberta Stuart and Yanina Vargas; members Lawrence Archey, Clarissa Basch, Anne Downes, Norman Holland, Amy Jordan, Kathleen Methot, and Christian Phillips.
The committee met bi-weekly during Spring 2000 and Fall 2001 and pursued the following agenda:
• Evaluate past and current retention efforts
• Investigate possible causes of attrition
• Engage the entire college community in discussion of retention issues
• Develop recommendations for new policies and programs
Last fall term the committee continued this agenda and engaged in campus-wide discussions on retention and student satisfaction. These discussions have served as the basis for the development of themes or service areas that we have identified as variables that contribute to the attrition of students...
Advising surfaces as a key issue with staff, students, and faculty. Since the inception of the academic program, the advisor relationship has been regarded as crucial to students' academic success. Advising encompasses the relationship between students and individual advisors as well as the relationship of the advising office to advisors and students.
• Inconsistent training for both new and continuing advisors
Recommendation: Training for all academic advisors, new and continuing, needs to be thorough and consistent...
• Absence of a mentoring system between newer and continuing faculty
Recommendation: Establish a mentoring system for continuing faculty to guide newer faculty through the academic program and the advising process.
• Insufficient availability of advisors and committee members
Recommendation: The dean of faculty should establish a standard number of office hours that a faculty member is expected to fulfill on a weekly basis. These hours must be observed so that students can count on predictable availability of the faculty. The expectations of faculty advising hours should be expanded during deadline periods such as Division III filing and preregistration/field study planning.
• Inconsistent academic planning process
Recommendation: Advisors need to develop a schedule of meetings and procedures to follow up on advisees, especially first-year students. It is also important that advisors reach out to those students who miss appointments or have not established a consistent advising relationship...
• System does not encourage good academic advising
Recommendation: Review advising and exam workload. Consider evaluation of the advising work and establish recognition process for good advisors (i.e., reappointments and promotions, teaching load, etc.).
• Lack of clarity concerning the role of the advising office
Recommendation: Establish a task force to review the advising office and make recommendations to clarify its role within the academic advising process and its relationship with students and advisors.
Rigor and accountability surfaced as main themes throughout the discussions. The lack of clarity in expectations and the confusing nature of the Hampshire academic process were areas of significant frustration for many students. Navigating and negotiating the Hampshire experience is confusing and lacks consistent support and advocacy.
• Divergent standards of completion for Division I projects within and across schools
Recommendation: Students commented that some faculty accept a final paper or artifact, others expect original research, while others require multiple revisions ranging over the course of three or more semesters. Standards need to be articulated and followed.
• Course descriptions and numbering do not assist students in making course selections Recommendation: Course descriptions should convey basic information such as the expected level of preparedness. Consider adopting a four-level numbering system.
• Curriculum lacks balance
Recommendation: Perform an overall review of the curriculum across schools, incorporating issues brought out in discussions...
• Insufficient skill building in courses
Recommendation: Examine the commitment to writing across the curriculum and ways to consistently integrate research, library, computer, and quantitative skills into courses.
• Students are frustrated by the inability to register for popular courses
Recommendation: Consider whether to offer more sections of highly subscribed courses. Alternatively, develop ways to serve more students at the introductory level for areas such as Photography, Film, and Video.
• Lack of accountability in courses often leads to a corrosive course ethos
Recommendation: Students and faculty alike are frustrated by those who are not prepared for class, do not complete readings, or do not submit assignments on time. Non-completion of Hampshire courses should be documented in the transcript. Faculty should discuss the need for creating accountability standards for coursework.
• Difficulty forming Division II and III committees due to sabbaticals, leaves, application processes, and lack of faculty in certain disciplinary areas
Recommendation: Clearly articulate the faculty available to serve on committees, and how to obtain replacements for members on leave or sabbatical...
• Insufficient access to and overall quality of equipment in and outside the classroom
Recommendation: Academic classrooms and equipment need improvement and modernization. Facilities should be open and staffed at hours convenient for students. Schools should assess use and availability of facilities.
• Late evaluations and absence of timely and helpful feedback
Recommendation: Clarify deadlines and explore ways for faculty and staff to produce evaluations more easily.
Facilities and Space
Facilities and space surfaced as a common concern for all discussion groups. Most concerns focused on the current condition of residence halls and lounges, classrooms, lab and photography equipment; the lack of a community space; and the overall physical appearance of the college. Many voiced concerns regarding the individualized atmosphere that current facilities depict and the urgent need for spaces that encourage more encompassing community interactions.
• Overall condition of residence halls and common spaces
Recommendation: Facilities are in need of repair and are below student and parent expectations. They are in poor condition and need to be modernized, not only for structure and mechanical systems (especially adequate heating systems), but also for aesthetic and functional appeal (i.e furniture, appropriate lighting, cleanliness, etc.)...
• Perception of poor relationships between students and the physical plant staff
Recommendation: Communication between the physical plant and residential life staff has improved greatly this semester. To build upon this, schedule regular meetings that include students, residential life, and physical plant staff to share concerns and improve relations...
• Clarity of ownership, jurisdiction and accountability of community spaces (e.g. The Tavern) Recommendation: Student affairs should work regularly with Community Council to identify the ownership issues and establish guidelines for community space allocation and use.
• Lack of community space or center.
Recommendation: The library, campus center, and campus planning committees are addressing this issue. The committees should provide regular informational updates to the Hampshire community.
• Lack of comfortable, welcoming and well equipped social spaces
Recommendation: This concern is addressed in the facilities renewal plan. The committee reviewing these plans should provide regular informational updates to the Hampshire community.
• Overall condition of academic spaces, furnishings, and equipment.
Recommendation: This concern is addressed in the facilities renewal plan. The committee reviewing these plans should provide regular informational updates to the Hampshire community.
A successful and accessible first-year experience for all students is critical. As mentioned in the previous report and the ongoing work of the First-Year Experience Committee, there is a relationship between the number of courses completed and the likelihood of students staying past their third semester. In addition, orientation, understanding academic support systems, and the integration into the residential and social life at Hampshire need crucial components of the first-year experience.
• Clear expectations for new students upon their arrival at Hampshire.
Recommendation: Summer mailings are often disorganized and confusing. There should be an assessment and coordination of all the materials sent to new students during the summer. Informational materials and forms should be user friendly...
• The transition from admissions to the initial reality of Hampshire
Recommendation: The admissions office should have clear mechanisms to obtain current and relevant information related to what is happening on the campus. Admissions should work with all campus offices to understand the needs and expectations of the incoming class, and to make the transition from applicant to student a "seamless" process.
• Insufficient academic material and experiences during orientation
Recommendation: Decide whether or not to use the first-year seminar format as the central structure of orientation. Provide intensive writing workshops, facilitate interactive and dynamic presentations on the divisional system, and discuss "survival tips" for a successful academic experience.
• Students often feel a marked sense of isolation during the first year at Hampshire
Recommendation: Create more opportunities for students to engage in academic collaborative projects that would count towards Division I requirements. Develop mechanisms for advisors to spend more "quality" time with first-year students. Return to a peer mentoring system, which can facilitate new students' access to already existing opportunities for community and socially based activities and programs...
• Our divisional exam deadlines and processes make the transition to Hampshire difficult especially for transfer students
Recommendation: Review policies and procedures between admissions and advising on notification of transfer waivers.
Information and Knowledge
The recommendations of this section were difficult to categorize, but involve examining and improving upon the ways in which college faculty and staff communicate with students. There are a variety of formal and informal publications and guides produced by a number of offices across the campus. These must be reviewed not only for content, but also for the style and accessibility of the information. New and continuing students should receive coordinated mailings in a timely fashion, and should be able to rely on central sources of information.
• Academic and non-academic information provided to students can be difficult to navigate, and is inaccurate, contradictory, or erroneous
Recommendation: Review all materials sent out to first-year as well as continuing students. Develop an overall communications strategy for distributing information to students. Review publications to make them consistent...
The current format of the student handbook (Non Satis Non Scire) must be reviewed to make it a more attractive and user-friendly publication. Students must be able to use this as a reliable reference on different programs, services, and policies of the college. Consider including a format such as a planner with a calendar on one page and handbook information on the opposite page. In addition to the handbook, supplemental summary sheets on academic policy such as Divisional examinations must be evaluated for consistency with college publications.
• Advertised information is not posted in areas regularly frequented or accessed by students Recommendation: Develop a strategic, central location where both academic and non-academic information is gathered and distributed, including college deadlines. Decide upon locations to regularly post all information. These should be areas that students consider good sources of information such as the Daily Jolt, Hampshire's Website, school and administrative offices. Investigate and evaluate centralized communication systems such as all campus e-mail and/or voice mail notification systems and a centralized electronic calendar.
Integration of Student Services
One area of great concern and significant impact on retention is the integration of all services designed to create support systems for students. Students often feel that there are no clear connections between and among offices. These include student affairs, advising, financial aid, business office, school offices, and academic support services such as the writing center, quantitative skills, STAR, etc.
• Not enough information when students arrive on campus "where to go for what"
Recommendation: Extract from the student handbook the key points - who/where to go to for what. Turn it into a one page laminated handout that is given to all new students at orientation (and explained by orientation leaders during orientation). Distribute to all returning students, campus offices, and post on the web...
• Not enough communication among various student offices
Recommendation: Students spend a lot of time going from office to office trying to find the answer to a question. Create a climate where students are treated with respect, and where we do our best to help resolve problems. Continue to make processes more friendly and easier to navigate. Notify students of changes in policy ahead of time. Establish appeal processes for policies implemented without student input or proper and timely notification...
• No centralized system for sharing information on students
Recommendation: Develop mechanism for alerting appropriate offices when a student is experiencing difficulty or may have expressed an intention to leave the college. This mechanism should be available to anyone who interacts with students (faculty, OPRA staff, administrative staff, student employers, etc.).
• No vehicle for assessing the student satisfaction in student services offices
Recommendations: Create review process for assessing how successfully an office is meeting the needs of students and its effectiveness in providing an environment that promotes and emphasizes student satisfaction.
• Offices are not always open or staff available during regular office hours
Recommendation: Offices should assess their staffing needs and availability to make sure that offices are open, staffed, and prepared to assist students during regular office hours. If there is an unusual circumstance that prevents an office from being available during regular hours, signs should be posted with instructions on who may assist that student until the office reopens.
Social and Community Life
A key area of concern to students is the issue of social and community life. Some of these concerns are discussed in previous sections (e.g. facilities and space, first year experience).
• Difficulty connecting to the intellectual community of Hampshire
Recommendation: Create opportunities, both academic and social, for connecting to the different schools (faculty, upper level students, administrative staff, etc.)
• Difficulty establishing social connections
Recommendation: Resume peer mentoring program. High staff turnover creates an environment in which the staff does not have the connections and knowledge to be helpful to students. Work on retaining the staff that work directly with students, especially the residence life staff. Encourage orientation leaders to provide continued support for new students.
• Too few opportunities to have fun at Hampshire
Recommendations: Create more social spaces and provide facilities and organized programs for more social outlets (dancing, sports, outdoors activities, etc.). In addition to the academic excellence of Hampshire, we should depict the "fun" aspects of our community in the recruitment process. Clarify policies on student programs and facilitate and empower student initiatives. Improve the means by which students access spaces for social events.
Support for Continuing Students
In contrast to the intensive communication from all college offices that applicants and new students receive from all offices, communication to continuing students is noticeably less intense. In discussion groups, an overwhelming majority of continuing students expressed concerns regarding a relative decline in support following the first year. Students reported that the following concerns can contribute to a sense of frustration with the academic program and community life.
• Students feel that their return each semester is not clearly acknowledged or welcomed.
Recommendation: Returning students should be welcomed back each semester with meaningful programs and a faculty/staff presence...
• Students feel a lack of recognition for successful and rigorous work within both the academic program and community development
Recommendation: Publicly celebrate success, especially for milestones like passing exams or student-run community initiatives.
• Students often find that the transition from Division I to Division II and forming a Division II and Division Ill committee can be difficult and frustrating
Recommendation: Publicize advising support for creating committees and provide direct assistance to students whose exam committee members go on leave or sabbatical or are visiting faculty at the end of a contract...
The retention committee spent an intensive year gathering information and holding discussion groups, some of which are continuing into the spring semester. The group agrees, however, that it is time to recommend a permanent structure for dealing with student satisfaction and retention issues.
The retention committee members propose that the president, dean of faculty, and dean of students endorse the following:
1. The role of Large Adcom is defined as having responsibility for the study and implementation of the recommendations of the retention committee...