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Home / Offices / Office of the President / Letters to the Community / November Letter to the Community: November 9, 2011

November Letter to the Community

Blizzardoween: A week ago our snowy campus was dark and empty, students had dispersed to the homes of parents or friends, or were camping in the Mount Holyoke Gym, and most of our staff and faculty colleagues were still without heat or power. As I told you all in an email when the campus reopened last Wednesday, I feel proud and grateful that our community responded with resilience and patient good will to a very difficult situation. Our friends at Mount Holyoke, PVTA, and UMass were incredibly helpful. The Student Life staff, Residence Life staff, the Facilities and Grounds staff, Sodexo, the Campus Police, Information Technology, Communications, administrators and our students all helped in every way possible. By Wednesday, there were volunteer crews of students, staff, and faculty helping to clean up the sad debris of fallen trees and broken limbs. The event hurt our campus, but in the curious way of such crises when people work together to respond, it helped our community.

Although the Emergency Response Team had "desk topped" a major loss of power crisis, we had not anticipated an event as massive as this, when all five colleges and all the surrounding towns were crippled, and communications were disrupted for the Valley. In the time since I was named President of Hampshire a freak tornado, a mild earthquake, a tropical storm, and an unprecedented October blizzard have hit the region. (Did I bring Bad Karma with me from Washington?) The Hampshire Board has asked us to look for ways to reduce the impact of such events in the future, and has assured us that they will find means to pay for new facilities and equipment if necessary.

On a personal note, since the President's House remained without heat or power until Wednesday afternoon, Ellie and I have decided to donate a backup generator and a wood stove to the College. If there is a next time, we will be able to host some of you at our house.

Sadly, the storm forced postponement of the Jerome Liebling Memorial Service. We continue to mourn the loss of Professor Emeritus Jerome Liebling, who passed away on July 27 at Cooley Dickinson Hospital in Northampton, Massachusetts. A memorial service was to be held at Hampshire College on Sunday, October 30, 2011. We will work with Becky Nordstrom, his wife, and his family to reschedule the event.

Professor Liebling founded Hampshire College's film, photography, and video program. He was already a photographer and filmmaker of international renown when he came to Hampshire from the University of Minnesota in 1969, before the College had even opened its doors. His background as a photographer and filmmaker enabled Hampshire, from its earliest days, to bring together seamlessly two traditionally separate arts disciplines--filmmaking and photography. This integration was one of the clearest early manifestations of Hampshire's commitment to innovative, interdisciplinary education. His name graces the recently renovated Jerome Liebling Center for Film, Photography, and Video, a centerpiece of the campus.

Search for Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of Faculty: Aaron Berman, professor of history in the School of Critical Social Inquiry (CSI) and former vice president for academic affairs and dean of faculty, will chair the search committee. The Committee will include Trustees Shelly Johnson Carey and Hal Carroll, and Professors Dula Amarasiriwardena, Peter Kallok, Lise Sanders, Laura Sizer and instructional staff member Will Ryan. The staff representatives are Anne Downes, senior associate dean of advising, and Renee Freedman, senior associate dean of residential life. The student representatives are Staci Akselrod (F08) and Jake Hawkesworth (F08). The Committee will be staffed by Diana Fernández, my chief of staff, and will be advised by Shelly Ruocco, associate vice president of human resources, and Jaime Dávila, special presidential assistant for diversity and multicultural education.

"Rehamping" the Barn: Since Ellie and I do not plan to keep livestock (other than our smelly old hound "Buddy") we have decided it would make sense to repurpose the 20'x40' horse barn located on the property of the president's house. A simple post and beam structure, the barn will be disassembled, and brought to campus to be reassembled--with a new site, new use, and new look--in other words, Rehamped. One could imagine the barn becoming a studio or performance space, or even reemerging as a barn on the farm.

Students RJ Sakai, Leah Grossman and Hester Tittmann, working with faculty members Karen Koehler, Thom Long, Caryn Brause, and Dean Norm Holland, are helping those in the community interested in submitting an idea to create an effective proposal. From the proposals received, I, in consultation with the Monday Group, will choose the idea which best combines innovative and practical design, serves the needs of the community, and fits with its campus space. The winning idea will be developed by students in a spring semester architecture course--after which the barn will be taken apart, moved, and rebuilt by a construction firm, possibly starting in May 2012, with students involved in the process throughout.

This coming Friday, November 11, there will be a Barn Forum with two sessions where community members will have a chance to learn more about the project and the proposals. The first session will be from 12-1 p.m. in FPH 108 and the second session will take place from 3-5 p.m. in the Main Lecture Hall.

Tri-Council: One of the most important recommendations of the Governance Task Force was the creation of a "Tri-Council" including representatives of student government, staff, and faculty. Several other changes need to be completed before the "Tri-Council" as envisioned by the Governance Task Force can be established, but in the meantime I have discussed with the SAC, the Community Council, and the Faculty the idea of creating a "shadow Tri-Council" to work out details of how the "Tri-Council" would work, what it would do, and who would serve as members. We hope to get such a group in place by February.

Hampshire Halloween: Ellie and I did have a chance to learn how strongly over 1200 students in the Valley feel about Tater Tots as we honored the longstanding Hampshire tradition to serve breakfast from midnight until 2 a.m. for Hampshire Halloween on the Friday night before the storm. There was a guy in some sort of wizard outfit who must have had seven helpings of Tater Tots.

You may send your comments and suggestions to While I may not be able to respond to everyone, I will read all comments and direct them to the appropriate offices. If I have not had a chance to visit your area, please contact my assistant, Joanna Olin, at and she will arrange for a time. I appreciate your candor and commitment to the College!

-Jonathan Lash


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Office of the President
The Charles W. Cole Science Center First Floor Room 110
Hampshire College
893 West Street
Amherst, MA 01002
Fax 413.559.5584

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