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A History of Student Activities and Achievements at Hampshire College, 1969-1991

Compiled and Edited by Tim Shary

Introduction

This history was written as a chronology of events and changes that have involved students at Hampshire since the school was founded in 1965. Virtually all of the information used to compile this history was taken from the student newspapers, all of which are available through the college archives. Other reference sources included memos and governance documents, which should also be available in the college archives; I tried to limit the number of personal accounts as much as possible, but there are obviously many stories missing from this record. While I am hoping that students and alumns will come forth to fill in the crucial absences, I hope that this history as it stands now proves to be comprehensive and enjoyable.

Commentary

The two decades that have defined Hampshire students thus far were both a time of testing the experimental ideas set forth by the previous generation, and a means of proving valid the new discoveries that these ideas produced in their application and reality at this small but incredible college. Statistics and stereotypes aside, since Hampshire opened in 1970, students have been challenging themselves to be unique and important while still remaining socially conscious and responsible. If the goal of students in these first twenty years was to show that an experiment like Hampshire can indeed work within the structures of a culture which seems preoccupied with achieving personal success through the accumulation of numbers on paper, then the goal of the next generation which now grows from this point may be to redefine the ideals that the results of this experiment have yielded so that we may remain progressive enough to continue creating change without losing sight of our original ambitions. Hampshire College may no longer be an actually experimental institution, but it does offer a distinct alternative to the ideologies and operations of the thousands of other schools in America today. If the students here have their way, based on these past twenty years and the current entering class, Hampshire will remain alternative as long as these students, and those they inspire, continue reaching and moving beyond their own goals. The first twenty years of Hampshire can be divided into five different eras of student activities and attitudes:

1970-74: The True Test

These were years in which students did not know if the college would last from one month to the next, let alone if they would ever earn degrees. Pragmatism pressed hard against the great plans of the early students who were willing to take such a radical risk as attending an naccredited and undefined college: the cost was high, financial aid was low, and no one knew what a Division III would be. Those who held on remained iconoclastic hippies with a cause. When the first students began graduating after Hampshire received its precious New England accreditation in May of 1974, there was a sense that the test worked. It could be done.

1974-77: Letting It Work

Students began directing their concerns to local and global issues as they could now stop worrying so much about the school. Patterns, otherwise known as traditions, could be detected. The spirit of experimentation was kept alive, but was visibly more comfortable now that the school was on firmer financial ground and had gained some actual practice in using the many policies that had been instituted during the early years. The end of the Vietnam War also marked a new direction of activism, as the attention to social oppression and destruction decentralized. The resignation of President Charles Longsworth, and the student occupation of Cole Science Center to demand the college divestment from South African corporations in May of 1977, gave a certain closure to the former community energies of the campus.

1977-82: Apathy and Attrition

The hope aroused by Adele Simmons and her new perspective as President was quickly quelled as more and more students became disinterested in campus events and governance, while the administration affirmed stronger stands on decisions which did not consider student involvement. Despite a brief surge in communal introspection around the tenth anniversary, students channeled their passions primarily off-campus. Again a student occupation was the symbol of a turning point: after extensive problems accumulated which the administration seemed less interested in solving due to their concern with falling admissions and rising attrition, a group called Students for a Responsible Institution took over Cole Science Center with a comprehensive set of demands in May of 1982. Meanwhile, Simmons had spent $75,000 to revamp the applicant pool by producing the Krukowski report in October of 1982, which indicated that the college needed to become less countercultural and ideological if it was going to attract the "Ivy League quality" students that certain few people apparently desired.

1983-1987: Holding Back The Act

The "Krukowski Classes" started to arrive and the focus on independent and experiential learning shifted to more course-based projects and attention to transcripts; many people feel the instating of the two-course Division I option in 1985 embodied a traditional response to the sense of lost academic direction. Students grew restless as they were challenged by their own absence: four newspapers were born or died during these years, and the lack of cohesion within and without student groups became sadly apparent. Tensions rose as a few lone people tried to be heard. Students resorted to extreme forms of communication, culminating in the suicide of a student's brother during a live television show. Something was needed to bring the frustrations to the forefront.

1988-1991: Finding Ways Or Making Them

In one month, February of 1988, the latent angst of the past years surfaced in a ten-day occupation of the Dakin Master's House by Source, a called walk-out by the Student Workers' Coalition, a student suicide at Physical Plant, and the controversial removal of a member of Community Council for allegedly being racist. Fingers were suddenly being pointed everywhere, and students combated their confusion by active response. Student involvement in governance hit an all- time high, and a new group for each issue or activity appeared virtually every week. Adele Simmons announced her resignation later in 1988, and once again hopes bloomed for new potential. President Greg Prince appears to follow the former ideals of communication and cooperation with students, but by the eve of the twentieth anniversary, suspicions remain strong as students still detect fissures in the college facade. The first post-Olga Euben/Adele Simmons entering class arrives in the autumn of 1990, and they may work counter to the previously refined and enriched normative attitudes that had been festering. The stage is set to continue the growing changes of the past years; students make plans.

Acknowledgements

I am indebted to many people for helping with this project. The original idea for a newspaper records index was proposed by Hampshire alum Michael Dorfman, who also steered me in the use of dBase III for the database which I designed to organize the items. Susan Dayall, Hampshire College archivist, was extremely helpful in locating various obscure documents and providing access to all the newspapers and memos cited herein. Carol Boardway, Merrill House I coordinator, contributed a treasure trove of old papers which were integral to the research process. Harriet Boyden, Director of the Library computer center, spent time helping to remove glitches from the system. Former Community Council Chairperson David Early also contributed valuable documentation and information. This entire project would not have been possible without the support of the spring 1990 Community Council, who approved the funding of this crazy endeavor.

Timothy Shary
September 30, 1990

 

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