student in media lab

Chapter 1: Academic Program and Planning, 1978-1981

* Self-Study Report for Accreditation, 1978
* Report of the Retention Task Force, 1978
* Proseminar Proposal, 1979
* Course Guide, Fall 1981

Self-Study Report for Accreditation
Amherst, Mass.: Hampshire College, February 1978. Click here to download a pdf of the entire report.

Academic Program
During the first two or three years we learned several things which began to change some of the directions of the Division I program. First, it turned out that students could not be weaned from attraction to particular topics in the Division I courses: "mode of inquiry" didn't mean much to them; "photography," "the environment," "community," and "physics" did. Faculty developed a group of very serious courses and seminars with somewhat "gimmicky" titles...

Second, it became clear that the best and most productive student work on Division I examinations was that which students themselves proposed, in consultation and negotiation with faculty members. Therefore, the original requirement that at least half of a Division I examination must be comprised of questions proposed by the student's course instructors was changed in 1971. Students are now responsible for developing their own examination proposals, with the guidance of a faculty member, to demonstrate that they know not only how to answer questions, but how to ask them. (p.20)

A third aspect of the Division I program that became clear during the first few years was that teaching courses which were not only ungraded, but for which no credit was given, involved a whole new set of teaching skills for most faculty, even the most experienced faculty. No longer could the teacher "build up" to the interesting parts by presenting the necessary background first, if that material was unduly dry or difficult; by the time the class reached the parts of interest to students, two-thirds of them might have disappeared. No longer could faculty count on getting students involved with the materials through having them work on assigned papers, the results of which would be presented to the class; half the students, through indecision or laziness or conviction that required papers were "high school stuff" might not even attempt the project. (It takes most students more than one semester to discover that the absence of immediate negative consequences for not doing work doesn't mean there are no consequences for their own sense of satisfaction or for their learning.) Others might do it so late that it would not be shared with the class. Many young teachers (and some experienced ones) were devasted by the drop-out rate in their classes. Most revised their methods and their order of presentation. For several years, some stopped assigning papers altogether. (The latter situation has been mostly reversed now, since faculty began to realize that students who reached the end of an entire academic year having done no written work at all could be demoralized by that fact.)

The positive side of these problems is that most teachers have risen to the challenge of this new kind of teaching and have re-thought both their subject matter and their methods of presentation. New attempts are made each year by individuals and groups to develop courses which will fully engage students at all levels and help to develop their skills of perception and analysis.(p.21-22)

A fourth development during the early years was that the faculty began to develop differences of opinion about the proper connection between Division I courses and Division I examinations. For the first few years, there was a strong emphasis on the belief that Divisional exams must be work done in addition to courses; the exam project could grow out of the work done in the course, but it should not be possible to pass an examination by course work alone. That concept began to be challenged quite early by a few faculty members in the School of Language and Communication, who set up their courses in such a way that satisfactory completion of the requirements of the course would also constitute passage of a Division I exam, although L&C School policy continued to be that Division I in L&C required work in addition to courses...Course descriptions for the Spring Term 1978 include such statements as "Students will be write a final paper suitable for a Division I exam in Humanities and Arts," or "Participants in the class can work toward completion of a Division I exam in Humanities and Arts," and even "Work in this course under certain conditions may be presented in fulfillment of Division I examination requirements in Humanities and Arts."

While the College Educational Policy Committee has questioned the appropriateness of such statements, some of the origins of the move in this direction seem clear. First, many faculty prefer working on Division I examinations with students whom they have taught in class; the "walk-in exam" by the student who approaches a faculty member with the statement, "I thought I'd like to try an exam on X" and who has no previous course work in that field or with that faculty member, is increasingly discouraged because of the additional workload it places on faculty, who feel they must give almost an individual tutorial to such students. Second, the problems that arise when students delay Division I exams until well into their third year, or even into Division III, have become more obvious. Students who do that have frequently completed no courses in that School. The Division I exam becomes a chore to get through under the pressure of deadlines, rather than an opportunity for a learning experience; it is frequently unrewarding to both the student and the faculty member under such circumstances...In addition, the student who is completing Division III work, and who comes to a faculty member in another School in a panic about passing the last Division I exam by the deadline for graduation, puts pressure on the faculty to lower standards for that exam. (p.23-25)

Division II
The Division II concentration is the nearest equivalent to a "major" in more traditional programs. However, it ordinarily bears little resemblance to the traditional disciplinary major, although some students do plan their concentrations to follow traditional major requirements, especially in areas such as pre-medical programs or the arts. More often, the student, in consultation with an academic adviser and other faculty members, puts together a plan (contract) for a group of courses and projects which cross disciplinary lines and address a general area of concern...That planning does not always take place as early as the policy says it should, that is, "at the outset" of the concentration. Sometimes the planning has been informal and has simply not been committed to a written contract. However, it sometimes happens that the work has proceeded in a haphazard fashion and the student attempts to put together a Division II committee (which must include at least two Hampshire faculty members, and may include faculty members from one of the other colleges or an advanced student) only after all the courses have been done. That may lead to difficulties and delays in completion. There is some evidence that this problem is becoming less frequent as faculty advisers encourage students to file preliminary statements early. (p.28-29)

Division III
The primary complaint voiced by Division III students is that concentration on the independent study project tends to make the Division III experience very lonely and isolated...Although some faculty do not view this isolation of Division III students as a serious problem, but rather as a reflection of the realities of the loneliness of scholarly work, others share the concern of the students and would like to develop more ways for students to share their work with each other and to be more involved with other students at all Divisional levels. Some changes do seem to be under way; for instance, the proportion of students fulfilling the integrative work requirement through an integrative seminar rather than including it as part of the independent project has sharply increased this year. (p.31-32)

One of the more serious questions raised about Division III has to do with the fact that a great many students do not follow the original policy which requires that all Division I and II examinations be completed before the student begins work on Division III. In some cases, a left-over Divison I examination causes no problems for Division III work, and may in fact offer some relief from too great a concentration on the independent study project. In other cases, however, especially where more than one Division I examination remains incomplete, it has been evident that the necessity to complete those examinations seriously interfered with the completion of adequate Division III work...(p.33)

In general, despite the problems with Division III, most faculty and students are still committed to the basic concepts and requirements. Although there are some projects which "scrape through," all the evidence we have indicates that for the most part, Division III work is of very high quality indeed, and that a very high percentage of Division III projects are of graduate school quality. (p.34)

With a highly individualized academic program which necessitates so much one-on-one interaction between faculty and students, it is impossible to insure an even quality of advising and uniform academic standards. The Associate Dean of Advising makes a concerted attempt to maintain contact with advisers, but often such contact is made only in infrequent group meetings on the various aspects of advising, or when a particular problem arises about a student's academic standing or a student's expressed dissatisfaction with an adviser.

The guidelines on academic good standing stated in the Faculty Handbook are abstract: "A student making progress toward Divisional examinations is considered to be in academic good standing." Obviously this is interpreted by faculty in various ways. Although no hard and fast rules concerning sufficient progress have been set out, the Deans' Office has defined the "average" rate of progress as follows:

One Division I exam passed after two semesters
Two Division I exams passed after four semesters
Three Division I exams passed after six semesters
Division II contract filed after five semesters
Division II complete after six semesters

Students whose progress is slower than this rate are reviewed by the Associate Dean of Advising. Because Division I examination contracts are often not filed until shortly before the examination is completed, students are sometimes making good progress without that fact being known in any formal manner. Faculty members' delinquency in submitting the required examination evaluation to Central Records may also serve to misrepresent a student's progress. However, when evidence of "insufficient" progress comes to the Associate Dean's attention, the adviser is contacted, and when a problem is verified the Associate Dean and adviser work out a plan--either an informal approach to the problem or a formal contract with specific academic goals and a timetable--to help the student along. Unfortunately too many students fall into the slow-rate category (approximately 150 students who had completed three semesters by Fall 1977). In the absence of a larger staff within the Deans' Office to follow individual problems, earlier identification of problems experienced by students within their first two years can probably be facilitated only by more support from the advisers. (p.41-42)

From three to four hundred students may be on leave in any given semester: fifty to sixty on study leave and the remainder on a leave of absence. Approximately 85 percent of each entering class takes leave at some point, and many of these students (50%) never return to Hampshire. The lack of advance planning for leaves of absence is believed to contribute significantly to Hampshire's attrition rate (currently about 40%).

Obviously many of the students who withdraw from Hampshire should do so. Some have used the Hampshire experience to clarify their personal goals, which cannot be met by the College. Others are not yet ready to take full advantage of the options Hampshire offers, while still others determine that they prefer more traditional student responsibilities. Many students take leave because they are "floundering"; they may not have a supportive adviser or they may feel pressure to complete examinations or file a concentration without having a clear idea of where their academic interests lie. They view a leave as a way to escape an uncomfortable situation, and because many leave-takers do not have any academic ties to Hampshire or any accomplishments behind them, they are not inclined to return. In the wake of a declining applicant pool, the College has recognized the need to serve as many students as possible, and thus to provide careful advising and support so that leaves are well planned and lead to a return to full enrollment status. Although the College does not want to diminish the flexibility or scope of undergraduate education that leaves often permit, it is clear that the role of leaves needs to be reevaluated. (p. 44-45)

Faculty Appointments and Reappointments
The contract system and the reappointment process which has accompanied it have been the subject of interest and concern. Four years ago the question was raised whether or not such a process would lead to adequate screening and turnover of faculty.

With the experience we have now had, it is fair to say that the process is a viable alternative to the tenure system...The system provides a very careful and considered review of faculty performance which then serves as the basis for reappointment or non-reappointment and provides constructive criticism and support. In addition to the outcomes of the process itself in defining and upholding high standards, the anticipation of the thorough review insured by the process has encouraged some faculty to resign rather than face the high probability of non-reappointment.

This is not to suggest that the system is free of problems. An ad hoc task force on the reappointment process issued a preliminary report suggesting certain areas of weakness. In brief, they argued that the current system is very labor intensive. Each candidate's file is compiled, reviewed by all School members, and then considered by the all-College committee. Over the past three years, for example, the College Committee on Reappointments and Promotions considered 26, 19, and 18 candidates.

Secondly, the task force pointed out that the process can be very anxiety producing for many of the strongest faculty as well as those facing a difficult reappointment. While this is no doubt similar to the anxiety of a tenure decision, it happens at regular and repeated intervals here.

Third, the task force was concerned about some structural inhibitions in obtaining critical reviews of candidates because colleagues writing evaluative letters would themselves be candidates in a short time. In addition, there is often a conflict between writing a critical letter to the candidate's file and the ability to maintain a colleague relationship either in the candidate's terminal year in the case of non-reappointment or during the candidate's next contract period in case of reappointment. For students, there is also an inhibition to write critical letters since the candidate criticized may be the only faculty member available to chair their examination committee. It is yet to be determined whether this problem is a function of the contract system or rather of the policy of open file.

Finally, one of the main virtues of the contract system was to be the flexibility provided in considering curricular needs as well as individual performance. Thus far, this has been the most difficult feature to build into the system. Candidates are considered individually and only peripherally in the context of how they fit into a larger curricular picture. Most candidates do indicate their plans for the proposed contract period. This is a useful device. Nevertheless, the thrust of the review remains a consideration of past performance, and the evaluation of students and colleagues has been the critical material in reaching a decision. (p.51-52)

The House System at Hampshire represents an original commitment by the College to forge a strong bond between a student's intellectual growth and her or his daily life in residence. While staffing patterns vary somewhat across the Houses, the general model is that of a faculty Master working with three professional staff persons...One house has several faculty-in-residence; another has a group of faculty who consider themselves Associates of the House. As a general rule faculty will accept invitations by the House to lead or participate in one-time events. Overall, however, faculty involvement in the Houses is substantially less than that envisioned in The Making of a College.

The three Houses with the most first-year students have student interns who provide informal peer support, act as liaison with the House staff, and initiate House-based academic, social, and cultural activities. During the past year increasing attention has been given to academic support and advising activities, both by interns and House staff. A growing number of students have been attracted to these activities, particularly those initiated by student interns. Still, many students do not participate fully in House life, and the role of the Houses in the total Hampshire experience continues to lack clear definition...

The concerns raised by the Visiting Accreditation Team in 1974 have a familiar sound today:

* the lack of an overall sense of community stemming from an individualistic approach to academic progress;
* the absence of a college-wide common space in which people can meet together over coffee;
* the living context defined by apartment or floor rather than by the House as a whole;
* the continuing tension in role expectations for House Masters between senior scholars-in-residence and counselor/consultant on issues of personal and corporate living.

Without question, two of these concerns dominate student criticisms of life at Hampshire. First, the need for a common coffee shop milieu which serves as an informal place for people to meet at all hours is paramount. Second, the desire by students to break through the individualism of Hampshire and do more collective work is a recurrent demand. (p.56-58)

The last of the new Houses at Hampshire was opened in the Fall of 1975. The full complement of Masters and staff was achieved in that year, and even now the staffing pattern has not stabilized. One consequence of the former administrative arrangement by which each House was an individual budget unit was a rapid diversification of philosophy, practice, and effort. Houses offered students a wide range of living arrangements and atmospheres; students were and are permitted to change places each semester; and communication between House staff was uneven at best. Much that was useful and creative occurred under these conditions, but the effects were transitory and non-cumulative. Above all, the major effect seemed to be confusion--of purpose, of understanding by others, and of administrative role on the part of the Masters themselves.

Despite the presence of excellent support services to students in personal need, and many events of considerable intellectual worth, there remained a sense among the Houses that these achievements were unnoticed and unappreciated by most faculty and administrators. The plea for a centralization of effort under a Dean of Student Affairs first arose in 1975, and helped move the College to its present search for the first such appointee.

The original aim of the House System was to confront the basic issues of educating for citizenship in the last quarter of the 20th Century. The willingness to create a single budget unit under the leadership of a Dean represents a second major effort to address the task. (p.62-63)

Financial Concerns
Hampshire College is well aware of the problems facing small independent colleges in the next decade. We have directed increased portions of our scarce budget dollars to funding and staffing Admissions. We have substantially increased the staff of the Development Office. We have provided approximately twenty percent of the student body with financial aid in the past five years in order to meet our enrollment goals with highly qualified students. We have added needed facilities to our physical plant to provide specialized academic facilities for the arts. We have maintained a very effective energy conservation effort over the past three years. In short, we are doing everything possible to stabilize and strengthen our financial condition. Even given our concerns about enrollment and other problems, we have not developed a retrenchment plan as yet, feeling that to do so would be a serious inhibition to recruitment and to fund-raising and would cause a general decline in morale.

Since a strong faculty is maintained by a competitive faculty salary scale, our strong rankings reflect our efforts well. However, it is a fact that the entire profession, with few exceptions, continues to fall behind in real income. Unlike our three private neighbors, Hampshire does not have the endowment income necessary to provide scales which match the price index or real income growth rates. Thus we will face serious discrepancies in compensation with our immediate colleagues before long. At the same time, there is no reason to believe our tuition increases can fill the growing gap. Effecting greater income for the College will remain a primary concern for the years ahead, whether it means increased enrollments, endowment, or both...

Hampshire is not without its fiscal weakness. Perhaps its greatest financial asset may be its awareness of the fiscal facts of life. Prudent and concerned management by the entire College community will hopefully guide the College into the future. (p.82-83)

In this period of economic flux, financial pressures, and concern for the student as a consumer, student enrollments in colleges and universities are declining, and there is reason for more than usual worry about student attrition...The national average of student attrition for all colleges and universities is forty percent. This figure includes community colleges where attrition is often as high as eighty percent and elite, private colleges where it is often as low as ten percent. For Hampshire, the attrition rate was forty percent for the Fall Term entering classes of 1973 and 1974; based upon the current rate, the attrition rate for the Fall 1975 entering class will be higher than forty percent.

Hampshire has researched and studied the complex phenomenon of student attrition, and considerable discussion--and a certain amount of controversy--has ensued. There is consensus, however, that no matter what the causes of attrition at Hampshire, or whether or not it has its roots in negative features of the College, a forty percent rate has intolerable consequences for the future of the institution.

A high attrition rate puts a severe burden on admissions. For every student lost by attrition, the Admissions Office must have four applicants and accept two students to replace the student who has withdrawn. With a prospect of a drop in the college age cohort of three percent a year beginning in three years, it is probably impossible to rely entirely on admissions to replace so many students lost by attrition.

A high attrition rate probably means, moreover, that the College is losing too many students who could have succeeded at Hampshire and who leave with negative feelings about themselves, with lowered self-esteem and a sense of failure...Since the majority of students who withdraw do so at the Division I level, a high attrition rate also suggests that the student community, the overall academic program, and the intellectual life of the College potentially lack the positive influences of maturity and continuity provided by large numbers of advanced students. The balance among the three Divisions becomes undermined, and with large numbers of Division I students and small numbers of upper Division students, the faculty finds itself teaching as if in a large junior college and at the same time in a small honors program. (p.101-102)

Interactions which produce a sense of engagement and commitment that is satisfying to the student will result in his or her graduation. When the interactions fail to produce this engagement, the student may withdraw. This is especially true in an institution where academic progress is so closely tied to the student's sense of self-esteem. For sixty percent of a Fall Term entering class at Hampshire, the students' interactions with the institution are positive enough for them to persist and graduate. We need to extend or create more appropriate ways for fostering such good interactions among the forty percent who will not graduate from Hampshire. (p. 104-105)

Report of the Retention Task Force
Amherst, Mass.: Hampshire College, January 31, 1978.

The President's charge to the Task Force in October 1977 asked us to examine the problem of student attrition and make recommendations. We have now completed a series of meetings and want to report our progress and recommendations...(p.1)

II. SOURCES OF ATTRITION At the time the Task Force was formed, the College's existing data on retention had been summarized in Richard Alpert's September 22, 1977 memo, "Retention." The memo suggested that the roots of attrition were in the failure of the College to involve and engage students early in the academic and/or social life of the College and to build a commitment to graduate even in the face of frustrations and difficulties. This did not mean that everyone who entered would or should graduate, but rather that too many students were leaving who could have had a constructive and satisfying experience. The memo further suggested that since sixty percent of students who enter do graduate, we should try to extend the elements of the experiences of this sixty percent to the other forty percent...

...The assumption was that engagement, involvement, and commitment were essential for retention. The Task Force concentrated its efforts on generating ideas about how these characteristics could be developed and sustained.

Since the largest proportion of students who withdraw usually do so within the first three semesters and before having filed Division II concentration statements, the Task Force was persuaded to follow the suggestion of the mini-retreat that retention efforts concentrate on Division I. The Task Force's most extensive efforts, therefore, have gone into an examination of how the Division I academic program and advising for students in Division I could better promote involvement and engagement of students. The Task Force, however, adopted another criterion for evaluating ideas and suggestions. It sought to develop proposals that would not only serve the retention effort but also improve the quality of the academic experience for both faculty and students. (p.1-2)


1. Lack of close articulation between the course and examination systems.
Hampshire's faculty simultaneously support two systems for student learning and evaluation...Faculty spend a great deal of time maintaining this dual system. A large proportion of this time goes into Division I courses and examinations and there is not a commensurate reward in the number of students who successfully complete Division I examinations and file Division II concentration statements. From the perspective of many students, Division I is a minefield of false starts, unrealistic expectations, and self-imposed barriers to academic progress.
2. Lack of a clear conceptual focus.
...Division I lacks a clear definition of purpose and reflection of that purpose in the Division I curriculum. It lacks a clear conceptual focus and emphasis on specific methodological, artistic, thinking, and other skills that students should learn.
3. Confusing and contradictory incentives for faculty and students.
* Faculty spend a great deal of time preparing for classes, teaching classes, working with students on course-related projects. Students, however, do not make academic progress by successfully completing courses. In too many cases during every semester, faculty continue to prepare for courses while student attendance and involvement in those courses often decline. There are many reasons why this happens, but among the more significant, we believe, is the shift in the student's attention away from course work to the development and completion of exams.
* Students are also caught in a confusing crossfire of incentives. Courses are in fact the main vehicle by which students gain the understanding, skills, and experiences to make academic progress. They are also the main sources for developing early relationships between faculty and students. Despite all our rhetoric and wishes, courses are the center of the student's academic life in Division I. Courses, however, are not central to how a student's academic progress is evaluated...Examination evaluations at the Division I level, moreover, take on an exaggerated importance. They offer no opportunity for the student to accumulate small victories and/or defeats and develop confidence to do more substantial and difficult work. This situation discourages students from taking Division I examinations. (p.2-3)


1. Division I examinations be course-related.

* Examinations would be done in conjunction with Division I courses. An examination would include the common work of the course and a specific project which each student would design and complete in a contractual relationship with the course's faculty member(s).
* Walk-in exams would be the exception and would only be done on an independent study basis. This is to insure that they are comparable in content, scope, and quality with those done in conjunction with courses.

2. All Division I courses have the following objectives:

* Introduction to the purposes of liberal education at Hampshire.
* Development of specific intellectual and behavioral survival skills for successful academic work at Hampshire.
* A study and evaluation of the methods of inquiry within a particular discipline and the problems and values of interdisciplinary inquiry.
* Frequent contact and evaluation between faculty and students around clear and coherent intellectual and/or artistic work from early on in the life of the course and throughout the term. Assignments would be substantial. Early and continuous faculty attention would be given to developing the quality of student writing and other appropriate skills. Students might well be engaged in collaborative work and in criticizing one another's work, but direct faculty guidance and response to the work of students would be essential.

3. While maintaining courses that have a specific focus and are intense experiences with a particular discipline or problem, there should be more courses that are broad in focus and designed to respect both the area of study and the students' natural and likely interests.

4. Courses team taught by faculty within a given school and from different schools should represent a significant proportion of Division I offerings, and students should be encouraged to do at least one cross school examination.

5. Courses of substantial size should provide for close faculty-student interaction in small group discussions.

Our belief is that this revision of Division I policy could have a significant impact on the student retention issue through (a) assuring early and mutual working contact with more than one experienced faculty member; (b) offering early and continuous feedback on the quality of student work; (c) incorporating more directly into the Division I academic program some guidance in intellectual and behavioral "survival skills"--essentially those skills necessary to take responsibility for the appropriate design and conduct of one's own education; (d) the creation of a relationship between course instructors and students that is analogous to the adviser/advisee relationship; (e) responding to student interest in broader orienting studies in Division I, as well as studies designed to develop better skills of inquiry; (f) offering a more substantial background or context of studies out of which there can emerge a clearer more consensual agreement as to the nature of a good Division I exam; and (g) redressing the widespread sense of dispirited nominalism that attaches now to too much Division I course and exam work.

Furthermore, it looks to us as if this may well have a healthy effect on the faculty work load problem, which, unless addressed, cannot help but indirectly contribute to the exacerbation of the attrition problem. We're proposing to gather into a workable and potentially efficient integrity one's course and examination commitments to Division I work. Less directly, we should be addressing the demoralizing impact on everyone involved of student carelessness in attending and doing the work of Division I courses, which has damaging precedent-setting impact for student attitudes toward academic work in general. (p.3-5)

The main contact for students and faculty both officially and, for many, informally, is through the student's academic adviser. This relationship is crucial, especially in the first years. Although the advising system--especially the academic adviser--is a key contact, advising is fragmented and available in small pieces...Disjunctions exist, moreover, among academic work, advising and community relationships. This set of proposals attempts to create an advising framework that makes the relationships of students with their academic advisers, House staff, and other students more coherent and mutually supportive. It attempts to make the advising system and all its interactions contribute more to the total educational experience of students. (p.5)

Students in Division I especially have a variety of advising needs. Advising provided by the College should respect this variety and develop a system that is responsive to it. The first step in this response is to put academic advising by faculty and general advising by House staff and students in a complementary and supportive relationship to each other.

1. Each new student would have an advising team consisting of a faculty member, student staff, and member of the permanent House staff.
2. New students would be assigned to faculty by the student's housing location, i.e., any given faculty member's new advisees would be all living in contiguous areas of a House.
* All advisers with space for new students will be assigned those students by geographic location and not by field of interest...Faculty would be encouraged to meet periodically with their group of students as a whole, sometimes in the students' residences...
* House and student staff would work with the new students in cooperation with the faculty adviser assigned to these students. These would include such responsibilities as being in regular contact and communication with the students, informal discussion of exams and academic work, encouragement and facilitation of a sense of community within their area, working with the adviser to set up the group meetings, contributing to the agendas of these meetings based on their familiarity with the students and with the residential aspects of their education. They could also enable the adviser to have a fuller understanding of the pressures and stresses that any particular advisee might be feeling and that might be having an impact on that student's total education. The House staff person could also serve as a link between the faculty adviser and the resources of the House...(p.6-7)

The most common pattern of student attrition is for a student to take a leave of absence and then withdraw from leave status. According to current data, fifty percent of the students who go on leave withdraw. It is crucial, therefore, that the College examine more closely the leave taking phenomenon and take steps when appropriate and possible that will increase the chances of a student returning to Hampshire.

Leave advising in general is seen as the "stepchild" of the advising system. Because of lack of faculty time, skill, or interest, and lack of student initiative, leave advising very often is not done at all or, if done, is not done well. For many students, the choice is a response to stress in their involvement with the system and an avoidance in making difficult personal and academic choices...

The easy choice of going on leave should be eliminated. Students should be encouraged to come to terms more directly with why they want to go on leave and how that choice relates to their experience at Hampshire and their personal and academic goals. Students should, therefore, be encouraged to use the Options Office, to write a leave planning document, and each School should assign one faculty member to do pre-leave advising in addition to the student's adviser. The College should consider raising the leave of absence fee with part of it refundable if the student returns...An increase in the leave of absence fee would also allow the College to provide more services to students while they are on leave of absence...

More training should be given to faculty and students to do pre-leave advising.(p.8-9)

The Task Force has outlined a set of principles for revision of the Division I Academic Program and Division I Advising, and for Leave Advising. In a number of cases, it has also made specific recommendations of action to be taken. We now need a planning and implementation process to put these principles into practice and a decision-making process and time table for taking action...(p.9)

Members of the Retention Task Force: Richard Alpert, John Boettiger, Raymond Coppinger, Nancy Frishberg, Linda Gordon, Leslie Hiebert, Douglas Morrison, John Runyan, Michael Sutherland, Ruth Washington.

Proseminar Proposal, 1979


February 14, 1979

To: The College Senate
From: John R. Boettiger
Subject: Division I Proseminars: A Proposal


During 1977-78, and continuing through the Fall and Winter of the current academic year, a good deal of attention has focused on the Division I program. The Retention Task Force, knowing that students were leaving Hampshire in considerable numbers before filing Division II contracts, and on the plausible assumption that attrition was in part a function of the College's failure adequately to engage the intellectual energies of students during their first year of studies, made a number of proposals for improving and further integrating course, exam and advising work at the Division I level. Some of those proposals found their way into advising guidelines and exam policies articulated in the faculty and student handbooks. Others served to stimulate experiments already under way in the Schools: for example, individual H&A courses incorporating a systematic introduction to the Division I exam process, and a comprehensive plan for Division I curricular innovation in the School of Natural Science. By the Fall of 1978 there remained some doubts in the minds of many faculty and students who had thought seriously about these issues: doubts (a) that we had inquired carefully or widely enough into faculty and student experience to know confidently the character of the issues we faced, and (b) that well-meaning recommendations in College handbooks or elsewhere are likely to have much effect.

So for the past six months the Educational Policy Committee has devoted most of its time to collecting and discussing information about Division I as it has evolved in the College's practice. We made use of computer-stored statistical information on progress-by-examination, interviews conducted with selected faculty from each of the Schools, a study of a sample of Division I examination proposals and evaluations completed in the School of Humanities and Arts, and questionnaires distributed to students by Courtney Gordon's office to elicit information about the problems experienced in the first year.

The Problem

In reviewing this material and talking with members of our respective Schools, we found our attention drawn particularly to new students' first term experience of the academic program. It is those first months at Hampshire that are most commonly identified as problematic. The problems are variously experienced and perceived, but a few seem to have particular salience:

1. Lack of access to desired courses. Entering students frequently feel at a competitive disadvantage in a bewildering course selection process, and often are dispirited by their failure to gain access to courses of their choice. The normally unsettled quality of the first couple of weeks at the College is thus subjected to further confusion and discouragement at a critical point of initial encounter with the academic program.
2. Confusion about the function of courses in the College's system of academic progress by examination, frequently resulting in an inconstancy of student commitment and productivity in courses that is distressing to faculty, and an uncertainty about the significance of their course work that is distressing to students themselves...
3. Absence of systematic working introduction to the Division I exam process. There is a great deal of talk about that process in a useful but probably redundant array of forums and occasions. Good advice may be available at every corner, but the character and purpose of Division I exams may sound quite different from one corner to the next, and during one's first months at the College, advice about exams is often anecdotal or hypothetical, outside the context of an ongoing intellectual process in which mutual understanding can be developed and confirmed...
4. Relative isolation of academic advising from the mutual (faculty-student) experience of academic performance, save in the rare instances when one's adviser is also the instructor of a Division I course taken in the first term. This second-hand quality of the initial adviser-advisee relationship can be a significant disability, leading to a pattern of mutual neglect, in which neither party views the relationship as substantial enough to make a real difference.
5. Absence of early enough attention to the diagnosis and development of skills fundamental to academic progress: writing, logic, research methods, library use, calculation. The pursuit of one's own program of self-directed inquiry at the Division II level implies a prior experience of structured attention to such diagnosis and development, preferably in dialogue with faculty in intellectually stimulating circumstances.

The Proposal

There are many potentially viable and even complementary responses to such problems. The experiment we propose here has, in our view, some particular advantages: it is addressed, in some real measure, to all of the problems identified; it is potentially visible and direct enough to allow us to know whether or not it is functioning and to evaluate its impact; it is designed to serve the Division I goals most commonly endorsed in our interviews with faculty; it is sufficiently modest in its departure from conventional practice and its demands for new expenditures of energy to be practicable in an institution whose instructional resources are stretched thin already.

We propose to engage some of the College's most interested and seasoned Division I teachers/advisers in offering a collection of Division I proseminars, starting in the Fall Term of 1979... Organized in all of the four Schools, the proseminars as a group would have some common characteristics:

1. They would be designed expressly for entering students--"direct entry" students rather than transfer students with substantial college experience behind them...No student would enroll in more than one such seminar.
2. They would be seminars of substantial intellectual content, problem- or issue-focused in realms likely to be identified as of significant personal consequence by our entering students and of lively professional consequence by the teaching faculty; designed to offer some sustained and critical practice of the expressive and analytic skills of particular fields. They could be single- or inter-disciplinary, individually or team-taught, but like our traditional Division I seminar model they would be relatively circumscribed in topic rather than surveys, lending themselves to active rather than merely absorptive learning.
3. With equal and integral seriousness--that is, in ways that draw upon the intellectual stuff of the course--the proseminar will be developing a working familiarity and engagement with the larger academic life of the College: for example (a) the pursuit of a series of student projects that will serve as occasions for early and regular faculty feedback, for skill diagnosis and development, for attention to the value of collaborative as well as independent study, and for an introduction to the processes of self-initiated inquiry that are central to successful divisional exam work; (b) a working familiarization with some of the essential resources of the College and the wider community (for example, the Five College library system and the advising centers); and (c) a careful and explicit gathering--in the more economical context of the seminar--of some of the common substance of first-term adviser-advisee conversations...
4. To take a page from The Making of a College, (specifically pp.69-70), we think that many such seminars might well incorporate a teaching assistant role for advanced Division II and Division III students. They would be modeling, as well as sharing their knowledge of, the successful process of academic development at Hampshire, and, of course, sharing the work load with faculty and further extending their own experience of teaching and learning.

The Logistics

Entering students would be invited and strongly advised, in the summer before their arrival, to join in the proseminar program. In practice, such students would be offered descriptions of the seminars to be offered, asked to rank order their top three or four choices, and then preregistered well before arrival on campus so that immediate contact with their faculty seminar leader could be made. (Seminar leaders and members might find value in gathering initially, during the orientation period, for an informal occasion or two--a picnic or other outdoor activity, for example.) Students, of course, would also be free to decline to participate in the program: that should be made clear in the summer prospectus as well.

Number of proseminars to be offered in the Fall Term of 1979: This would depend principally on our ability to recruit appropriate faculty within the coming few weeks. We expect about 300 new Division I students next Fall. If we organized 20 proseminars all of those students could be accomodated at a student:faculty ratio of 15:1. Clearly, we could also go with a smaller number...

Insofar as possible, participating faculty would be asked to free up new advisee spaces for students in their proseminars. No other new advisees would be assigned to participating faculty.

Planning for the program this Spring and Summer would be coordinated by the Dean of Faculty's office...The spirit and substance of collaborative venture is likely to strengthen the likelihood of the program's success. Provisions for systematic evaluation--for following students' work during and after their experience of the program and for attending comparably to a control group--would be arranged this Spring. We would expect to offer a smaller number of proseminars in the Spring Term of 1980, and to continue in our experimental mode at least through the academic year 1980-81. We are thus asking the Senate for its advice and consent to a two-year experiment.

Course Guide, Fall 1981

[The many references to cougars in this next work refer to a reported sighting of a cougar in South Amherst in 1981. The document allegedly originated in the cougar-haunted halls of the School of Humanities and Arts.]

As we all well know, due to recent changes in the zoological make-up of the South Amherst area, the population of Hampshire College--both staff and students included--has severely declined. In response, the college has been forced to drastically shorten this semester's course guide. As the main printing facilities of the college were recently destroyed by predatory felines, our last surviving publication, Enfo, is assuming the responsibility of publishing the course guide.

Humanities and Arts


Mark Twain was of the opinion that James Fenimore Cooper was an incompetent writer. Was Twain right, or was he just being mean, jealous, petty, cruel, and vindictive? To find out, we will read the Deerslayer, Leatherstocking, The Last of the Mohicans, Cooper's collected letters, his unabridged and annotated diaries -- in fact, we will read every single word ever written by James Fenimore Cooper -- paying particular attention to his land- and riverscapes.

Students are expected to bring their own crayons, and blankets for naptime after milk-and-cookies.

HA 143, LOVE, AMERICAN STYLE -- Nina Payne and John Boettiger

"Weebles wobble. But let the weeble grow feet, and it will surely walk away" -- Tweedle-Dee.
This is a literature and writing course designed for those who hate both. To encourage the interest and participation of class members, we will read from a wide variety of popular literature, concentrating especially on the theme of Love, in its many facets, as expressed in American Literature. Included in the readings will be a general view of several Harlequin romances, Terry Southern's Candy, and the anonymously published Underage Secretaries.


This is a course in the mythology of literary criticism. Students will learn how to dissect thirty-six great works of Russian Literature with a meat cleaver. The reading list, which runs to three pages, will be handed out at our first meeting. Also at that time, students must demonstrate mastery of pedantic polysyllabic writing endemic to academic criticism by successfully diagramming the follwoing sentence on the blackboard:
"Writers expressed the alienation fostered by western education on the part of the educated classes from the traditional collectivity and their ambivalence about the lonely and isolating individualism which they found in the western philosophical tradition of the preceding century and which formed the basis even of socialist theory."


This class will do close textual analysis of the unpublished works of two little known writers. We will examine their original manuscripts: fragmentary, incomplete, written on Big Mac wrappers and the margins of stained Howard Johnson's menus. Readings will include Kottmeier's would-be masterpiece of despair and desperation, Down and Out in Scarsdale and Nantucket, and his never-realized tour de force Bloodworms, Bathtubs, and Basketballs. We will compare these to the outline for Chapter One of Thurston's Captain Zowie and the Space Pirates of Zilch, and the dramatic sketch for the conclusion of The Spy Who Came in From El Paso.

Language and Communication


IN LC 007 we will, by studying the origins of the words "Language", "and", and "Com-munication", and through analysis of their semantic content and effect, attempt to evaluate the meaning of the phrase "Language and Communication". The course will be taught by the entire staff of the school of L and C, in the hope of rediscovering the intentions of the school, as we have all forgotten what they were.

LC 166, ANIMAL COMMUNICATION -- Mark Feinstein

Having exhausted the original literature on bees, birds, canids, dolphins, and cetaceans, the course will focus this term on felines, notably the hitherto unstudied communicational patterns of Felis concolor, commonly known as the cougar. Do cougars really attack without warning? Or can we learn to predict the attacks by understanding the roars that come at dusk from the woods by Prescott? Do cougars communicate by the ominous back-and-forth twitchings of their tails? Is the flattening of their ears significant? Do these various signals form some part of a cougar "lexicon"? And, most important of all, are cougars capable of forming complex communications, i.e., signals such as "If it moves, pounce on it, and rend it into hamburger"?
Enrollment is open.

LC 195, HISTORY OF THE PRESS -- David Kerr and Kate Stanne

The course will bring together journalists, sportcasters, basketball players, and weight-lifters in a cross-disciplinary analysis of the full-court press, the half-court press, and the bench press. Meets in RCC.


The course will seek to relate the traditional Judeo-Christian ethic to current transportational technologies. Readings will include Jewish, Catholic, and Protestant scriptures and the 1981 Rand McNally Road Atlas. Not recommended for Division I students.

LC 299, LIES AND UGLINESS -- James Gee and Joan Murray
(Also listed as HA 288)

"There can be only one TRUTH, but there can be an infinite number of Lies." -- Aristotle
This is a course in reverse epistemologic aesthetics, or in reverse aesthetic epistemology, depending upon which side of the question you're coming from, or, perhaps, depending upon the side of the question from which you are coming.

Required readings will include: Sartre's Nausea, Nixon's Parrot Beak Speech, "Agony" selections from The Agony and the Ecstasy, and an anthology of one-act plays written by Alexander Haig. In keeping with the interdisciplinarity of the course, we will have mixed-media presentations: videotapes of The Plasmatics, and slides of Vend-O-Mats, assorted taco stands, and Amarillo.

Social Sciences


Taught conjointly by six to eight instructors in the School, this course seeks to understand the similarities between the socio-economic systems that have restructured the psycho-political patterns in Third World cultures and bipolarized the political economies and class structures in the First and Second Worlds.

What, for example, are the similarities between the 1928 Congressional Record and the Proceedings of the Sixth Cominterm? Is stupifying humourlessness the common denominator that unifies the theoretical writings of both worldviews? Do Friedrich Engel footnotes bear any similarities with legislation voted on in 1950 by the House Agriculture Subcommittee on Soybeans and Molasses? Is it possible that the more things change, the more they stay the same? Is it possible for a social scientist to write a sentence with fewer than a dozen words? With no dependent clauses? With no hyphenated-pseudo-words?

We will read Das Kapital cover to cover and lecture in self-righteous monotones. Enrollment is limited to 250, selected by historical necessity.

SS 231, CURRENT CRISES IN WORLD TOPOGRAPHY -- Arthur Westing and Len Glick (Also listed as NS 231)

Millions of years ago, a massive continent encompassed the region now known as the Atlantic Ocean. The Western region of the United States was once flat, fertile land, until massive mountains suddenly sprang up from the soil, disrupting the serenity of the land.

Daily, the earth beneath us is changing. But what are the effects of such topographical alterations upon our societies and life-styles? How do changes in the earth's surface alter our day-to-day existence? What changes in life-style may be necessary in order to adapt to topographical alterations? Are we prepared for another ice-age? Why buy land in Bismark, North Dakota when it could well be under water in a week or two? Where are the best local bargains for snow-shoes, loincloths and inflatable kayaks?

For the dramatic answers to these and other urgent questions, sign up now at the SS Advising Office for "Current Crises in World Topography".

Natural Science

NS 164/264, NEW ENGLAND COUGARS -- Billy Lee Orvil

Naturalists have established that the cougar was native to New England a few centuries ago. What caused the demise or migration of this magnificent beast? And is it possible to reintroduce this powerful predator as a means of holding in check the hoards of sheep now devasting the pastures of the Pioneer Valley? You scoff? You don't think it can be done? Well, cougars thrived here a couple of hundred years ago, and, by golly, they can thrive here today, too!

There will be two short papers and a Field Project. There is no enrollment limit, but students who did not participate last semester in NS 163/263 must have the consent of the instructor.

Note: This course has been cancelled. Visiting professor Orvil is on convalescent sabbatical.


Note: This course has been cancelled. Memorial contributions may be made through the Dean of Faculty's Office.

Oudoors Program/Recreational Athletics


A continuation of Beginning Falling, this course is designed to introduce students to more difficult pratfalls. We will start with a review of basic stumbling and tripping techniques, then graduate to more difficult assignments: falling down stairs, falling from the Climbing Wall, and falling off the Dakin roof. Next semester, Advanced falling will offer a field trip to Yosemite, that climaxes in falling off El Capitan.

RA 150, SNA FU -- Michael Ford and Fred Weaver

Sna fu, an obscure offshoot of Kung fu, is the only non-contact oriental fighting technique. Sna Fu adepts confuse potential assailants by paralysing them with gibberish. Students will study inter-office memoranda, and Egyptian mummification. They will also be expected to commit to memory the entire governance structure of the college.

IMPORTANT CHANGE: The class will meet on the first floor of Cole Science. Do NOT go to the Frisbee field!

Integrative Seminars

IS 34, SOCIALISM, ART, AND SMORGASBORDS -- Lester Mazor, Arthur Hoener, and Julia Child (guest lecturer)

In this course, we will come to understand the intimate relationship of socialism, art, and Smorgasbords. Lester Mazor, Professor of Law, has concocted what he terms a "very interesting" connection between Swedish socialist politics and their national dinner, the Smorgasbord. Is the Smorgasbord (a wide variety of food selections, available to all consumers, who pay an equal share in its construction and thus act as both the governing and participating sects of the Smorgasbord) an accurate metaphor for socialism as a whole? Can we observe Socialist politics in a fresher, crispier light if we view it from a Smorgasbordian perspective?
Arthur Hoener, Hampshire Professor of small, black-and-white circles, has posed a possibly "extremely interesting" object of study: the relationship between the adoption of the smorgasbord by Americans, within the last fifty years, and the development of modern art, as exemplified in the work of Jackson Pollack. Is Pollack, throughout his work, illustrating the smorgasbord at its Zenith, or at its most chaotic? What, then, is Pollack saying about Socialism? Zenith or Chaos?
Julia Child loves to feed large numbers of people, and Lester and Arthur both consider this as adequate a substantiation for an Integrative Seminar as any other.

Stay In Touch
With Hampshire College
Snail Mail
Hampshire College
893 West Street
Amherst, MA 01002