student in media lab

Chapter 6: Student Life and the Houses

A [Student] Proposal for Hampshire College

February 2, 1966. (Included with the Educational Advisory Committee Report.) Click here to download a pdf of the entire student proposal.

A group of students from Amherst and Smith have been meeting together for about two months to discuss education and formulate a proposal for Hampshire College. This is the proposal that has come out of these meetings. It is based on certain opinions about educational purposes, certain observations about the present state of college education, and certain ideas about society in general, and its demands. So these things may as well be stated first.

  1. The need for a new kind of person and a new kind of thinking.
    The United States faces problems today which cannot be solved through the approaches traditionally used by society. The solutions to the major internal and world-wide problems lie in policies not yet devised and in attitudes not now held. It is not that such problems as poverty, civil rights, and the war in Vietnam are being ignored. It is that no matter what we do, using the best tools available, the problems either stay the same or get worse. If the problems are to be solved, our educational institutions will have to find new ways to give students new tools to deal with the new problems. In light of this it seems to me that independent, divergent, and highly creative thinking should be one of the highest educational values. The need is not to perpetuate old ways of thought, but to foster new ones.

  2. Individual differences.
    It is by now commonplace that the net effect of society, (including its educational institutions), on the individual is to make him conform. We think colleges should take the opposite view, and cherish and foster individual differences.

  3. Isolation.
    It has long been part of educational thinking to make colleges separate from the ordinary flow of concerns in the outside world, or at least to relegate activities and thought in this realm to the twilight of "extra-curricular activities." Our view is that one of the prime concerns of the college should be to study quite directly the problems of the modern world; everything possible should be done to break down traditional ivory tower isolation.

  4. Intellectual Community.
    Colleges are not serving the function of being intellectual communities. Dialogue and the exchange of intellectual ideas is largely confined in practice to the classroom. What intellectual community there is exists largely in spite of, not because of, the college program. We feel every effort should be made to revive and foster this kind of community activity.

  5. Responsibility.
    School administrations continually restrict the personal lives of students on the grounds that students aren't responsible enough to manage their own affairs. To us, responsibility is learned like anything else, and that the only way for students to learn to manage their affairs responsibly is to be allowed to manage them.

  6. Self-motivation, interest.
    For many students a vital engagement with the subject of study is often obstructed by conventional curricula and classroom situations. We assume that students are naturally curious and interested and responsive to situations. We feel that the students' impetus to learn must be uncovered and employed as the sole motivation in education. The content of a person's education should be based on his particular interests and concerns. (p.1-2)

The Over-all Structure.
The college would be divided into five autonomous residential and educational villages. Decisions concerning the management of the "village" would be decided democratically. The villages would be geographically separated, centered around those facilities that would have to be shared by the whole school. Each student would design his program, with a faculty advisor. The curriculum would center as much of each student's program, as possible, within his village group, without losing the advantages of a larger college community.

The Villages:
In each village there would be a series of residences housing various numbers of students, from 8 to 30. Each would contain a lounge and kitchenette. Single rooms should be provided for those who want them. It would be important for the architecture of the residences within each village to be varied. They should be designed to look like houses. Frame construction might be best.

Each residence would be administered by the students themselves, democratically. The students in each would be responsible for social rules, the cleaning of the dorm and minor repairs. Room groupings would be chosen in the spring, though alterable anytime, and would be made on the basis of friendship. The decision as to whether or not to live in a co-ed dormitory would be left to the students. (p. 3)

Senior Program:
To graduate, students must, by the end of their junior [year], design a coherent, rigorous, limited, and concentrated program of study. It must be approved, and, upon completion in the senior year, accepted by a panel of faculty and seniors in that field. The purpose of studying a limited problem in depth is to challenge and temper the student's appreciation and his accumulated knowledge and skills. (p.8)

The House Plan at Hampshire College

by Robert C. Birney. February 1969.
Click here for a pdf of the full document.

The planning of Hampshire College reflects our conviction that residence is one facet of the total educational environment.

The goals we seek in creating an educational environment at Hampshire are the enhancement and deepening of learning. We believe this can best be done by bringing living and learning together, not by compartmentalizing learning as something that stops outside the classroom or away from the carrel. We aim to create a living-learning environment in which intellectual curiosity and development will thrive as part of moral and aesthetic growth, a setting where students and faculty alike will see themselves as part of a common enterprise in which all have a stake and a continuing part...(p. 1)

One inference that Hampshire draws from this goal is a requirement of participation in the creation and maintenance of the community. Although this in no way is inconsistent with respect for a wide range of personal interests, the community we hope to encourage will be one which focuses on and fosters the self in society, and which evokes all the energy needed to maintain community support for both parts of that focus.

To encourage effective individual participation and growth, the College is organized into units called Houses, each of 250-300 students, and each with its own living, dining, and academic facilities...Each House will have in residence a Master, who will be a senior professor on the Hampshire faculty. The Master and his family will be very much a part of House affairs, academic and otherwise. The residence of the Master will provide a commodious and attractive family home integral to the House community. Closely related to the residence of the Master will be an apartment residence for the Proctor, who will serve as his full-time assistant. The residence of the Master and of the Proctor will be connected with office space for administration of House affairs, and the Master's residence will provide accommodations for special guests of the House. The House academic building, located adjacent to the residence building, will contain faculty offices as well as instructional space. Professors who have offices in the House academic building will be affiliated with the House community as faculty fellows. (p.2)

...A further feature of the House plan is the intention to extend membership in the House across all the major roles to be found in the College. It is our hope that professors, staff, students, and service personnel will accept active and full membership in the various House communities. By so doing, we feel that governance of the House will better reflect a proper respect for the sensibilities of all those who live and work there.

It is intended that the House government shall have the power to tax and spend. It is intended also that the House unit of government shall be the means by which all members of the House are able to participate actively in the life of the College as a whole. This suggests the organization of a council body to coordinate the activities of the Houses. It is, however, expected that each House will create its own means of developing intellectual involvement, community service, and a stimulating social life. (p.3)

The Hampshire Fellows Program

by John R. Boettiger. March 1969. Click here to download a pdf of the entire report.

In 1970-71 Hampshire College will inaugurate a unique fellowship program for a small number of unusually able young men and women then in their senior year of undergraduate study. The Hampshire Fellows program will offer those seniors an opportunity to complete their college work as participants in a new educational venture. Approximately twenty students, drawn from the other institutions of the Five College community and from elsewhere in the country, will undertake together a specially designed year of individual study, integrative seminar work, and teaching. With the faculty and the other students of Hampshire's first year community, they will play an important part in the planning and conduct of the College's experimenting program of liberal education.

The nature of the Hampshire Fellows Program is derived, in considerable part, from the College's Division of Advanced Studies--the final, normally year-long, sequence of work expected of Hampshire's students before graduation. Viewed as a pilot project for the kind of advanced work to be undertaken in subsequent years by a larger number of students, the Fellows Program will provide experiences of extraordinary value to the College's planning for the future. (p.5)

Chuck's All-Nite Truck Stop 'n' College

CLIMAX, April 10, 1973.

Strengths and Weaknesses in the Area of Student Life.

In: Self-Study Report, January 1974. Click here for a pdf of the entire Self-Study Report.

The primary strengths of the features of student life at Hampshire College are those which center on the opportunities available to students to test for themselves various forms of social organization and association which they wish to experience. Evidence gathered from continuing housing surveys suggests that students experience rather different needs for social contexts as they move from their first to their last year of study. Overall, there is among the student body considerable aspiration for the achievement of a highly integrated sense of common purpose or community. At the same time, our studies strongly suggest it is those students who become part of a working intellectual group who report the best social adjustment. Persons whose energies are devoted to socializing per se seem to be less happy with their social situation. Just as the academic program shows an extraordinary variety, so, too, the conditions of student life present the student with a wide range of possible involvements. Again, testing and choosing absorbs considerable energy and students frequently turn to house staffs and counseling services for help with that aspect of their development. Generally, there seems to be satisfaction with the quality of those services...

The chief problem areas with co-educational living arise from the variety of student lifestyles and occasional excesses of behaviour, whether sexual or social, which violate the privacy of others, or worse, provide provocation to excessive reaction which leads to serious conflict...

The major weaknesses which have appeared in the inquiries into student life again seem to center on inefficient communication networks and, even more markedly, on a sharp division between that which is perceived as belonging to the student and that which is seen as belonging to the College. Those things identified as one's own are reasonably well cared for and there is a considerable amount of mutual support displayed. Unfortunately, both College and personal property show the familiar signs of vandalism and abuse which remain a constant feature of American public life. it is not yet possible to claim that Hampshire students appreciate the importance of public citizenship or fully understand how to achieve it when they do appreciate it. In general the philosophy has been to permit students to develop primary responsibility and the record suggests that the evolution has been slow. (p.127-129)


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