student in media lab

Chapter 8: Students

Hampshire Survival Tips (1996)
On Windmills (1997)
Fire in Prescott (2000)
It's a "Mod, Mod" World (2003)
Student Protest re: Smoking Ban/Democracy Day (2004)

Hampshire Survival Tips, 1996

Hampshire Survival Tips, by Andrew Schwerin, Elana Jacobs, and Rebecca J. Grossfeld. [Amherst, MA:] The Logo, Fall 1996.

Last Spring, Andrew Schwerin and Elana Jacobs set up a table outside the library with the intention of collecting some Hampshire lore and suggestions for incoming students on how to navigate their way through Hampshire. The response was enormous and varied--often corny, sometimes racy, and occasionally accurate (depending on who your friends are). They illustrate the diversity of Hampshire opinions on everything ranging from Roberta to Division I policies to sex with your hallmates. Take these tips with a grain of salt--in true Hampshire fashion, they have not been censored for content (or grammar, for that matter). We hope the Survival Tips help you begin your Hampshire experience with a chuckle and maybe even some insight.


--Get up early with the sun, breathe, do yoga. Completely forget that everything else exists. Remember that everything else exists around you upside down...
--Go to the reservoir early and often.
--Take advantage of sunny days when they come...
--Pee before going to class.
--Communication: If you're living in a dorm or Mod and something is bothering you, talk about it with the people you're living with so that it doesn't fester...
--Don't live in the Mods for your first year because you'll never meet anyone unless you live in the dorms. Once you meet those people, then you can maintain the friendships in the Mods.
--Be careful about whom and what you talk about in the dorm hallways (Mods too)--everyone in their rooms can hear every word.
--Depend on yourself and not on your whole hall.
--The doors in Dakin marked "exit" are actually bathrooms. Don't panic! They are not out-houses...
--Mod living teaches you to grow up much faster than dorm living. You have more responsibilities and you have to have really good people skills.
--If you are going to move into a Mod, move in with friends and don't just randomly move. Do not subject yourself to the fascist process of the interview. Move in with your friends first as opposed to worrying about location...
--Unless you're a vampire, don't live in Prescott. There's little common space (living room, etc.) in any of the Mods and it's very dark which makes it anti-social...
--Don't stay in a class just because you preregistered for it. You'll learn more in a class you can stand.
--Don't stop going to classes if the reason is: "it's embarrassing or intimidating". Stick it out, and you'll learn and grow a lot...
--Don't talk in class just to hear the sound of your own voice. People will love you if you hold your peace until you've got something intelligent to say...
--Really work to build strong faculty ties. When you get to Div II and Div III it will be invaluable to have committee members who know you and know the work you've done over time and aren't strangers.
--You can do anything if a faculty member will help you...
--Pester professors. Be persistent about what you need from faculty...
--Lose "I know everything" ASAP...
--Do what you want to do! Not what the "invisible" structure of Hampshire wants. Take charge of what you can do, and just start doing it...
--Do work! No really, you'll feel shitty if you don't...

--Bring a car, better yet...Bring money to bribe people with cars to take you places.
--Don't miss the bus, it only comes every half hour.
--You may be able to draw outside the lines but you can't park outside the lines. You park outside the lines you're gonna get a ticket...

--Beware of tables in front of the library with vultures bearing kit-kat bars. Do not sign up with the first credit card that gives you a candy bar. Go for the credit card that has no annual fee and a low interest rate like 10 percent and a grace period...

--Act mellow for your first year and make friends.
--If the shit hits the fan, don't expect everyone to help you mop.
--Remember: people can be evil.
--Meet everyone you can within the first two weeks because after that most people don't care. Find and establish a group of peers that share your academic interests...
--Don't succumb to the "weirdness" competition. As hard as it may seem, be who you are. You'll be a bigger anomaly, being yourself...      

--Start a revolution--fuck shit up--make a loud mess...
--Play Frisbee. It's the best thing to do at Hampshire College. It provides physical and emotional release...
--OPRA rocks! Go on OPRA trips.
--Don't smoke or do drugs...
--No matter what people say 96% of this campus smokes pot, izm, chronic, weed, ghanja etc...
--There really isn't too much pot here. If you want it it's there but if you don't want it it's not oppressive...
--Don't even bother with kegs just buy lots of cases...
--Alcohol cannot replace water.

--Go away on the weekends if you can. Don't stay here the whole time. If you have a car use it. Go into town. Go to Springfield.
--Don't walk around thinking, where's the Party?, make it yourself, lazy moonahs!
--Don't expect to be able to move (dance or breathe) at a Hampshire party...
--Don't have sex with anyone on your hall - it's NOT a good scene.
--Don't have sex with someone you don't like, because in the morning you will have to deal with him/her.
--Mod Bootie is Bad Bootie.
--Don't bring personal books because you will not have time for leisure reading.
--Don't pierce your navel just because your parents say you can't.
--Don't believe all the conspiracy theories that you hear...

On Windmills, 1997

"On Windmills," by Josh Henle. The Forward, v.1(1):3, Feb. 12, 1997

I think perhaps the most dear symbol of Hampshire for me is, and will always be the windmill. When in the future I think back through the thick film of nostalgia (that I am hoping will quickly obscure the truth once I leave), on my many nights of attending the same party, over and over, in different but identical living rooms in rotting, plywood track housing, I will remember walking home in blustery freezing temperatures past the Hampshire windmill, and hearing it whir loudly, as if it might spin off to Oz, and I will remember my wonder. Yes, pissing in the orchard and wonder: those I shall retain as defining sensations of my years here.
Come, you must admit it. You have felt the same way. Is it not... beautiful?
 Details of the actual history of the windmill would doubtless be easy to come by, but surely you and I have already intuited them, no? The threads of its past are ambient today, they are everywhere among us, inside us, we continue the windmill, we spin to look behind us, it is there...
The following is purely hypothetical, but everybody knows it. The windmill was somebody's Division One project, undertaken by naive and dreamy students, perhaps architects and poets, ecologists and psychologists who all came together to build this great experimental tower and harness the wind with fuel drum parts, artfully arc-welded, and this project was intended somehow to end hunger as we know it. Of course the aim was lofty; we know this. We know it even if it isn't true, because those dreamy sentiments brought us here and allow us to sigh indulgently at their hypothetical hubris. Did they know that its proud, spinning facade would feature the glorious OLD Hampshire emblem, becoming a symbol of wondrous wandering drunkenness to Prescott-bound student? I bet they did know it, deep in their bones.
I will stop blowing smoke here. The real reason that the windmill is so perfectly Hampshiresque is this: it doesn't appear to be finished. And, in fact, it doesn't do anything, it just stands and spins, delighting our esthetic sense and prompting idealistic descriptions like, "Isn't it cool? I think it was supposed to generate energy or something." Yes, it embodies the inefficacious idealism of Hampshire; making noise, but accomplishing little else.
Of course the windmill is not the only expression of Hampshire's essential paradox. If it were the only example, we  couldn't reconstruct its history so effortlessly; we would have to tax our brains. We don't have to because our intuition for such things has been fine-tuned by myriad such symbolically precise examples. The Yurt, for example. Rather than here trashing the Yurt, I will attempt to "deconstruct" it. We can quickly see that it, too, is a fine follower in the tradition of incompletion. And I think this is exactly the way it should be. Doesn't it seem natural, in light of everything else? One might, perhaps, unfairly criticize the Yurt for absorbing so many resources. There are those who would voice this opinion, but they are blind to the subtlety of Hampshire's promise. The Yurt functions already, oh yes, symbolically. It embodies the to-be-unveiled payoff of progressivism, a shining beacon of new dawn, the expected delivery. It need never deliver on its promise because it accomplishes more potentially than it ever could in actuality. Also, the incompletion of the Yurt allows us to maintain that we are circumspect about its possible implications of cultural appropriation.
Such objects play out again for us, in ironic detail, the tensions of our lives.
 Don't forget, there's the brick oven in Enfield. A truly groovy Div III project, initiated with Greg's blessing and school funds. It actually predates the Yurt by a few semesters, although it was, strangely enough, finished. Fortunately it has only been used twice. Esthetically, however, I may again cheer you because it functions continuously. How about the solar heating above the Arts village? The idealism is strong here; imagine a college in existence for a mere decade that had already transcended the need for electricity? That would be like satori after one meditation! Good thing it didn't happen. Along with the plans for a permacultured landscape, an end to manicured lawns... Enough!
The theme I am attempting to draw out here is one of circumspection. This is the dynamic paradox underlying Hampshire's symbolic community projects and their generally unfinished status. It is a combination of idealistic enthusiasm for progressive notions combined with a deep existential doubt that the project can change anything at all, that perhaps our time would he better spent say, selling out, or perhaps, dropping out. Hampshire is circumspect about progress, about idealism, and about itself. The ambivalence of Hampshire conveniently staves off the possibility of threatening change; it keeps us hovering at the edge, at the gates of Utopia. Because we are not sure we really want to knock, right? What if nobody's home? What If it's locked?
And besides, we might not be ready yet. Progressivism, although almost synonymous with our proud institution, is something that we, the clients, must be careful of. It's something we need to think about, most of us. Do we really want to give ourselves all that privilege? I mean, all that privilege? What if they don't like us in Utopia? What if they think...we're not special? What if they don't like the windmill?

I am drifting from my subject. You see, the windmill is very fruitful. Begin unpacking symbolism, and you hear voices in that whup, whup, whup. Perhaps you don't know what I'm talking about. Perhaps I don't either. Perhaps I am not talking ahout you. I know I am talking about me. And I am talking about the History, and trying to contribute another snapshot for the image of Hampshire, along with our beautiful, annually slaughtered sheep. When I look back at Hampshire, I will indeed remember the windmill, and for the precise reason that it does almost nothing besides signify and has still managed to survive this long.

Fire in Prescott, 2000

DATE:          April 24, 2000
TO:               Hampshire Community
FROM:         Michael Ford, Dean of Student Affairs
SUBJECT:    Prescott

I am writing to provide up-to-date information about the April 18 [2000] fire in Prescott. As you know, no one was hurt, and all students housed in the affected building have been assigned
alternative living space.
Although the fire remains under investigation, we do know the following:
?    The preliminary reports from fire officials indicate that the fire was accidental and that it may have been caused by an electrical power strip (Note: As of today, the fire department lists the cause of this fire as yet to be determined--not a faulty power strip). The college is cooperating completely with the investigation. When further details are available, we will communicate them.
?    The building, Prescott 81-88, houses 58 students. The two mods damaged by fire, Mod 84, where the fire started, and Mod 87, each housed eight students. Repairs to these mods will be extensive, and will take lime to complete; however, we anticipate that students will be able to recover some personal belongings and that property loss was not total.

?    The remaining mods sustained water and smoke damage, with the most severe in Mods 82 and 83. We hope that these mods will be safe for occupancy within one week.

?    The building fire alarms in Prescott were fully functional, and the building was built to code. Hampshire Public Safety responded immediately, as did the Amherst Fire and Police Departments.
?    The advising office is working with students who may have lost divisional or course work to facilitate meetings with advisors and committee chairs. Students should be in touch with the advising office for help. Every effort will be made to keep students on schedule for graduation and other critical academic deadlines. Please encourage students to check in with the advising office.
?    The treasurer's office is working with affected students to assist with insurance claims to their homeowner's insurance and as necessary through the college. The treasurer is also working with the college's insurance company to provide emergency funds to help students meet immediate personal needs.
?    The staff of student affairs, and the counseling staff, are available to students who have problems or concerns, or who may simply wish to talk. Again, please encourage students who may be feeling stressed to be in touch with student affairs or with the
counseling staff.
?    The dining commons and the Prescott Tavern will feed affected students.

?    The college remains open; classes are as scheduled; and events will take place as planned.
Members of our community continue to work together during this difficult period, and for that sense of cooperation and shared purpose, we should all take pride and nourishment.

"Fire safety awareness in wake of mod blazes," by Jennifer Kikoler. The Forward, Oct. 24, 2000, p.4
The fire that damaged Prescott mods 81-89 was fully repaired over the summer, and sprinkler systems have been installed in the damaged mods.
Derrick Elmes, Director of Public Safety, said the rest of Prescott will have sprinklers installed next summer.
Enfield and Greenwich already have sprinkler systems, and Merrill and Dakin were built with fire resistant materials. The sprinkler systems are designed to be activated by heat and would quickly extinguish or suppress a fire.
Recently another fire damaged an Enfield mod. An unattended candle ignited a dried plant. The room smoke detector activated and students were able to put the fire out, but the heat from the fire activated the sprinkler. The room was water damaged and one wall was scorched from the flames.
Elmes suggests several things students can do to prevent fire:
- Keep lit candles in a protective glass glove
- Keep lit candles away from combustible materials
- Candles should not be placed on heaters as the heat can melt the wax into the heater
- Smokers should always use an ashtray and be carefully when dumping the ashes to be certain that nothing is left smoldering
- Don't hang anything from sprinkler pipes
- Don't cover smoke detectors or sprinklers with posters or tapestries
- Respond to all fire alarms as if there is a real fire
- If you find that a smoke detector doesn't work, report it to the House Office immediately.

It's a "Mod, Mod" World, 2003

"It's a "Mod, Mod" World." Hampshire Reports, Fall/Winter 2003, p. 2-3.

It's 6:00 on a Wednesday night and four roommates in Greenwich Mod 3 are sitting around their living room, sipping herbal tea and chatting about life in the "mods," apartment-style houses at Hampshire that offer a homier, more close-knit feel than typical college dorms.

Supper is on the stove--sesame noodles and a tofu dish--awaiting the return of two other roommates for a late night dinner. The students are diverse, hailing from towns as close to Amherst as Auburn, Massachusetts, and from countries as far away as India. A few were friends before moving in together while others have only recently met. Still, even at the beginning of a new semester, there's an easy congeniality among the group.
There's Sam Singer from Tacoma, Washington, who is studying astronomy and physics; Gaia Thurston-Shaine from Alaska, who has combined interests in environmental studies, plant ecology, and creative writing; journalism student Bonnie Obremski, from Auburn; Ngawang Legshe, a Buddhist monk from India pursuing legal studies and creative writing; and Seth Raphael from West Virginia, who studies computers. On this night, a sixth roommate--Phu Nguyen of Washington, D.C.--is away. All the students have extensive extracurricular
interests, as well. Singer, for instance, is active in amateur astronomy and built a unique type of telescope for a recent academic project. Thurston- Shaine works as a river guide in the summer while Obremski created a student magazine featuring writing about the outdoors and travel. Raphael, who also doubles as the mod "intern," or resident assistant, is a magician who is intrigued by the connections between magic and technology.
Indeed, college life is as much about what happens outside the classroom as inside. And for many students at Hampshire, life in the residence halls and mods is a learning experience unto itself. For most students, residential life is the first experience of living away from horne and family.
"On the nonacademic side, you learn a lot about sharing space with someone with whom you might not be completely compatible," Singer said. Living with others offers an opportunity to develop skills in compromise, communication, and conflict resolution, among other areas. The issues can be as simple as decorating the mod--this group agreed that a kitschy Elvis painting inherited from a retired professor could stay--to more serious debates about lifestyles and values.
The mod itself is a collection of objects, furniture, and artwork brought by the students individually or acquired collectively. Nguyen contributed a prized rice cooker and always has a pot of rice going, from which his roommates are invited to partake. Singer hung up a photograph of Mt. Saint Helens and Obremski hung a painting she made of a guitar. An array of spices left behind by former mod denizens lines a countertop.
In this mod, some questions of compatibility have been established in advance. The mod is a substance-free living space; alcohol, cigarettes, and other substances are prohibited. Other matters are hammered out in regular mod meetings. At one early meeting, the roommates established a schedule for chores such as cooking, vacuuming, and taking out trash and recyclables. They also agreed to adopt nightly "quiet hours" to ensure time for relaxation and study. Singer said "mod life" provides the best of both worlds: a connection to the Hampshire campus with a more autonomous lifestyle. "It's not dorm life, but you are still a part of the college community," he said. "It's kind of like living in an apartment. You have the ability to cook your own meals. In the evenings we stay up late studying together and on the weekends, we relax. It creates a more cohesive feeling."
"It feels like we're living off campus, but we're not," Thurston-Shaine said. "College culture can be really overwhelming and it feels like we've created a refuge here."
Most of the students chose Greenwich partly because of its woodsy, tucked-away location at the edge of campus. A birdfeeder hangs outside a window and the roommates like to eat breakfast and watch the birds each morning. Legshe was particularly interested in Greenwich because of its nature setting and the Goodread Library, a small community library of paperbacks donated by a former professor.
Four of the roommates hold a share in the Hampshire Community Supported Agriculture farm; in the fall and early winter, they get fresh organic produce each week. They also shop and cook meals together. "I have learned how to cook here and I've learned how to burn," Raphael joked.
Aside from sharing meals, the roommates also socialize together.  Thurston-Shaine taught Obremski how to "roll" a kayak last year and the two enjoy outdoor activities. Obremski is returning the favor by teaching her friend how to play guitar. The group hosts a bimonthly "Soup and Friends" night in the mod. On those evenings, the roommates whip up a big pot of soup and have friends over for supper and conversation. They also invited their academic advisors to a recent dinner; any talk about school was banned, however. The event was just for fun.
The living situation tends to make the roommates fast and close friends. They often go out as a group to various functions and events, and if someone is upset, they all respond. One recent night at a movie, Thurston-Shaine was troubled about something that happened earlier in the day. She wanted to leave, so her roommates joined her. "There are a lot of hugs happening here," Obremski said.
"The reason why I really love this group of people is that we're all really good friends and we are a support network for each other," Thurston-Shaine said. "We all really value our living space and the refuge we have here."
The roommates learn from and lean on each other in other ways, too.  When Obremski needed help setting up her computer, Raphael, the resident computer whiz, lent a hand. Students also feed off each other's academic interests.
"The interesting thing about this group of people is that we're all studying different things and we get to share what we're doing with each other," Thurston-Shaine said. "For me it's really cool to get to share space with people who have very different academic interests."
Last year, Thurston-Shaine was working on her Div. III alongside a roommate who was studying costume design and theater, a discipline she knew very little about. "In my experience, it has been really valuable to live with people you might not see in your regular academic world," she said.
Singer believes his entire college experience has been more rewarding because of life in Greenwich Mod 3.
"I have the space to be comfortable and to be myself," he said. "I love being here. I'd stay here my whole life if I could."
"Living in a situation like this really can bring out the best in people," Thurston-Shaine said. "Everyone can really take responsibility for their own lives. We have something really unique here. I feel like this is my home."

Democracy Day, 2004

"Meeting Sparks 'Democracy Day'," by Jacob Parakilas. The Climax, April 16, 2004, v.2(8):1,3,4,12.

A community meeting on Tuesday, April 6, originally intended as a forum for students, faculty and staff to discuss the proposed smoking ban, turned into a wider campus discussion about democracy, student participation, and the direction the school is taking. President Gregory Prince announced at the Tuesday meeting that the administration had permanently decided to enact a total ban on smoking in dormitories, effective next year, while phasing out smoking mods by 2008. Following the meeting, a number of students who had been opposed to the ban organized a series of events for the following day that included an occupation of the president's office and calls for more student involvement in everything from academic policy to residential life.

The meeting Tuesday afternoon began suprisingly informally, despite the size of the venue, the Main Lecture Hall. Greg Prince spoke to the 30-40 assembled students without a microphone, pacing next to the podium. He explained that after consulting with Mike Ford and Board of Health officials in Amherst, he had decided to bring the college into compliance with Amherst town ordinances by declaring all of Merrill and Dakin Houses smoke-free as of next year.

Prince admitted that the law didn't specifically call for dormitories to be smoke-free, but explained that he didn't see a principle that would be worth challenging the law with the school's lawyers. Prince finished off his informal remarks with the comment that students who were here now would be provided with some form of smoking housing, but that incoming students would not be guaranteed any living spaces where smoking would be permitted...(p.1,3)

When several students challenged Greg on the issue of whether or not it was a question of principle not to challenge the town ordinance, Mike Ford indignantly answered that it was a question of the rights of college workers to have a smoke-free workplace. Staff member Yanina Vargas-Arriaga soon echoed that sentiment, noting how disheartening it was that the issue of workers' rights was so infrequently brought up in the dialogue about the ban. A student commented that the issue with workers' rights was the administration's union-busting, which garnered one of the few solid rounds of applause of the afternoon, but the issue of workers' rights was not brought up again after that.

Another student asked Prince whether he saw an erosion of democracy on campus.
"Democracy is the reason I'm taking so much time on this," replied the president. "There are no easy answers--our efforts to increase participation several years ago haven't borne out." He went on to explain how he initially wanted to ban smoking in residences outright, but was convinced by student action to prolong allowed smoking in mods so that current students could find smoking housing while they finished their time at Hampshire.

That shifted the discussion towards a more general discussion of democracy on the Hampshire campus and student participation. Several staff members and numerous students expressed frustration with the low participation in community elections, especially for student trustee and community council. Staff members were particularly concerned with what they saw as aa dropoff in campus interest. Director of Housing Linda Mollison talked about times in the past when EPC meetings were standing-room only, but at this meeting she had to explain that the acronym stood for the Educational Policy Committee, for fear that most people wouldn't recognize it.

Eventually the discussion came back around to the smoking ban. Several students accused Prince of being "sarcastic and patronizing" in his letters to the community about the ban, and of using "police state" tactics to enforce it. The president's response was to say, "It's not about a police state: it's about expectations of neighbors."

It was clear from the discussion that very few people had their minds changed by the discussion in the Main Lecture Hall. By the end, at 5:00 fewer than 20 peole remained in the room. Mike Ford and Greg Prince looked drained from answering the questions and accusations of the student body. And no consensus had been reached on a new plan or course of action.

Meanwhile, a post on the Daily Jolt read, "Meet at 7 pm in the Upper RCC to plan the revolution!" The result of this meeting was chalked all over campus by Wednesday morning: "TODAY IS DEMOCRACY DAY!"...(p.3-4)

Once the students arrived at the Office of the President at about 9 a.m., the lights were on, but the door was locked. The students took seats against the walls and some started to make "Happy Democracy Day!" posters. [Abraham] Klein began a discussion of an article written in 1973 by then-faculty member Robert Rardin titled "Liberal Corporation or Radical Collective: Two Models for a College." The article identifies four means the administration uses to "contain and defeat" student activism: repressive tolerance, "divide and conquer," "come advise us," and co-optation.

The same list was read aloud by Klein at noon in the middle room of SAGA, where Prince agreed to meet students for a further discussion of democracy on campus. About 30 people were present, including Professor [Lynn] Miller. Klein started the meeting with the excerpt and his own personal take on the meaning of a Hampshire education.

"[The smoking ban] represents a threat to the uniqueness of the college," Klein said, looking directly at Prince.

Leaning slightly to the side from his perch on one of SAGA's chairs, Prince responded, "What is unique about Hampshire is that students are empowered to negotiate with faculty and administrators. Hampshire is about participation and engagement."

Student activist [Michael] Sherrard said to Prince, "What we want to hear is an acknowledgement that the lack of democracy is the number one issue facing Hampshire."

Prince immediately responded, "You won't get one. It's an important issue, certainly, it's a problem, but it's not a structural issue." This touched off debate on the subject of what exactly could be done by the administration to increase student participation and say in campus life. Complaints from the students ranged from the fact that student representatives to trustee committees aren't elected to the fact that student governance is simply too confusing. One student described it as a "Kafkaesque network of acronyms."

Throughout, the tone on both sides was somewhat more civil than it had been at the meeting the afternoon before. At one point, Prince noted that he didn't want to start throwing out ideas for improving student government, because he would be accused of "co-optation."

Abraham Klein replied, smiling, "Go ahead and co-opt all you want. It's repressive intolerance we're more worried about..."

At the end of the event, Prince ticked off four points that he said he saw as the basic conclusions of the meeting. They were that students need to be elected to all governance positions, that staff and faculty need to be represented on Community Council, that students need to be directly elected to the presidential search committee, and that student governance needs to be introduced to student[s] during orientation.

As a closing note, Prince noted that, "We don't exist to be a radical institution. We exist to give the best possible education--which is radical." He also pointed out that there is no other school in the country where students have a 2/7 vote on faculty reappointments, and an anonymous one at that...

Afterwards, the president said that his office had been occupied four times during his tenure at Hampshire, and that it was always about an issue of campus policy. Asked what he made of the student opposition to the ban, Prince simply smiled and said, "As long as it's been educational, I support it."


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