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President Hexter’s Open Letter to the Huffington Post

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Dear Huffington Post:

Regarding Top 10 Hipster Schools

Thanks for ranking Hampshire College as #1 on your list of the Top 10 Hipster Schools. When members of my staff began referring to me as "hipster-in-chief" I was flattered — I think. But when they suggested that our lofty perch a full seven spots ahead of UC Berkeley, where I was formerly a dean, could be attributed to my own relocation from West to East Coast . . . well, that aroused suspicions, not merely of their logic but also, frankly, of their motives. Thus began my own investigation into why Hampshire leads your list, coolness quotient and all.

"Witty-independent-artist-intellectuals?" Check. Note: Along with "witty-independent-scientist-intellectuals" and other diverse "types" who study within our diverse academic program. They're all pretty cool.

Accomplished hipster alumni? Check. Note: Our alumni list also includes physicist Lee Smolin, choreographer Stephen Petronio, actor Liev Schreiber, Greasecar creator Justin Carven, "green" entrepreneur and Stonyfield CE-Yo Gary Hirshberg, astronomer Lucy McFadden, historian Ellen Fitzpatrick, national LGBT leader Jamie Citron, and authors Eula Biss, Doug Stanton, and Jeff Sharlet. Hip? Sure. Also hardworking and serious. And but a few of so many Hampshire graduates who could be noted, including MacArthur Fellows Peter Cole, Naomi Wallace, and Aaron Lansky.

Robotic squirrel, as pictured? Check. Note: Professor Sarah Partan has just been awarded a Whiting Foundation fellowship to travel to Castellón, Spain, to further her international, and internationally-recognized, research on animal communication and behavior.

"At Hampshire, anything goes?" Not quite. Note: Most anything goes, but a student really has to work long and hard on it, with graduation requirements that include more than the capstone project — intense courses, assembling faculty committees who approve and oversee projects, and numerous projects in surrounding communities and around the globe. For example, as part of her academic work, Kasia Paprocki established a successful microcredit program for women in Bangladesh, having learned Bengali along the way. Hip? Yes, but more notably, a serious scholar and an inspiring individual.

Lastly, if I were truly hipster-in-chief, shouldn't there have been a photo of me, preferably with my husband?

Ralph Hexter
President, Hampshire College


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