A letter from the independent working group advising the Board of Trustees, comprising alumni, parents, and former trustees
Dear Hampshire Community,
On Thursday, March 21, we had the first opportunity to meet as a group, and we wanted to update you on our progress and direction.
First, who are we? We are an independent group of alumni, parents, and former trustees who have had experience in business and education. We are experienced in understanding income statements and balance sheets and some have guided organizations in mergers, acquisitions, and major change initiatives. Many of us have worked for years on innovative approaches to higher education. We are united by our love and gratitude for Hampshire and our desire to keep Hampshire's mission strong. We all feel that today’s world needs Hampshire’s approach of challenging conventional wisdom with highly integrative interdisciplinary learning more than ever. Our goal is to provide open-minded, objective, and constructive feedback to the College as proposals are vetted and analyzed.
When we met, we spent three hours doing a deep dive into the College’s financial condition and prospects. We need to report that we are deeply sobered by the school’s fiscal state which we can only describe as extremely worrisome and warranting more than ever a thoughtful, well-developed approach to mitigating the challenges facing the College. We are pleased to serve in such a capacity.
We also had a chance to gain a high level of understanding of possible solutions, although the names of specific possible strategic partners were not shared with us. We look forward to analyzing and evaluating all viable, proposed solutions including the stay independent plan being developed by the Re-envisioning Hampshire Coalition. However, we want the broader Hampshire community to understand that the situation is serious and time is not on the College’s side. And, because some of the options involve engaging with other institutions who need to remain anonymous for reasons of their own, we cannot be 100% transparent about them yet. We expect that situation to change in the weeks ahead.
We are moved by the urgency and activism of the Hampshire community’s efforts, and also believe that many members of the community do not have full visibility or appreciation of all of the financial realities. And we are well aware of the highly charged emotional environment right now. But we believe a workable solution to Hampshire’s current state is only possible if we all—alumni, parents, faculty, staff, and of course the current students—recognize that now is the time to lift ourselves above the rumors, attacks, and speculation and stand together while we constructively and methodically review options. Hampshire needs and deserves our support and collaboration.
Hampshire has set up an email box (OptionsWorkingGroup@hampshire.edu) so you can receive updates on the progress of our work and provide feedback and suggestions. Due to time constraints and the sheer workload, we will welcome all serious ideas, options, or proposals that are thoughtful, thorough, and financially realistic. We urge you to send such proposals to the President’s office too. All will be carefully reviewed and considered by our group, the on-campus options committee, and the Board of Trustees.
We will continue to provide updates as appropriate. And thank you in advance for your support of the College.
Ken Burns 71F, Co-Founder, Florentine Films
Dayna Cunningham P12, Executive Director, CoLab, Massachusetts Institute of Technology; former trustee
Gary Hirshberg 72F, Co-Founder, former CEO, and Chief Organic Optimist, Stonyfield Farm
Diana McCargo 76F, Co-Founder and Co-Owner, Philo Ridge Farm
Ken Rosenthal P04, President (retired), The Seeing Eye, Inc.; Hampshire Founder, Historian of the College, and former Trustee
RJ Sakai 08F, Director, Social Innovation Program, Sequoyah School; Chair, Alumni Advisory Group
Catherine Smith 71F, Commissioner (retired), Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development, CEO ING US Retirement Services
Karla Zarate-Ramirez 92F, P16, Executive Director of Development, University of Hawai’i Foundation; member, Alumni Advisory Group