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Letter from Ken Rosenthal, Interim President: June 13, 2019

"We are determined to sustain Hampshire’s unique place in higher education and our singular program that empowers students like no other"

Dear Hampshire College Community,
I remember fifty years ago this summer, our campus was bustling with construction, a year away from welcoming our first class. Our first students, like today’s, were drawn here because they wanted a college that would empower them to direct their own education and lead independent work.

As a community of lifelong learners, we are not satisfied with knowledge about — instead, we wish to pursue intellectual exercise and active inquiry. This remains the heart of Hampshire's program, as Franklin Patterson and Chuck Longsworth wrote in The Making of a College.

Five decades later, we see the results of active inquiry every day in the lives of our students, faculty, staff, and alums.

On Friday, Board Chair Luis Hernandez 70F and I wrote to you about Hampshire’s joint announcement with the New England Commission on Higher Education (NECHE), of the Commission’s decision to defer a vote on the status of our accreditation until November. Since then, we’ve received some questions from community members seeking clarity, and our senior team has answered those in new FAQs that I’ve linked below.

We are determined to sustain Hampshire’s unique place in higher education and our singular program that empowers students like no other. We are hopeful for Hampshire’s future, and along with our entire leadership and community we are working hard to secure that future. The search for a new president is moving rapidly (see link below to the search committee’s update); we are strengthening our Board; and we are developing plans to renew Admissions for a fall 2020 class and welcome high school students to campus this summer for visits. Already this spring, we’ve raised more than $9 million in gifts and multi-year pledges to secure Hampshire’s future, a record pace. The Board and our Advancement team are finalizing the plan and goals for an ambitious multi-year fundraising campaign.

I want to share with you some highlights of what I presented to the NECHE Commissioners at their meeting on May 30, where I was joined by two trustees and three administrators, affirming our commitment to their standards of accreditation. I hope you will hear my confidence in Hampshire in my remarks to our fellow educators:

“We come before you representing our Hampshire community of faculty, staff and students; parents, friends and trustees; and of course our more than 12,000 alumni living across the continent and around the world. As you know, a high percentage of our graduates have earned PhDs and other advanced degrees, serve in the professions and government, are entrepreneurs and artists and business people.

A significant number now work in higher education including at some of your institutions, and ours.

Hampshire was founded by our partners in the Five College Consortium: Amherst, Mount Holyoke and Smith Colleges and UMass Amherst. The plans for the college were developed with input from hundreds of faculty, administrators, community and government leaders from across the nation.

Collaboration has continued for these five decades. Hampshire faculty and their Five College colleagues work side-by-side on joint teaching, research, publications, programs, and more. And for all these years our students have been involved in those activities—studying and researching and traveling together, co-presenting at conferences and co-authoring publications.

Hampshire will operate as a smaller college while we restructure and rebuild.  Our priority is to ensure the quality of our student experience. We project enrollment of around 600 students this fall, with a student:faculty ratio of 10:1. 

Many staff and faculty collaborated in helping the College to reduce our salary budget to meet our reduced enrollment. 

Regarding faculty, many voluntarily chose leaves of absence, incentivized retirements, and reductions to their full-time employment so that, thanks to their dedication, we avoided faculty layoffs and contract terminations. Many who are taking leaves of absence from Hampshire have secured visiting positions with our Five College partners, so they will continue to be accessible to our students as teachers and advisers.

At the same time, we have begun a campaign to fund the College’s long-term sustainability. Our preliminary working goal is to raise about $100 million through philanthropy and new revenue streams. Of that, about $30 million is for capital improvements and new facilities. By June 30, 2020, our working goal is to raise $20 million.

The total annual operating support received this fiscal year for the Hampshire Fund is more than twice our previous record, most of it coming in the last couple of months in response to the news of our current challenges.

On April 5, I agreed to serve as Interim President to help stabilize the College while the Board searches for a new President. That expedited search has begun. We have begun to rebuild our Admissions department so that we can seek a full class for fall 2020. We are developing the plans to reexamine and remake the Academic program over the course of the next year.  We are committed to affording our students every opportunity to earn their degree.

Just as fifty years ago, when The Making of a College offered “A New Departure in Higher Education,” so today we believe that the problems affecting Hampshire College are common to many small private colleges, and that the solutions that Hampshire will find, will lead the way forward for many others.

We see our relationship with the Commission as a partnership. We are committed to upholding your standards for accreditation, and to reporting to you of our challenges, our progress, and our successes.”        

Hampshire friends, if you share my hope and confidence, please join us in securing the future of our historic, pioneering, influential College.


Ken Rosenthal, Interim President


Hampshire NECHE Notation FAQs

Presidential Search Update: June 12, 2019


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