President Wingenbach responds to the UMass public records release of last year's documents to the Daily Hampshire Gazette
Dear Hampshire College Community,
The University of Massachusetts Amherst has provided me with internal documents from last year, which the Daily Hampshire Gazette gained utilizing public records law. These documents comprise communications among UMass leaders, and between UMass leaders and then-leaders of Hampshire, about its negotiations to acquire Hampshire College. These documents, now published by the Gazette, confirm what we as a community already know, and also reveal new information.
We know that Hampshire’s previous leadership believed our College could not survive on its own and needed to search for a partner. That search involved discussions with UMass and other potential partners. Last spring, the Hampshire College community resisted that conclusion, pledging to support Hampshire as an independent and distinctive institution. Our Board of Trustees then changed course on April 5, voting to pursue an independent Hampshire. That is now our path, and we are fully engaged in raising the funds needed to support current operations, reducing expenditures wherever possible, and redesigning our educational program so that Hampshire will be able to sustain itself.
These public records also reveal new information. First, they suggest that UMass and Hampshire leaders discussed last December that one potential condition of being acquired by UMass was Hampshire not accepting a fall 2019 class. Second, internal UMass communications indicate that UMass leaders envisioned one scenario in which Hampshire would close after a teach-out period, and that any successor UMass entity would not be required to continue Hampshire’s mission or educational program.
Importantly, Hampshire’s Board of Trustees never endorsed a partnership with UMass on these, or any other, terms. If Hampshire entered into any partnership with these conditions, we would have given up our autonomy, control, and identity.
To our community, which asked the difficult, critical questions, I say: you were right to do so. You resisted the idea of not accepting a class while exploring a partnership because it risked compromising our identity and closing the College. You helped preserve the possibility that Hampshire might continue as an independent College. Turning that opportunity into reality will be an enormous challenge, requiring significant risks and sacrifices; I’ve taken on the presidency because I believe preserving an independent Hampshire is worth taking those risks and paying those costs.
The release of this information will be difficult for many in our community who are weary from the intense debate earlier this year over our path forward. But I believe these documents affirm that our Board made the right decision on April 5 in changing course, and we are now doing everything we can to keep an independent Hampshire a reality.
Let’s be clear: The only way Hampshire can sustain its distinctive mission is if we succeed in working together to remain independent and secure a long-term, sustainable financial model.
Moving forward, we will stay focused on our important work. We’re thrilled that the vast majority of our current students are returning, and we’re now projecting enrollment this fall of 700-750 students. We’re committed to ensuring a quality experience for them, in the most student-driven degree program in the country.
In the coming weeks and months, we will actively:
Last February’s decision not to enroll a new class presents an immense challenge to maintaining a sustainable, independent Hampshire, as we’re facing significantly reduced enrollment and revenues for at least the next four years. That’s why we need every member of our community who believes Hampshire should have a future to support us now. You’ve shown this year that our strength as a College lies beyond our assets and in our community: our worldwide network of thousands of accomplished alumni and friends; our faculty, staff, students, and families; and our major institutional partners and supporters. We should all take pride in Hampshire’s national reputation as a pioneering College that lives its mission in education and social justice.
I’m confident we will overcome our challenges as we open our new academic year and continue to deliver the most innovative education in the country, secure our financial model, and live and educate to our values. Please join us as we work to ensure the next 50 years of Hampshire College.