Hampshire Update On Strategic Options: February 23, 2019

Dear Hampshire Community,

This was a difficult week on campus. Passions are high and nerves are frayed. It’s not surprising that as a community, we don’t all agree on how best to save Hampshire. The Board is in active communication with the academic deans and faculty leadership to resolve differences and reach an understanding about how we can move forward together. We all want to preserve this College and secure its future. The Board has charged me with leading that effort. We have to continue moving forward—in service to our students, employees, alums, the College we all love, and a region that depends on us. We will find a way forward together.

Over the past two weeks the Board and I have met multiple times to discuss options, to review feedback from constituents on and off campus, and to engage students, staff, and faculty. Recently I’ve been meeting regularly with a small ad hoc committee of the Board charged with working on options, and I also convened the campus Options Committee to bring that group of faculty, staff, and students up to speed and engage them in the effort.

We’re exploring a number of options that would allow us to deliver on Hampshire’s mission for the long term. One intention in announcing in January that we would seek a partnership was to identify new potential partnership opportunities—and that has proved fruitful. With the partnership options, we’re focused on finding a partner that aligns best with our intended long-term goals, mission, and reputation. With each option we’re considering such factors as the depth and complexity of the partnership, how much capital we would need to raise, and what is the impact on our College. Some partners may bring substantial value beyond financial support to the table. Our considerations are complex and cut across these dimensions. 

We’re also pursuing an approach where Hampshire maintains independence by means of transformative financial support from our community of alums and other long-engaged donors.

I want to be clear that all options involve deep change and significant restructuring. All involve us raising some capital to address deficits in the short term and to invest for the long term. We’ll be reaching out to alums and other friends and donors in the coming weeks to determine the depth of interest in financial support for new models.

We previously hadn’t gone public with names of potential partners for a number of reasons: We’ve had discussions with leaders of a number of colleges and universities and haven’t identified the best options yet, and we’re working to protect the confidentiality of the institutions as required in such sensitive discussions.

With one partner we have gone public. Last month, UMass Amherst disclosed to a radio network that our institutions had preliminary discussions about a potential partnership. Then last week, UMass, as a public institution, received Freedom of Information Act requests from various media outlets, and has now released email communications between leaders of our institutions to those outlets. Yesterday the Gazette and NEPR were the first to publish those emails.

UMass is one of the four institutions that founded Hampshire, we’ve had a strong partnership for a half-century, including a mutual interest in the wellbeing of our community and region. We’re grateful to UMass for their genuine interest in supporting Hampshire through this difficult time, and we very much value the long-term collaboration we’ve had together since Hampshire’s founding.

I’ll continue to keep you informed, and engaged in Hampshire’s progress, as we explore all options around securing Hampshire’s future. Our information and updates site can be found here.


Miriam Nelson