President Jonathan Lash published a campus-wide letter Wednesday morning, updating the community on continuing campus improvement initiatives.
President Jonathan Lash published the customary beginning-of-the-semester campus-wide letter Wednesday morning. In years past, this letter has been shared as a neat PDF with high-resolution images, largely focused on campus renovations and one or two ongoing initiatives. This year’s letter, by contrast, is less of a picture book and more of a bracing chapter book. “President Lash’s August Update,” with its manifold subheadings and serious tone, details continuing campus improvement initiatives stemming from the previous semester.
Fittingly, Lash opened his first letter since returning to his full position at Hampshire in June with a description of convocation week events, describing it as a “reHamping.” An opening celebration and community dinner will be held on September 6. The first week after continuing students arrive at Hampshire continues with “Love, Study, Struggle: Addressing Racism and Violence in the Contemporary Political Moment,” a panel followed by facilitated discussion sessions held by a group of faculty, staff, and students.
“Our Community and Campus Climate,” the first section with multiple subheadings, details the progress and scope of three task forces formed following persistent campus activism in the spring of 2016. Campus groups including Decolonize Media Collective (DMC), the Sexual Assault Activism Month Planning Committee, and the imprudent Community Engagement Collective coordinated several actions throughout the semester, especially in April and May, to call the attention of the administration to a campus climate tolerant of racism and a lack of support for survivors of sexual assault. Then-Acting President (now Vice President and Dean of Faculty) Eva Rueschmann announced the formation of task forces to address anti-racism and sexual misconduct following an All-Community Meeting on April 19.
The Advisory Council on Hampshire’s Commitment to Anti-Racism is composed of three faculty members; two students; four staff members, including new Associate Dean of Students and Director of Residence Life Andrea Cadyma; and co-chairs Kristen Luschen, Dean of Multicultural Education and Inclusion, and Diana Sutton-Fernandez, Chief Diversity Officer. The task force convened over the summer to prepare to work with the Hampshire community in the fall, including a planned weeklong educational series on race and racism in October. According to Rueschmann’s April 19 letter, this task force will also be reviewing the school’s 2008 Diversity Action Plan. Rueschmann’s office has set aside $25,000 in donor funds “to support anti-racism programming and training in academic affairs.” Recommendations from the task force will be presented in spring 2017.
The second task force, the Advisory Council on Sexual Misconduct and Campus Safety, is currently developing its membership, consisting of unnamed faculty, five students, and co-chairs Zena Clift, Associate Dean of Advising, and Shannon Da Silva, Student Life Coordinator.The task force will oversee the effectiveness of Hampshire’s new sexual misconduct policies, which were revised August 1, 2016, following a 2014 review of the college’s Title IX policies with the Federal Office of Civil Rights and consultation with staff, faculty, and students. In addition, it will develop recommendations for support services and resources for survivors and survivor-centered sexual misconduct training. A campus climate survey regarding sexual violence and rape culture on campus will also be undertaken by the task force this fall with recommendations to be presented in spring 2017.
A third, previously unannounced task force, the Advisory Council on Speaking Across Resilient Communities (“SPARC”) was included in Lash’s letter under the same heading. Membership is currently being developed with co-chairs Javiera Benavente, Director of the Ethics and the Common Good Project, and Chris Tinson, Associate Professor of Africana Studies and History. The task force aims to focus on increasing communication about and inquiry into the quality of life at Hampshire College.
Lash next addressed Hampshire’s “Commitments to Increase Support for Students.” After a more than year-long vacancy, Hampshire has hired Andrea “Dre” Domingue as the new Director of Multicultural and International Student Services. No plans were announced for additional hires for support services for students of color and international students. Student Life is seeking to hire a Survivor Support Coordinator and Violence Prevention Educator this fall. The position encompasses providing supportive services for survivors of sexual violence, including academic assistance and counseling, and violence prevention education spanning community outreach and student and staff training.
Lash announced a program review of the James Baldwin Scholars Program, which offers a transition year program and substantial scholarship. The review, led by program director Karina Fernandez, will consult all current James Baldwin Scholars and alumni of the program. According to Lash’s letter, “programs and offices across the college and community partners” will also be gauged through interviews and research. Additionally, the endowment for the program has increased, allowing nine students to be admitted to the program in fall 2016.
The conclusion of the letter announced “Last But Not Least… The Budget.” Hampshire College opens the fall 2016 term 62 students fewer than original enrollment projections factored into the budget, leaving a deficit of $2.6 million. According to Lash, the remaining portion of the deficit, following reductions in unspecified budget areas, will be covered by fundraising by the Board of Trustees. Vice President of Finance and Administration Mary McEneany will hold an open budget briefing sometime early this fall.
“Other Initiatives” impacting the Hampshire College community at large were described in the last section of the letter.
- The recommendations of the Smoking Policy Task Force, established in Fall 2015, influenced the first year of implementation of the “Smokefree Hampshire” program. Smoking is now restricted to designated smoking areas (DSAs) only. Fall 2016 will be the first year of a transitional period towards the campus going completely smoke-free in Fall 2019. Complete details of the new smoking regulations are available on Hampshire’s website.
- Hampshire College’s solar project broke ground in early August, beginning the implementation of the college’s plan to be completely powered by solar energy.
- A historic drought is occurring throughout Western Massachusetts. Water saving measures are being employed by the college. Lash published an additional letter Thursday, September 1 explaining these measures and others individuals can follow to limit their water consumption.
- Lash noted that increasing need-based financial aid coverage will continue to be “a major fundraising priority” over the next four years. The college secured funding to enroll a third undocumented student this fall.
- A donor has put forth funding for yet-unspecified upgrades in the Cultural Center and Center for Feminisms, Living Learning Community programming, sexual assault education and prevention training, and implementation of the designated smoking areas and other facets of Smokefree Hampshire.
Continuing students arrive at Hampshire Labor Day Monday, September 5. Classes begin September 7. Stay tuned for the first issue of the Hampshire Howler September 9!