Community protests Hampshire administration’s lack of transparency

Photo courtesy of the Hampshire Rise Up Coalition  HampRiseUp is holding sit-ins at the Dean of Student’s Office and Cole Science Center at Hampshire.

Photo courtesy of the Hampshire Rise Up Coalition

HampRiseUp is holding sit-ins at the Dean of Student’s Office and Cole Science Center at Hampshire.

BY MELISSA JOHNSON ’20

In light of recent events, the Hampshire College Board of Trustees released information regarding the admittance of a limited Fall 2019 class on Feb. 1. The Board voted to authorize the College to admit two distinct categories of applicants this fall: students who accepted Hampshire’s offer to enroll through Early Decision I and students who accepted Hampshire’s offer of admission last year but chose to take a gap year and defer their enrollment to Fall 2019. The Board also announced that Hampshire will not enroll any other applicants for Fall 2019 or Spring 2020. 

In a letter announcing this information, the Hampshire Board of Trustees said, “We believe that by enrolling a small Fall 2019 class of early decision and gap year students, the College will continue to be an experimenting and dynamic environment as we proceed with our plans for a partnership.”

It’s not just incoming students and current students that will be impacted by this decision. According to the Daily Hampshire Gazette, Hampshire College will announce its plans to lay off staff within the next week. In 2014, enrollment declined from 1,390 students to 1,120 students, prompting the College to “leave positions unfilled, reduce contributions to employee pensions and cut jobs.” Staff do not have a union like professors do and are likely to be the first to be cut. Faculty have also raised concerns that their contracts with Hampshire will be broken. 

With the future of Hampshire College up in the air and the most recent decision on Fall 2019 admittance a controversial one, the news has been met with deep opposition and anger on campus. HampRiseUp, a student resistance organization, has participated in a sit-in at the offices of Hampshire College President Miriam Nelson and the Dean of Students Gloria Lopez in Cole Science Center for the past 12 days as of Feb. 11. 

“We support all community members’ right to assemble as well as to participate on committees,” said Nelson in response to student actions. “At the same time we all recognize that College business must continue, both in those shared spaces and in all offices across campus.”

When the Board released the first statement in January about the need to look for a financial partner and the possibility of failing to admit a Fall 2019 class, the HampRiseUp movement presented the Board with an initial demand to delay the Trustees’ vote on the issue.

“We wanted the Board to delay the vote, in hopes that our alumni would be able to raise enough money to support a new class in the Fall, however, this demand was unfortunately not met,” said Hampshire student Naia Tenerowicz, a HampRiseUp organizer. 

Once the Board announced its limited Fall 2019 admittance plan, HampRiseUp started the recurring sit-in at the President and Dean’s offices. In addition, HampRiseUp has also produced a lengthy document that has been approved by a supermajority of students at three separate meetings open to the entire student body, with several demands for the administration. 

“Our main concerns are about transparency, shared governance and overall equity. We are really trying to model as a movement what we’re advocating for the administration to start doing,” said Tenerowicz. “It really is deeply concerning in the way this is being handled. It’s a major breach of our institution’s values.” 

HampRiseUp has not only been met with strong student support, but also support from Hampshire and other Five College faculty. 

Amherst, Smith, and Mount Holyoke faculty have drafted and signed messages in concern for how Hampshire’s administration is handling their current situation. A letter signed by 100 members of Mount Holyoke faculty emphasized the need for transparency from administration. “As Mount Holyoke faculty,” the letter read, “we stand with our Hampshire faculty colleagues in demanding openness and consultation with all Hampshire faculty before decisions are made affecting the future of the academic program.” 

Tenerowicz encourages Mount Holyoke College students to help support HampRiseUp by talking about what is going on and attending protests and sit-ins. 

“I think that Mount Holyoke students should support the student organizers at Hampshire in their sit-ins, on social media or by reaching out to HampRiseUp to see where we are most needed,” said Sarah Dauer ’20, a Mount Holyoke student who has participated in recent protests and sit-ins. 

“We do want to make sure that people understand if you’re coming from the Five Colleges that there is an element of risk in participating in the sit-ins,” said Tenerowicz. “If police were to get involved, Five College students could be charged with trespassing, but we do not think that it is likely to happen.”

While the future of Hampshire College’s partnership and HampRiseUp is uncertain, Tenerowicz said that the movement will continue to advocate for students and faculty alike who want to make sure that Hampshire College is represented in the most accurate way as it goes through this period of transition. 

“The future of HampRiseUp really depends on how the board responds to our most recent demands,” said Tenerowicz. “The ball is sort of in the administrator’s court as this point, but we won’t stop advocating.”