From: President's Office <email@example.com>
Date: Sat, Feb 23, 2019 at 3:03 PM
Subject: Gazette story about Hampshire
To: All Faculty and Staff <firstname.lastname@example.org>, All Students <email@example.com>
Dear Faculty, Staff, and Students,
In today’s Gazette, Scott Merzbach and Dusty Christensen report on conversations between Hampshire President Miriam Nelson and UMass Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy about a plan to have Hampshire become part of UMass. I am writing because the article seems, perhaps unintentionally, to misrepresent some key points.
In January, President Nelson called for a meeting of the Five Colleges presidents. At the meeting, she announced that she and the executive committee of the Hampshire board had concluded that Hampshire is likely not financially viable on its own. She also announced that she had been in conversation with UMass during the fall about a partnership and that those discussions were ongoing. I was surprised to learn of these developments.
In the face of these announcements, it was important to me that the discussions between Hampshire and UMass not be presented publicly as though this had been a Five Colleges discussion or endeavor, or one that had been endorsed by the consortium, because it has not been. At no point have I been asked to endorse the partnership, either in my role as consortium director or in my role as president of Amherst College, and at no point have I done so. In the absence of more information and details, it would seem irresponsible to endorse a plan that is not yet a plan.
President Nelson and Chancellor Subbaswamy emphasized that Hampshire was also considering other options and that the UMass administration had not made a decision about pursuing the partnership. Both noted that neither UMass nor Hampshire would make a commitment without a public discussion.
Shortly thereafter, the presidents met again at a Five Colleges directors’ meeting. Because of our concerns about possible conflicts between our roles as fiduciaries of the consortium and our responsibilities to our own individual institutions, the presidents of Smith, Mt. Holyoke, Amherst, and the executive director of the consortium had our attorneys present for this second meeting. I understood that we were not there to make decisions in our roles as directors of the consortium. We were given an update by President Nelson and had an opportunity to ask questions.
We were asked not to share news of the discussions between Hampshire and UMass because the possible partnership remains only one of several options and is not a done deal. I have honored that request because we were also assured that public discussion would precede any definitive action. But I also believe, now that the news is public, that you should have an accurate account of my involvement or lack of it, my concern about the Five Colleges Consortium, and my hope that Hampshire finds a partner that allows a viable way forward, one that preserves its unique strengths.
As many of you know, we extended the deadline for applying to Amherst for Hampshire students. I also hope we will be able to help some Hampshire faculty and staff, where feasible, at least on a transitional basis, given the planned layoffs.