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Hampshire College students end sit-in at president’s office

  • A group of Hampshire College students take part in a sit-in Friday, Feb. 8, 2019, at the Dean of Students Office. FILE PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Signs on doors in the Cole Science Center in early February. Hampshire College Students carried out a sit-in at the building, where the president’s office is located, for 75 days. FILE PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS



Staff Writer
Friday, April 26, 2019

AMHERST — After 75 days of occupation, students at Hampshire College vacated the president’s office, ending what they have said is the longest sit-in ever at the college.

The student movement Hamp Rise Up ended their sit-in last Monday, according to Sarahi Silva, a spokesperson for the group. The students began occupying the president’s office, as well as the Dean of Students Office, shortly before the board of trustees voted on Feb. 1 not to admit a full class this fall due to the college’s money troubles. Eventually, the students vacated the Dean of Students Office, focusing their efforts exclusively on the president’s office, which is located inside the Cole Science Center.

The decision to admit a skeleton class for 2019 came after then-President Miriam “Mim” Nelson announced on Jan. 15 that Hampshire was seeking a “strategic partnership” in order to remain financially viable. Those decisions were met with anger from many students, alumni and employees of the school, eventually leading to the resignation of Nelson, the board’s chairwoman and vice chairman. Trustees now have voted to pursue independence for the struggling college.

“Some of the smaller goals that we’ve had have been achieved,” Silva said in a telephone interview Wednesday. “We were trying to hold the administration accountable for their lack of transparency as well as budgetary issues. I feel like, now, we can move forward with interim president Ken Rosenthal.”

Rosenthal, one of the college’s founders, was named interim president following Nelson’s resignation. He has said he plans to focus on keeping the college independent, pushing forward with a massive fundraising campaign. Rosenthal met with Hamp Rise Up shortly after Nelson’s resignation.

“That meeting was very promising,” Silva said. But she was hesitant to call the movement a success.  

“It’s about what you do with it afterward that matters,” Silva said.

Hampshire still faces steep challenges ahead, Silva acknowledged. Rosenthal has confirmed that layoffs are on the horizon for staff and faculty, and the college’s finances are still a big question.

Silva said that the student organizers are hoping to pass their movement onto a new cohort of students. But with such a small class coming in the fall — only 77 students were accepted, and it is unclear how many will actually attend — Silva said it might be difficult to pass on those lessons to future students.

For now, the students are back sleeping in their own beds after two and a half months sleeping on the floor during their occupation.

“It’s such a relief,” Silva said. “I think we all developed back issues.”

Dusty Christensen can be reached at dchristensen@gazettenet.com.