2010 Dean’s Letter
The following was published in our annual newsletter to guidance counselors, which mailed in September 2010.
Every now and again I try to take two consecutive weeks of vacation to detach from all things work-related, reattach to all things family-related, and lift my head out of the sand to see what is happening in the rest of the world. Probably like you, I read books and newspapers, and even a few frivolous magazines. It is during this once-a-year “cleansing” that I take note of what everyone else is reading, watching and wearing. This year I learned that my pants should never have pleats or cuffs, my entire wardrobe needs to be more fitted, brown is the new black, and that once again my personal life isn’t quite in line with the current trends. I’m not sure whether to be sad or proud, but this is my reality.
The same could be said about my work world. Of course I want to stay current in all the meaningful ways. I care about social media, demographics and econometric modeling. But I don’t really believe that what is right for our peers is necessarily right for us at Hamilton. So far anyway, focusing on our constituents, our data and our results — and paying little attention to what is most popular — has served us well.
For example, several years ago we de-emphasized the SAT but reaffirmed the need for standardized testing, when most other colleges were doing one or the other. In 2007, we eliminated merit scholarships when many were moving in the other direction. And now, in 2010, we are committing even more to financial aid, having just announced a decision to become need-blind in admission while also honoring our pledge to meet 100% demonstrated need. We are one of only four dozen colleges and universities nationwide that can make this claim, and it’s one that makes us very proud.
The reactions have been many and varied. Most have been wonderfully supportive. Some of our colleagues — many guidance counselors in fact — sent congratulations. Others somewhat skeptically questioned how we’ve been able to do this. Still others just think we’re crazy. But the most popular question is why now, especially in this economic climate? In a weird way, the economy helped. Trimming our budgets forced us to examine how we spend every dollar to ensure that we’re allocating Hamilton’s resources in a way that is consistent with our values. That process affirmed our commitment to access and helped us align our admission practice with our long-standing mission as a college of opportunity. And, after several years of modeling and experimenting, when trustees realized how close we were to achieving need-blind admission, six board members pledged $500,000 each toward this initiative and sparked a fundraising campaign to endow this policy indefinitely.
So now you know why I don’t care about trends. And, more importantly, why I consider myself fortunate to work at Hamilton. Our Class of 2014 just arrived on campus, the first to be admitted under Hamilton’s newly adopted need-blind admission policy. Just how significant and historic this decision is for Hamilton may not be obvious to this year’s freshmen, but I promise you it isn’t lost on yours truly. Even with my shoulder pads.
With gratitude for your collegiality and partnership,
Monica C. Inzer
Dean of Admission and Financial Aid