Supporting All Members of our Community, Dec. 6, 2016

Members of the Hamilton Community,

In the aftermath of the presidential election, emotions continue to run high, on campus and around the country. I have heard directly from students who feel threatened and unsafe, even here on campus, and from students who worry about their families or friends.

As I said in my November 5 email to the campus, we are a community. What affects one of us, affects us all. It is incumbent upon all of us then to do everything we can to ensure that Hamilton offers a safe, welcoming and inclusive environment in which all members of our community can thrive.

Particular concerns have been expressed for members of our community whose immigration status may put them at risk. With that in mind, over 1,100 students, faculty, staff, and alumni have signed a petition urging that I investigate the possibility of declaring Hamilton a sanctuary campus.

As someone whose career has centered on international law and human rights, I share many of the concerns that have been expressed. At Minnesota, I took the lead in establishing the Center for New Americans, which provides urgently needed legal services to noncitizens and engages in impact litigation to improve immigration law and policy. More recently, I joined other college and university presidents in a statement urging continuation of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

Because the term sanctuary campus means different things to different people, I think it best to focus on specific ways in which members of our community may need our support. I discussed our options with the Board of Trustees last Friday, and I want to share with you how I intend to move forward.

First, the College does not now and will not in the future share information about the immigration status of our students, unless legally required to do so.

Second, the College does not now and will not in the future assist with the enforcement of immigration laws against members of the campus community, unless we are legally required to do so. Campus Safety does not and will not ask students or other members of our community about their immigration status. In the absence of exigent circumstances (e.g., an imminent safety threat), police or other law enforcement agencies that wish to carry out immigration enforcement activity on campus need a warrant or court order and that will continue to be our practice in the future.

Third, we are exploring ways to provide legal and other assistance to any undocumented member of our community who needs it. Every one of our students enriches our community in unique ways, but all should be able to enjoy equally the full benefits of a Hamilton education.

Finally, as an academic community, we have a special responsibility to explore the issues that have produced so much polarization in recent months and to model the respectful dialogue that characterizes an engaged learning community. We should not only welcome but insist upon hearing a broad range of viewpoints and treat with respect even those with whom we most disagree.


Sexual Misconduct Working Group, Dec. 5, 2016

Dear Members of the Hamilton Community,

During the past few months, there has been a lot of discussion about how Hamilton responds to and works to prevent sexual misconduct on campus. I am heartened to see how deeply our community—faculty, staff, students and alumni—cares about this important issue, and I am grateful for the active participation of Title IX Coordinator Lisa Magnarelli and the members of SAVES, SMART, Student Assembly and the HSMB. This topic was discussed at length at the board meeting last Friday.

Many of the conversations have focused on the Sexual Misconduct Policy. That document underwent a major revision in 2014, so it is time to look at how well it is working. I have established a Sexual Misconduct Working Group, consisting of faculty, staff, students and trustees/alumni, and asked it to review best practices in this area and to host a number of open meetings next semester to gather feedback about our procedures and policies. The Working Group will use this information to develop recommendations for possible improvements. I encourage you to participate and share your thoughts.

I am grateful to the members of the community who have agreed to serve on the the Working Group:

Tina Hall, Chair
Associate Professor of Literature and Creative Writing

Aleta Brown ’17

Andrew Dykstra
Associate Professor of Mathematics

Bennett Hambrook ’17

Nora Klaphake
Chief of Staff and Secretary to the Board of Trustees

Lea Kuck ’87
Trustee, Partner
Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom

Olabisi “Bisi” Ladeji Okubadejo ’95
Of Counsel
Ballard Spahr LLP

Corinne Smith ’17

David Walden
Director of Counseling and Psychological Services and Lecturer in Psychology

All best regards,


Strategic Planning, December 5, 2016

Dear Faculty, Students, and Staff,

Next month, the College will begin a new strategic planning process. A steering committee will oversee the process, and three planning committees will examine issues ranging from curricular change to student success to the sustainability of our business model. Below please find the charges to the four committees. As you will see, the committees have been asked to consult widely, and I hope all of you will take advantage of opportunities to participate. We are in the process of forming the committees and will share the names of committee members soon.

All best regards,


Hamilton College Strategic Planning Committee Charges, December 5, 2016

Four committees will help draft Hamilton's next strategic plan. The charges for each committee are set out below. In fulfilling its charge, each committee should consult widely with members of the Hamilton community, including alumni. The committees may form working groups to study specific issues, construct focus groups to gather information, or use other appropriate means of gathering data. Whenever possible, the committees should be guided by and use information from current and past faculty and staff efforts to address long-term curricular, faculty and staff planning, facilities, and other issues. Each committee should identify three to five strategic goals, evaluate the costs associated with pursuing those goals, and suggest concrete measures for assessing progress toward achieving those goals. Following each committee charge is a set of questions. These questions are intended to serve as a starting point for discussions, but each committee is free to investigate the most important ideas and issues identified during the course of its deliberations.

Steering Committee

The Steering Committee will oversee the planning process and take responsibility for considering and incorporating as appropriate the recommendations of the planning committees into the final strategic plan. The Steering Committee will meet periodically with each of the planning committees to provide guidance on committee goals and work plans, to monitor progress, to help resolve questions or problems that may arise during the course of the planning process, and to establish timelines for different phases of the planning process. The Steering Committee will also work with the planning committees to manage issues that cut across the work of two or more committees. Finally, the Steering Committee will assist each of the planning committees to narrow the range of ideas that emerge through consultations with the Hamilton community into a manageable number of strategic priorities that will inform the future direction of the College and help guide its next capital campaign.

Imagining Hamilton Committee

The Imagining Hamilton Committee (IHC) will take a 30,000-foot look at the challenges and opportunities facing higher education in general and residential liberal arts colleges in particular. With that context in mind, the Committee will engage the Hamilton community in conversations intended to elicit big ideas, however unconventional, that have the potential for transforming the direction or operations of the College and the education it provides its students. The Committee will look in particular at strategies that might cut across existing domains, e.g., academic programs and student life.

Potential Questions

  • What does, and what should, differentiate Hamilton from its peers?
  • How can we foster continuous improvement of existing programs?
  • Is our business model sustainable and, if not, what should we change?
  • Are there technological, demographic, social, legislative or financial forces on the horizon that will force major changes in what we do and, if so, how should we prepare?
    • How should we prepare for a prospective student body that will likely include more first-generation- to-college students and more students with less ability to pay for a Hamilton education?
    • In light of trends in family income, how should we address issues of affordability and access?
    • What is the appropriate role for online education?
    • How do we balance parent and student expectations for job preparation with traditional liberal arts goals?
  • How do we make Hamilton an even better place to work?
  • What is the optimal size of the student body?
Academic Vision Committee

The Academic Vision Committee will examine future directions for Hamilton's academic programs in light of the changing composition of our faculty and staff and the challenges facing higher education. In that context, the committee should consider our curriculum, workplace issues, and the needs and interests of students to recommend priorities for the near future.

Potential questions

  • What is and what should be distinctive about Hamilton's curriculum? Are there new areas that should be developed or existing areas that should be revised?
  • Does the faculty have a workable governance structure? How can we foster a stronger culture of collaboration among faculty, administration, and staff?
  • How should our curriculum respond to anticipated changes in student demographics, technology, globalization, and developments within and between disciplines?
  • What kind of flexibility (in departments and programs, in majors, in staffing) might we need to respond to the changing interests and needs of students as well as current and future imbalances in the distribution of students across majors?
  • How should we foster and support interdisciplinary programs, teaching, and scholarship?
  • How can we better connect our curriculum and academic program to other areas of student life, e.g., residential life, off-campus programs, and community and global engagement?
  • What do we need to do to recruit, retain, and develop the most talented teacher-scholars and staff?
  • How should faculty balance and be rewarded for teaching, scholarship, and service? What areas of the workload need improvement?
  • How can we maximize the value of off-campus study programs?
Student Success Committee

The Student Success Committee will identify ways to improve the overall student experience at Hamilton, with a particular focus on co-curricular activities. As Hamilton welcomes and embraces an increasingly diverse student population and strives to prepare students for lives of meaning, purpose, and active citizenship, the committee will examine the educational challenges and opportunities that exist beyond Hamilton's formal classrooms.

Potential Questions

  • How do we take full advantage of our residential community to maximize learning, success and satisfaction of all students?
  • As an institution that has made a commitment to access and increasing the diversity of its student body, what additional actions could be taken to promote a stronger sense of community and belonging for all students?
  • How can Hamilton better foster a vibrant social environment and reduce the negative impact of substance abuse?
  • How can we equip students with the tools and skills needed to be successful at Hamilton and after they graduate?
  • How can we foster even greater collaboration among students, the administration, and faculty?

Moving Forward, November 9, 2016

Dear Students,

The election campaign has laid bare deep rifts in our society. We can hope that Americans from across the political spectrum will now work to heal some of these divisions.

On our campus, we will find opportunities in the days and months ahead to discuss the meaning and significance of the election. But we are more than just an academic institution. We are a community, and what affects one of us affects all of us.

Our ability to shape what happens off campus is, of course, modest, but we can all look for ways to help the country come together and move forward. And on this campus we can – and will – continue to foster an inclusive and supportive environment.


Best Wishes for the Start of Hamilton’s 205th Year, August 25, 2016

Dear Members of the Hamilton Community,

Welcome to the start of the fall semester. I have had the opportunity to meet many of you during the last two months, and I hope to meet all of you in the months ahead.

A little over a week ago, we welcomed 475 first-year students and 23 transfers; we now have students from 47 states and 46 countries. Our new students bring new excitement and energy to the campus; I know this from personal experience, having gone cycling with seven of them during Orientation. We also welcomed 25 new members of the faculty and 21 new staff members, and those I have met are just as excited as the students to be here.

As our new students and their families drove up College Hill Road on the first day of Orientation, they were greeted by an enthusiastic band of colorfully costumed returning students, dancing, cheering and holding up cardboard signs. One sign cheerfully instructed parents to “Give us your kid,” another warned “Winter is coming!” With that reception, the new students felt right at home.

As I mentioned at Convocation yesterday, although we come from around the country and around the world, we are one Hamilton—an engaged learning community that delivers one of the country’s finest liberal arts educations.

But we are also part of the larger outside community and we cannot ignore what we witness on the news every day. Recent months have seen a near-constant stream of tragic events. Political polarization is widespread and core values seem up for debate. Members of our community will experience these events differently.

In keeping with Hamilton’s tradition of open and respectful dialogue, we will have multiple opportunities this year to consider the implications and significance of the kind of events that have transpired this summer and, unfortunately, likely will recur in the days ahead. We will be holding a variety of programs intended to address these issues, including lectures, panel discussions and community conversations. Upcoming events will be posted on the College’s events webpage and announced by email.

The free and open exchanges of views on important social issues are central to our mission. I plan to attend as many of these events as my schedule will allow, and I hope you will participate too.

I am thrilled to have started my own Hamilton education and I look forward to seeing what we can do together.

Best wishes for a wonderful academic year,


Recent Events, July 11, 2016

Dear Students,

I had hoped my first email to you as President of Hamilton College would be to recognize and celebrate one of the many wonderful aspects of our extended community. I write instead in response to the extraordinary sequence of recent tragic events in Orlando, Baton Rouge, St. Paul and Dallas, and in so many other communities around the world, from Iraq to Bangladesh.

These events affect all of us, but they may be felt particularly acutely by some members of our community. I want to acknowledge that fact and to encourage anyone who may wish to take advantage of counseling or other resources to contact David Walden at Hamilton’s Counseling Center (dwalden@hamilton.edu). David is available to help you identify local services available to you during the summer months.

As a society, we continue to grapple with racism, inequality, violence and similar challenges. Hamilton has made progress in addressing these issues, but we can do more. It is incumbent on all of us to foster an environment in which every student can thrive; in doing so, we make Hamilton stronger and better prepare all of us to help solve the problems we see around us.

I look forward to learning with and from you when we are all on campus this fall.




Office of the President

Office Location
Buttrick Hall
8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m.
8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m.
8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m.
8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m.
8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m.

Help us provide an accessible education, offer innovative resources and programs, and foster intellectual exploration.

Site Search