2017 Public Statements
A Message to the Community, December 4, 2017
I write to address issues of serious concern to every member of the Hamilton community. Recently, Professor Paul Gottfried appeared as a guest speaker in two classes, one dealing with modern conservative politics and the other with European history. A number of students protested outside the classes in which he spoke.
In the aftermath of his visit, the Government Department issued a statement. The statement noted “multiple complaints from students about racist remarks allegedly made byGottfried” during his appearance in class and went on to “unequivocally condemn any and all such racist remarks, written or spoken.” Members of Student Assembly also issued a statement condemning any expression of racist views but defending Mr. Gottfried’s right to speak on campus.
Gottfried’s appearance on campus and the reactions to it provide an occasion to revisit some of the principles and values important to our community. I start with ones on which I hope we can all agree.
First, we are a community that values all its members. We want and need to foster a diverse, welcoming, and inclusive environment. We have made considerable progress on this in recent years and we are better and stronger for it, even though we still have much more to do.
Racism, sexism, anti-Semitism, and all other forms of bigotry are anathema to our core values. Claims of racial hierarchy based on spurious notions of genetics are scientifically bankrupt and morally repugnant. I understand, intellectually, morally, and viscerally, the anger and pain members of our community experience when faced with such claims, particularly in the current political climate and historical context.
Racism on campus imposes particular burdens on faculty, students, and staff of color, who must deal with assaults on their dignity and humanity and at the same time are called upon disproportionately to support and advise other members of the community.
Second, we are a community that insists upon academic rigor. That means, among other things, that we should not invite speakers to address subjects on which they have little or no relevant expertise or who espouse views that have no grounding in reason or fact.
Third, as an academic institution, the free and open exchange of ideas is central to our mission.
These principles are clear in the abstract, but their application in particular cases may be less clear. We have dozens, if not hundreds, of invited speakers every year. We do not have, nor should we have, a central authority that decides who may or may not speak on campus.
Special considerations apply when a speaker is invited to a class, in which attendance is expected. Consistent with principles of academic freedom, faculty have—and should have—wide latitude on how to structure their classes, what readings they assign, and what speakers they invite. It is essential that all members of our community exercise good judgment when making such decisions and be mindful of the impact of their choices on the broader community.
On occasion, members of our community will disagree sharply with and criticize the decision to invite a particular speaker. That, too, is part of the freedom that all of us share.
As president, I am mindful of the need to ensure that faculty members, when making decisions about their research or teaching, retain the autonomy and freedom essential to their role in academic life. I am also committed, as a matter of deep personal conviction as well as institutional values, to promoting an environment that fosters diversity and inclusion and supports and respects all members of our community.
In the days ahead, I will be meeting with members of Academic Council, department chairs, and others to discuss how best to pursue these goals.
Community of Caring, October 2, 2017
Dear Members of the Hamilton Community,
Last week our community experienced the tragic loss of one of our students, Isaiah Carpenter-Winch. His passing left many of us confused, frustrated, and helpless. We have received numerous emails from community members asking how we can better address mental health issues and foster a stronger sense of wholeness and connectedness in our community. Now is a time when we can each pause to ask what we, as individuals, can do to support and enhance our community while at the same time address as an institution the societal issues that affect the lives of our students.
With that in mind, we are writing to announce the launch of a Community of Care initiative. This initiative, which will be coordinated by the Dean of Students Office, will provide opportunities for us to come together in small groups to build community. Elements for immediate implementation include community dinners and an educational campaign focused on seeking assistance; longer-term opportunities will include education, skill building, and enhancing our systems, protocols, and policies around wellness and mental health. These topics are already being discussed as part of the College’s strategic planning process.
We will be attending meetings this week, including the Student Assembly and the Faculty Meeting, to discuss this initiative in greater detail. Dean Martinez will also host a Community Conversation on Thursday, October 5th, at 7 pm in the Dwight Lounge of the Bristol Center.
We hope you will engage in the conversation as we all work to strengthen an environment in which each person is cared for and supported.
David Wippman and Terry Martinez
Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), September 5, 2017
To the Hamilton Community,
The Trump administration today announced that it would begin to rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, with a six-month window during which Congress may act to continue the program. DACA protects nearly 800,000 “Dreamers”—undocumented young people who entered the country before age 16. The DACA program enabled many promising and talented young people to attend college and begin careers. Despite the assurances they received, their future may now be in doubt.
Notwithstanding the shift in executive branch policy, Hamilton is not changing its admission policy; we will continue to welcome applications from all qualified students, including undocumented students, with the goal of building the strongest possible academic community. We will likewise continue to do all we can to support all of our students once they enroll. As I said in a related message last December, 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.
With the ultimate future of DACA shifting to Congress, I have been in touch with colleagues in the New York Six, and we will jointly approach the New York congressional delegation to urge support for legislation that would codify the principles of DACA. I believe those principles benefit our campuses, our communities, and our country. I am also in touch with colleagues in NESCAC and elsewhere about other ways to pursue this issue.
In the meantime, campus and other resources are available for members of our community with questions about changes in immigration law and policy. View a list of resources on our website.
Hamilton’s Tradition of Open and Respectful Dialogue, August 24, 2017
Dear Members of the Hamilton Community,
Welcome to our new students, faculty and staff, and welcome back to those of you who are returning to College Hill for your second, third and fourth years or, in the case of some faculty and staff, your second, third or fourth decades. With the exception of move-in day last Tuesday, when an enthusiastic band of colorfully costumed Continentals greeted our new students by dancing, cheering and holding up cardboard signs, the campus was quiet this summer.
Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for much of the rest of the world. News from Washington, Charlottesville, Venezuela, North Korea, Syria, Afghanistan and elsewhere affects us all. 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 kinds of events that have dominated the news recently and, unfortunately, likely will recur in the days ahead. A variety of programs will address these issues, including lectures, panel discussions and community conversations.
In particular, I hope you will attend a new program, Common Ground, which will bring together on October 18 two leading political strategists with very different perspectives for a moderated conversation on a variety of “hot button” issues. Our speakers for that program, David Axelrod and Karl Rove, will model for our audience one of the goals of a liberal education: engaging respectfully with views and perspectives that are different from one’s own.
As I said yesterday in my Convocation remarks, part of a student’s education here lies precisely in exploring new ideas and new ways of thinking and in getting to know people with different identities, backgrounds, and perspectives, even when doing so proves uncomfortable.
Best wishes for a wonderful, enlightening and sometimes uncomfortable academic year.
Recent Events, August 17, 2017
Dear Members of the Hamilton Community,
On Tuesday, we welcomed the class of 2021 and our new transfer students. One of the joys of working at a place like Hamilton is witnessing the warmth and enthusiasm of the newest members of our community as they get to know each other, the College, and the community.
The arrival of our new students has encouraged me to reflect on what I should say at Convocation and in my second welcome message to the broader campus community as we start the academic year. In both cases, I will reiterate the importance of being open to new ideas and getting to know people with different identities, backgrounds and perspectives. I hope you will join us at Convocation on Wednesday, Aug. 23, at 4:30 p.m. in Wellin Hall.
I had intended to wait until Convocation to write to all of you. But I feel compelled by recent events, in particular those in Charlottesville, Virginia, to reaffirm this College’s values and expectations. What took place in Charlottesville last weekend affects all of us and should alarm all of us, whatever our backgrounds or politics. The white supremacist, anti-Semitic views on display in Charlottesville are abhorrent on their own, but the willingness to use violence and intimidation to advance those views is a direct challenge to our values as a society and an academic community.
At Hamilton, we believe firmly in the principles of free speech and free association. But those same principles allow us to condemn racism, anti-Semitism, bigotry or any other form of discrimination, as well as any form of political violence or intimidation. It is incumbent on all of us to foster an environment in which every student can thrive. Doing so makes Hamilton stronger and better prepares all of us to help solve the problems we see around us.
I look forward to working with you to address these issues.
Strategic Planning Process, June 26, 2017
Members of the Hamilton Community,
This spring three committees of faculty, staff, students, and trustees engaged with the Hamilton community in generating ideas for Hamilton’s strategic planning process. These committees were focused around issues of student success, academic vision, and transformative ideas for the College as a whole. The process generated hundreds of ideas and suggestions. Thank you to everyone who took the time to engage in this process, most particularly the members of the three committees and their chairs—Monica Inzer, Marianne Janack, and Onno Oerlemans.
The three committees worked to narrow down the focus in each of their areas to 8-10 major priorities. During this process, some ideas emerged that would best be considered by specific individuals or offices on campus, and these ideas will be forwarded to the appropriate individuals and offices. The committees also discussed continuing support for some of the College’s core priorities, which we will maintain and continue to develop, including: our liberal arts mission, our commitment to need-blind admissions, and our efforts to build a diverse and inclusive community.
Roughly 30 ideas moved forward from the three committees as strategic initiatives. The steering committee has grouped them into at least three areas that we believe we should focus on in the immediate future. A fourth area centered on curriculum and faculty is still under discussion. We are in the process of setting up working groups with members whose expertise is closely connected to the three areas that have been identified. For more details on each area, see the attachments.
Each working group will work over the summer to explore aspects of its area and complete a report for the steering committee by mid-August. Each group is charged with studying in more depth the goals we are trying to achieve, some previously suggested actions Hamilton could take to meet those goals, and the impact these actions would have on students, faculty and staff, alumni, various units on campus, facilities, and budget. The working groups will send their recommendations to the steering committee by the beginning of the fall semester, and the steering committee will then engage the community in discussion and further development of these recommendations. The planning process is an iterative one and will benefit from your feedback and thoughts.
Margaret Gentry and David Wippman
Sexual Misconduct Working Group Report, May 12, 2017
Dear Members of the Hamilton Community,
In December, I convened a Sexual Misconduct Working Group and asked it to review the College’s sexual misconduct policies and practices. The working group met with numerous groups and individuals on campus. Although concluding that our current policy is in most respects “comprehensive and consistent with current law and best practices,” the working group has made a number of valuable recommendations. Its report is available online.
As noted in the working group’s report, some recommendations will require further study, while others can be implemented fairly quickly. I will be working with the dean of students, the Title IX coordinator and others to move forward as quickly and thoughtfully as we can.
Hamilton Joining QuestBridge May 10, 2017
Dear Members of the Hamilton Community,
I am pleased to announce that Hamilton will begin partnering with QuestBridge, a national organization that connects talented, high-achieving students from low-income backgrounds with highly selective colleges and universities. Six other NESCAC colleges and six of the eight Ivy League institutions are among QuestBridge's 38 current members.
This partnership extends our efforts to recruit the most talented and diverse students to Hamilton regardless of their financial circumstances. The first QuestBridge students will enroll at Hamilton in the fall of 2018.
Joint Statement From Colgate University and Hamilton College, February 28, 2017
Dear Members of the Hamilton College and Colgate University Communities,
As you know, recent changes to federal immigration law and policy have caused concern on both of our campuses, and across the nation. Although federal courts have temporarily blocked implementation of President Trump’s January 27 the xecutive order, new changes to federal law are under consideration, in both the executive branch and the Congress.
While we cannot know the form these changes will take, we are committed to maintaining open and welcoming campus environments and intent on providing as much support to members of our communities as we can. We also believe that joining our efforts will better support our students, faculty, and staff.
With this in mind, we will begin sharing Colgate and Hamilton programs, resources and expertise across our two campuses. Our close proximity and, more importantly, shared values make this possible. Among other things, we will work together to assist those students on our campuses who, in light of evolving immigration laws, are reconsidering their summer plans and may need help finding summer employment or housing. We will also assist Colgate and Hamilton seniors seeking to plan for the impact of the changing law on their post-graduation employment opportunities. And we will examine ways to provide additional legal guidance on immigration-related issues to members of our community who need it.
As a first step administrators on both campuses are reaching out to students to see what support they might need, particularly in the summer months, and are exploring whether programs and services located on either campus might be of help to them as they navigate this changing landscape.
We take these steps together because we believe that values of diversity, tolerance, and community are central to our educational mission as liberal arts institutions.
We look forward to working together in support of all Colgate and Hamilton students, faculty, and staff in these ways and in future joint endeavors.
David Wippman, President, Hamilton College
Brian W. Casey, President, Colgate University
Executive Order on Immigration, January 30, 2017
Dear Students, Faculty and Staff,
President Trump recently issued an executive order restricting or blocking entry into this country for at least 90 days of nationals from the predominantly Muslim countries of Iraq, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen. Additional countries may be added to this list in the near future.
Many of you have written to me to express concern about the discriminatory nature of the new restrictions, their impact on individual members of our community, their impact on Hamilton and American higher education, and their inconsistency with some of our community's core values. I share these concerns.
As noted in my December 6 message to the campus, what affects one member of our community affects us all. The College is named after one of this country’s most famous immigrants and has a long history of welcoming community members from around the globe, including countries named in the recent executive order. We will continue to do so. The perspectives and experiences of our international students, scholars and staff greatly enrich our community. Neither our admission standards nor our hiring practices will change. We will remain a diverse, supportive and welcoming campus.
The College will do what it can to support those members of our community affected by the new immigration policy. We are bringing an expert in immigration law to campus next week; she will be available to meet with students, faculty and staff who have questions about the impact of the new travel restrictions. Other campus resources are available to anyone with questions or concerns. Allen Harrison, our Assistant Dean of Students for International Students and Accessibility, can help direct members of our community with questions to the appropriate campus office. We will also work with our U.S. and international students abroad to offer advice, guidance and support.
It seems likely that law and policy in this area will evolve quickly. We will continue to monitor new developments and assist all affected members of our community as best we can.
Strategic Planning Committees Membership, Jan. 9, 2017
Dear Students, Faculty and Staff,
Early last month I shared with you the structure we plan to use for developing Hamilton's next strategic plan. You will recall that a steering committee will oversee the process, and three planning committees will focus on the academic program, student life and identifying the potential big ideas that will help define Hamilton's future. The following people have agreed to serve on those committees:
- Margaret Gentry P’10, Chair
- Lori Dennison ’87, P’16 ex officio
- Bill Huggins P’14
- Karen Leach, ex officio
- Ron Pressman ’80
- Jon Stanhope ’18
- David Wippman
- Steve Wu
Academic Vision Committee
- Marianne Janack, Chair
- Kyra Ganswith ’19
- Chris Georges P’17
- Greg Hoogkamp ’82
- Gordon Jones (COA)
- Tara McKee (CAP)
- Julie Ross ’84
- Robin Vanderwall
- Michael Wang ’19
Student Success Committee
- Onno Oerlemans, Chair
- Julia Cowles ’84
- Anthony Jackson ’15
- Patty Kloidt
- Rob Knight
- Noelle Niznik
- Sarah Robertson ’19
- Nancy Roob ’87
- Henry Shuldiner ’19
- Laura Lee Smith ’11
Imagining Hamilton Committee
- Monica Inzer, Chair
- Ryan Bloom ’18
- Wei-Jen Chang
- Richard Court ’19
- Bob Delaney ’79
- Lea Kuck ’87
- Sam Pellman
- Janet Simons
I am grateful for the participation of these individuals in this important process, and I know you will hear from them about the ways you can share your thoughts and ideas.
All best regards,