Proposed Title IX Regulations, November 27, 2018

Dear Members of the Hamilton community,

On November 16, the Department of Education issued proposed regulations that, if implemented as currently drafted, would force significant changes in the way most colleges and universities respond to complaints of sexual misconduct under Title IX. The Department of Education will soon begin a 60-day notice-and-comment period as a prelude to the issuance of final, binding regulations. Until final regulations are promulgated, existing federal and state law governing sexual misconduct, and the College’s own current sexual misconduct policy, will continue in effect.

The College remains firmly committed to preventing sexual misconduct and to providing a fair process for the resolution of sexual misconduct complaints. We are concerned about the possible impact of some of the proposed regulations and considering how we might best respond. Among other things, we are talking with our peers about participating jointly in the federal notice-and-comment process. As the process moves forward, we will convene a small group to explore the implications of the potential changes.We will also participate, beginning next semester, in the Culture of Respect program, and will bring together a separate group to consider changes to our sexual misconduct education programs and procedures.

The Hamilton community will be notified if our Title IX policies, programs, or procedures are updated or changed.

The draft of the proposed new federal regulations is lengthy. It includes language governing the evidentiary standard to be used and a requirement to allow cross-examination. Also included are changes to the definition of sexual harassment, the circumstances under which a college or university may be found in violation of Title IX, and the off-campus reach of an institution's Title IX obligations.

Whatever the outcome of the rulemaking process, the College will do all it can to foster a safe and supportive environment for all students.


Pittsburgh Shootings, October 29, 2018

Dear Members of the Hamilton Community,

I had intended to write today to express my appreciation to all involved in this year’s wonderful Fallcoming and Family Weekend, but I will leave that for another time.

The hatred and violence visited on congregants at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh this weekend represent an escalation of intolerance in our national political life that should alarm and sadden all of us. What happened in Pittsburgh is terrible and tragic. Unfortunately, it is not an isolated incident.

More than a year ago, I wrote to denounce the violence in Charlottesville. Since that time, there has been an upsurge in the public expression of racism, anti-Semitism, and other forms of bigotry, with tragic consequences.

As a community, we are dedicated to fostering an environment where each member can thrive, and we should denounce intolerance whenever and wherever we encounter it. Doing so affirms the values of this College and civilized society.

I encourage you to attend the vigil this evening and to do what you can to support the members of our community most affected by recent events. For any who may need assistance, please take advantage of the many resources available on campus.


Strategic Plan Update, August 28, 2018

Dear Members of the Hamilton Community,

Following the Board of Trustees’ review of the College’s Strategic Plan in the spring, the senior staff began working on its implementation. We will provide periodic updates on our progress.

Suzanne Keen and Joe Shelley will coordinate the implementation of “Digital Hamilton.” They will work with faculty and staff on ways to encourage digital pedagogy across the curriculum, so that students can acquire digital skills along with skills in writing, oral communication, and quantitative literacy. As outlined in the strategic plan, new efforts will focus on improving digital learning facilities, supporting new and continuing faculty members who have interest and expertise in digital pedagogy, providing assistance for digitally intensive courses, and supporting students in acquiring digital fluencies. At the same time, Suzanne and Joe will coordinate efforts to modernize administrative information systems to better support data-informed decision making and foster greater efficiency in campus operations.

Margaret Gentry, in her new role as senior advisor to the president for experiential learning, will take the lead on developing and coordinating the experiential learning section of the strategic plan. She will work with faculty, students, staff, and alumni to strengthen and support existing experiential programs, develop new programs, streamline student access to these experiences, and bring together resources from across divisions to better coordinate experiential learning at Hamilton. Margaret is also working with faculty and staff on the development of an advising network to integrate advising resources on campus so that students can more easily access these resources at the appropriate time in their education. Terry Martinez, Tara McKee, Karen Brewer, Nathan Goodale, and Janine Oliver are working with Margaret on the advising network.

Terry Martinez will oversee the implementation of “The Residential Experience” at Hamilton. As part of this process, she and colleagues will explore various housing options for our students and will initiallyfocus on developing a comprehensive First Year Experience, coordinating a Special Interest Housing option for sophomores and juniors, decongesting our residences and enhancing lounge space, and, as indicated earlier, working in partnership with Margaret Gentry to develop an integrated advising network. This work will include the creation of programmatic goals and assessment.

Karen Leach will coordinate the overall implementation of the plan by creating and monitoring progress on a list of initiatives and related projects. A budget plan and timeline will be developed and coordinated with the work of the Faculty Committee on Budget and Finance, senior staff, and the trustee committees on Budget and Finance and Development. Lori Dennison is integrating the initiatives identified in the plan with the other priorities for the capital campaign that will launch later this year.

If you have questions about a specific initiative in the plan, please feel free to contact me or one of the people working on that part of the plan's implementation.


Year-End Message, June 1, 2018

Dear Alumni, Parents, and Friends,

Now that the semester has ended, I thought I would review with you a few of the Hamilton highlights of the past year and discuss how we are responding to some difficult challenges.

We observed the end of the College's 206th year, of course, with Commencement weekend, which was marked by some of the best speeches I have heard at such ceremonies. On that Saturday, Anne-Marie Slaughter, president and CEO of New America, delivered a stirring Baccalaureate address on the meaning of true equality. On Sunday, Ford Foundation President Darren Walker encouraged students to embrace history — good and bad — and lead the way forward with empathy, courage, and compassion. Soper-Merrill Prize recipient Marquis Palmer of Utica, N.Y., and Class Speaker Eleni Neyland of Boxborough, Mass., also delivered thought-provoking speeches in an admirable display of Hamilton's commitment to effective oral expression. It was humbling, inspiring, and a lot of fun to preside at such occasions.

Commencement also called to mind some of the tragedies we experienced during the year, including the death of a beloved faculty member in a cycling accident and the suicide of a sophomore from Massachusetts. In a small, close-knit community such as ours, these losses are felt deeply.

Last fall’s suicide was the second at Hamilton in two years. As you may know, anxiety and depression are the most common mental health diagnoses among teens and young adults in the United States, and the numbers are growing. Suicidal thoughts and acts of self-harm are rising among college students, and the rates are even higher for the same age population not in college. Because of the tragedies that have visited our campus, I want you to know how we are responding.

As I shared with the campus in early April, Hamilton has taken the following steps since 2016:

  • Commissioned an external review of our processes and structures for supporting students by experts from Duke University
  • Moved to a case-management model to assist students and hired an associate dean for student support services
  • Implemented recommendations from the JED Foundation, an organization devoted to suicide prevention
  • Instituted gatekeeper training for faculty and staff to help them recognize and respond to students in distress
  • Expanded the physical space in the new counseling center (which will open in the fall), and added new programming and personnel, including a full-time psychiatrist
  • Launched a Community of Care Initiative for students, faculty, and staff to support each other in healing and in action following a student death
  • Instituted 24/7/365 crisis coverage that students can access on campus, at home, while studying off campus, and during vacations
  • Added a peer counseling program that provides peer-to-peer counseling sessions, support groups, wellness workshops, and suicide gatekeeper training

Ongoing discussions will lead to additional action. All of us at Hamilton are committed to addressing student mental health issues with care, compassion, and concern.

While we continue to mourn the members of our community who passed away this year, we also celebrate the many recent accomplishments at Hamilton. Our distinguished faculty hosted international conferences, earned professional recognition, and published prolifically, and we enjoyed a host of concerts, theatre productions, readings, art exhibitions, and athletic contests that showcased our extraordinary students. Most noteworthy, four Hamilton seniors received prestigious Thomas J. Watson Fellowships – the most ever. Seven were also awarded Fulbright English Language Teaching Assistantships. In the fall we launched an extremely well attended Common Ground series featuring David Axelrod and Karl Rove, and followed that in the spring with a combined Sacerdote Great Names and Common Ground event with Susan Rice and Condoleezza Rice. We also celebrated the 100th anniversary of hockey on College Hill and shared in Clinton’s designation as Hockeyville USA.

Hamilton continues to be among the most popular choices for high-achieving high school students. A record 6,240 applicants sought to join the Class of 2022, 10 percent more than a year ago, and just 21 percent were accepted, also a record. We joined two new programs, QuestBridge and the American Talent Initiative, that help colleges identify and enroll some of America’s brightest students from low-income backgrounds, further strengthening Hamilton’s reputation as a school of opportunity.

These initiatives are consistent with an important goal of our recently completed strategic plan: ensuring that deserving students have equal access to a Hamilton education. The plan also calls for us to transform the ways in which we teach, learn, and operate the College, with digitally intensive courses and emerging digital technologies; develop a model residential program; and establish a new organizational framework for experiential and community learning opportunities. We also intend to expand existing initiatives focused on teaching and advising.

I welcome your thoughts and suggestions on all things Hamilton. Please feel free to contact me at dwippman@hamilton.edu or by mail at 198 College Hill Road, Clinton, NY 13323.

Warmest wishes for a wonderful summer,


Norovirus and Campus, April 27, 2018

Dear Members of the Hamilton Community,

The norovirus, coming so close to the end of the semester, has added a substantial new burden on students preparing for papers, exams, and presentations. As a result, some students have urged that Hamilton cancel classes. We have given that option serious thought, but after consulting with experts and considering best practices have decided to continue normal operations.

The Oneida County Health Department has recommended that the College continue operating on a normal schedule as long as the treatment and prevention efforts we’ve undertaken remain in place. Canceling classes on a residential campus where more than 1,800 students still need to be housed and fed is unlikely to lessen appreciably the duration or severity of the problem. The best way to mitigate the impact of the virus is to follow the prevention methods described in earlier emails.

The College will continue aggressive efforts to end the spread of the virus by continually disinfecting high contact surfaces and touch points. We ask that you support others on campus by staying home or in your residence hall if you have symptoms consistent with norovirus and remaining home for 48 hours after experiencing your last symptom.

We do not want students who are ill to feel pressured to attend class, so we have asked the faculty to be flexible with their attendance and deadline policies and to assist students who miss class due to sickness to make up the missed work. At the same time, we are asking students to keep their professors informed of their situation to avoid misunderstandings.

We offer our sympathies to the students who have contracted the virus and those who are worried about becoming sick. We know this has been a difficult week. Thank you for your patience and cooperation as we work to eliminate norovirus from campus.

David Wippman and Margaret Gentry

Support for Students Experiencing Anxiety and Depression, April 1, 2018

Dear Members of the Hamilton Community,

Many in our community were present last Monday evening or read the minutes from the Student Assembly meeting when Dean of Students Terry Martinez reiterated the College’s commitment to increase student wellness and provide specific support for students experiencing anxiety and depression. Dean Martinez also outlined some of the ways we continue to improve upon those services and programs as new ideas and practices become available.

Among the actions taken by the College in the past year are the following: an external review of our processes and structures for supporting students of concern by a team from Duke University; the move to a case-management model to assist students of concern and the hiring of an associate dean of students for student support services, as recommended by the external review; additional work by the College to implement recommendations from the JED Foundation, an organization devoted to suicide prevention; the institution of gatekeeper training for faculty and staff and a student-implemented model for the same to help community members recognize and respond to students in distress and refer them to mental health resources; an expansion of the physical space in the new counseling center, with additional programming and personnel, including the decision to conduct a search for a full-time psychiatrist; and adoption of the Community of Care Initiative. Ongoing discussions around student mental health may lead to additional action.

These initiatives are part of a continuing evolution, and we have also welcomed the input of students and parents, such as Mr. and Mrs. Burton, the parents of Graham. Graham’s death was a terrible tragedy for his family, friends, and our community, and the Burton family continues to have our deepest sympathy for their loss.

We continue doing all that we can to ensure the safety and welfare of our students. There are many resources available to you or any member of our community in need of support. The most immediate ways to seek assistance are to contact the Counseling Center (315-859-4340), the Dean of Students Office (315-859-4020), or Campus Safety (315-859-4141).


David Wippman


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