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The following books by Robert Paul Wolff are available on Amazon.com as e-books: KANT'S THEORY OF MENTAL ACTIVITY, THE AUTONOMY OF REASON, UNDERSTANDING MARX, UNDERSTANDING RAWLS, THE POVERTY OF LIBERALISM, A LIFE IN THE ACADEMY, MONEYBAGS MUST BE SO LUCKY, AN INTRODUCTION TO THE USE OF FORMAL METHODS IN POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY.
Now Available: Volumes I, II, III, and IV of the Collected Published and Unpublished Papers.

NOW AVAILABLE ON YOUTUBE: LECTURES ON KANT'S CRITIQUE OF PURE REASON. To view the lectures, go to YouTube and search for "Robert Paul Wolff Kant." There they will be.

NOW AVAILABLE ON YOUTUBE: LECTURES ON THE THOUGHT OF KARL MARX. To view the lectures, go to YouTube and search for Robert Paul Wolff Marx."





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Saturday, February 9, 2019

THE OLD ORDER CHANGETH


I was invited to leave Columbia and join the Philosophy Department of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst in 1970 [although I did not actually make the transition until 1971.]  That year, a small liberal arts experimental college was opened in South Amherst named Hampshire College.  Hampshire was yet another of the countercultural small colleges that have been a feature of the American higher education landscape for several hundred years.  The students at Hampshire assembled “portfolios” instead of satisfying distribution requirements, they received written evaluations rather than grades.  The faculty did not have tenure, but rather multi-year contracts.

From its founding, Hampshire was part of a consortium of Western Massachusetts schools called Five Colleges Inc.  Three of the other four – Amherst, Smith, and Mt. Holyoke – are famous, well-established liberal arts colleges, among the most prestigious in the United States.  The fourth isd UMass, which, when I joined the faculty, was just completing the transition from an 8500 student campus originating as Mass Aggie to the 23,000 student flagship campus of the University of Massachusetts system.  The Five Colleges coordinated their schedules and offered students the opportunity to enroll in courses at any of the schools.  A 5-College free bus ran circular routes among Amherst, Northampton, and South Hadley, carrying students from campus to campus.  [Outsiders assumed that the movement would be from UMass to the elite colleges, but in fact most of the exchanges ran in the other direction, from Amherst or Smith or Mt. Holyoke or Hampshire to UMass.]

Hampshire was by most measures phenomenally successful.  Very high percentages of its graduates went on to take advanced degrees or to start small businesses.  Its most famous graduate, Ken Burns, became an award winning documentary film maker.  The campus offered space to the Yiddish Book Center, a remarkable archive of books, films, and other materials of the Easter European diaspora.

Two days ago, I learned that Hampshire College may be finished.  It is going broke, and has declined to admit a full class of students for next year.  It is seeking a “partnership,” but from this distance, it looks as though it will be closing its doors.

There are well over four thousand colleges and university campuses in the United States, and every year a number of colleges close down.  Half a century is not a bad run, after all.  But it is sad news. 

Sic transit gloria mundi

4 comments:

JKR said...

Very sad. But it's all about the money. Amherst College has about 45 times the endowment of Hampshire; Smith almost 40 times; Mt. Holyoke over 15 times. Hampshire has a lot of real estate so it's an institution ready for a rebirth or reincarnation. All it needs is money. Hear that, Ken Burns?

s. wallerstein said...

Why is it folding? Is it just lack of funds or were funds misused or is its academic project "outdated"?

The universities which have folded here (Chile) went broke due to very bad business decisions, serious mismanagement or not entirely clarified financial scandals bordering on illegality.

Robert Paul Wolff said...

I don't know any details, but I am pretty sure it is not mismanagement. It is an expensive college with a small endowment, and I think it has lost enrollment.

Anonymous said...

Here is some additional information from the Boston Globe about Hampshire's decision not to admit a freshman class:

https://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2019/02/07/hampshire-worried-about-state-new-oversight-plan/xhYoO0YFw1OSDHrHYVsUEI/story.html

DWE