The ex post facto renegotiation of the Charter of the Alexander Hamilton Center has failed. Robert Paquette has resigned as Executive Director of the Alexander Hamilton Center, and it is virtually certain the gift of $3.6mm, previously announced by the College, will not be completed.
Let’s summarize the plain facts:
Prior to September 6, 2006, Hamilton College (specifically President Stewart and Dean Urgo in concert with Communications & Development) negotiate terms of the Charter of the Alexander Hamilton Center with the sponsoring faculty members and prospective donor. Result: the parties agree to the establishment of the Alexander Hamilton Center as detailed in the Charter.
On September 6, 2006, Hamilton College publicly announces the formation of the Alexander Hamilton Center. In concert with the announcement of the formation of AHC, Hamilton College publicly publishes the Charter of the Alexander Hamilton Center.
- Joan Stewart, President of Hamilton College; Joseph Urgo, Dean of Faculty of Hamilton College; Professor Robert Paquette; Professor James Bradfield; and Professor Douglas Ambrose are listed as Founders on the published Charter.
- The success and virtue of the Alexander Hamilton Center are toasted by all at a champagne reception.
On October 13 the College publicly announces a gift of $3.6 million in support of the Alexander Hamilton Center. Quoted from the press release:
- Inspired by Alexander Hamilton’s life and work, the AHC seeks to “promote excellence in scholarship through the study of freedom, democracy and capitalism as these ideas were developed and institutionalized in the United States and within the larger tradition of Western culture,” according to the center’s charter .
- President Joan Hinde Stewart. “This contribution will be a true legacy…passion and high regard for Alexander Hamilton and his contributions to the founding of the American experiment in republican government. Our students will benefit now and in future years from the programming and resources resulting from [this] gift.”
- Hamilton ’s dean of the faculty Joseph Urgo commented, “The Alexander Hamilton Center is an exciting faculty initiative, one that will draw renewed attention on this campus to the considerable scholarly interest in the life and work of the founder who lent his name to our college. Alexander Hamilton’s rise to prominence from disadvantage, his life-long commitment to clarity in prose and speech, and his ultimate devotion to the experiment of a United States government and society, all reflect the ongoing educational values of Hamilton College.”
On September 20, 2006, the Hamilton College Spectator reports a faculty vote and concerns about the Charter, and we quote:
- “ “the faculty voted 77 to 17 to adopt a resolution expressing concern over the governance structure of the newly established Alexander Hamilton Center…. ”
- “Trustees discussed the AHC Charter at their recent meetings over Alumni Weekend…They do…feel that the wording of the governance structure needs revisions….Stuart [Scott] continued, “They [the three founders] agree, and we agree, if it’s going to come under the aegis of Hamilton College, ultimately it’s going to report to the President…We are exchanging drafts [to sort out the language], but there is no question, everyone agrees. It’s a matter of working out the language.”
On November 22, 2006, Professor Robert Paquette resigns as Executive Director of the Alexander Hamilton Center.
On November 27, 2006, Hamilton announces the Alexander Hamilton Center will not go forward, notwithstanding the prior announcements of Sept. 6th and Oct. 13th:
- “Where we have not reached agreement is on the governance structure of a center devoted to these aims on campus, its relationship to the College administration, to the Board of Trustees of Hamilton College, and to the wider, external community of scholars and supporters.”
On November 29, 2006, the Utica Observer Dispatch reports ( firstname.lastname@example.org ) and we quote by excerpt ( http://www.uticaod.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20061129/NEWS/611290330/1001 ):
- Founders, administrators and the college’s Board of Trustees could not agree on how the center would be run. It would have sponsored programming on topics central to the early American statesman’s work, such as freedom, democracy and capitalism.
- …administrators, after considering the concerns of faculty members and certain members of the Board of Trustees, decided they could not support a center…
- …said Joe Urgo, dean of faculty. “We did not want to create an organization at Hamilton that felt it had to be separate from the faculty.”
We’ve been mostly silent on this whole matter pending its final resolution out of respect for the donor, the Founders, and what we perceive to be in the best interests of the College. The handling of this venture has been inept and has escalated to catastrophic impact.
We believe such ex post facto intervention by trustees in respect to a specific programmatic, non-curricular venture previously approved by the President and the Dean of Faculty is without precedent at Hamilton and largely without precedent in broader academia. Perhaps our better informed readers could enlighten us.
As a matter of governance and process is it now an acceptable course of dealing at Hamilton College to:
- Negotiate the terms of the Center
- Agree to terms
- Announce the formation of the Center
- Publish the Charter listing Profs. Paquette, Prof. Ambrose, Prof. Bradfield, the President, and Dean of Faculty as Founders
- Accept major gifts,
- Publicize all of the above,
- And then disclaim publicly the entire process?
Children call this kind of buffoonery a ‘do-over’. Institutions and adults call it bad faith. It is the stuff of incompetence and failed credibility. Over recent years we have had many conversations with alumni and a common theme evolves. Imagine the process that leads us to the point where Hamilton no longer presents acceptable performance risk to its own alumni.
The governance of Hamilton is demonstrably problematic. This shameful display evidences is why we’ve heard so many times over the last year:
“I’ll support the Alexander Hamilton Center, but I won’t support Hamilton.”
If the trustees had accorded the sponsoring principals… the President, the Dean of Faculty, 3 respected senior tenured faculty, and the sponsoring donor, a former Charter trustee of some 16 years and a current Emeritus Trustee … the modest presumptions of good faith & competence, the Alexander Hamilton Center would be today the toast of the scholarly/academic world, a huge success, and an unprecedented endeavor for a school of Hamilton’s size. The agitated alumni would have been calmed in face of this wonderful & curative initiative…but it is not to be.