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A new era for Hamilton College, and for HCAGR

Hamilton College Alumni for Governance Reform could not have picked a more auspicious time to re-launch.

We are a group of alumni from varying class years, backgrounds, professional fields, and intellectual persuasions, united by a common belief in the importance of the liberal arts in general and Hamilton College’s commitment to it in particular. We are all tremendously proud of and grateful for our time on the Hill, and hope to preserve the best of that experience for current and future students – and help to encourage and facilitate change where it is needed.

The academy is currently at a crossroads in America, and we feel duty bound to add our voices to conversations within and outside of the Hamilton community over the future of higher education and the liberal arts. Weighty questions of academic freedom, free speech, diversity and inclusion, financial opportunity, and Socratic dialogue are animating debates at Hamilton and elsewhere over the nature of education and campus life. As alumni with deep commitments not just to our alma mater but to the philosophy that it represents, we would be remiss if we did not use what voices we have to advocate for the values and practices that we feel are indispensable to a liberal arts education and part and parcel of Hamilton College’s character and reputation.

We watched with anticipation as Board of Trustees chairman Stephen Sadove announced Hamilton’s new president last month, and we were delighted at the board’s choice of University of Minnesota Law School Dean David Wippman as the 20th individual to lead this fine institution. Dean Wippman is a widely respected academic with extensive experience in applying his work in the professional world. His tenures at the University of Minnesota and Cornell University offer encouraging signs that he will fill what many of us considered a void of leadership at the college.

We are also very encouraged by Dean Wippman’s strenuous public support for free expression on campus, voiced most cogently in his response to campus protesters who attempted to shut down a university-sponsored lecture in November due to the identity of the speaker:

[I]t is unacceptable that [student protesters] should seek to deny other students and community members their own opportunity to hear an invited guest speak. Values of free speech and academic freedom are central to the University’s mission; we disregard them at our peril. … As members of a University community, we should welcome—indeed, insist—on hearing a wide range of viewpoints, and we should condemn any efforts to silence free speech through protests of the sort that took place at the Law School yesterday. The Law School will continue to do both.

That is the sort of affirmation of liberal values that is desperately needed on all campuses these days, Hamilton’s included.

Unfortunately there are forces on and off campus that do not hold those values in high esteem, or oppose them outright. It is imperative that the Hamilton community resist efforts to stifle free expression on campus, both for the sake of those students’ own educations and to maintain Hamilton’s reputation as a national leader in promoting critical thought, informed argument, and intellectual curiosity.

To that end, HCAGR will serve as a watchful eye of alumni who wish to preserve the values that have made Hamilton what it is. We seek to be a positive force: one that promotes, encourages, and rewards beneficial campus policies, rather than one that simply obstructs, complains about, or makes demands of college administrators. Our member alumni all interact with and support Hamilton in their own ways, and at their own discretion. HCAGR will seek to keep them abreast of campus developments so that they can make informed decisions about that support and maximize their voices as members of the Hamilton community.

HCAGR was launched in 2004 by alumni with objections to high-profile administrative issues at the time. While we share many of the general concerns that they have voiced in the decade since, we seek to apply those shared ideals to issues affecting campus today. In doing so, we will strive to be as inclusive as possible. We believe liberal values are universal, not confined to any ideology, political faction, or identity. If you would like to stay up-to-date on all of the goings-on at HCAGR, please subscribe to our newsletter and bookmark our website (which will be undergoing an overdue redesign in short order).

With your help, we hope to make HCAGR a force for positive change on the Hill and to ensure that Hamilton’s promise is preserved and expanded for years to come.


Posted on January 4, 2016 at 10:32AM by Registered Commenterhb | CommentsPost a Comment

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