Context and Backgroud

Additional context and background for May 21, 2020 Agreement between Hampshire College and Its Faculty

Building on an agreement from last spring

The faculty agreement builds on another agreement made last year, at the end of a tumultuous spring. In January 2019, Hampshire College’s previous administration announced plans for a possible merger, and in February, the Board of Trustees voted not to admit a Fall 2019 class. In response, faculty, staff, students, parents, and alumni mobilized to demand transparency and keep Hampshire independent. However, even after the President resigned in April and the Board voted to fundraise to keep Hampshire independent, layoffs seemed inevitable, given the budget shortfalls created by the Board’s February vote.

In response, the faculty, represented by the college’s AAUP chapter, came to an agreement with interim President Ken Rosenthal that would allow faculty to take voluntary leaves with a guaranteed right of return, reduce to part time without losing benefits, or retire with incentives. These voluntary actions temporarily reduced the faculty salary pool by 50.1% while keeping many Hampshire faculty nearby, mainly in visiting positions with Hampshire’s partners in the Five Colleges, where they could continue to contribute to Hampshire’s campus life and advise students. Combined with an ambitious fundraising campaign and budget cuts across the College—including, unfortunately, reductions to staff—these actions allowed Hampshire to remain open and for the college community to develop a plan for sustainability.

Details of this year’s agreement

The COVID-19 pandemic ushered in additional financial pressures on the College, pushing revenue expectations significantly lower than what had been budgeted. The College needed to reduce its budget and salaries to match this new revenue picture and a smaller than expected fall student enrollment, while still recruiting new students, meeting fundraising benchmarks, and implementing a new curriculum. Adjusting for the impacts of COVID-19, the Board of Trustees and President Wingenbach agreed on 10% reduction to previous budget targets for the fiscal year beginning July 1.

Led by Hampshire faculty on its AAUP-HC negotiating team, the faculty opted for temporary reductions to the faculty salary pool as an alternative to layoffs under these challenging financial conditions. By late May an agreement had been negotiated, approved by the faculty, and enacted by the President.

To meet the need for temporary salary reductions, faculty collaborated to create a progressive scale that fairly distributes reductions while protecting those with the lowest salaries from cuts, and capping the highest cuts at 20%. Professors and faculty associates will take an average 8% salary reduction. Hampshire College’s faculty is paid on an equity scale with an entry salary of $55,600, and the highest salaries in the $110,000 range. To serve projected enrollment of 550 students next year, approximately 60 faculty will share the salary pool, many of whom have volunteered to reduce from full to part time for the year to prevent the layoffs of colleagues.

The agreement also includes commitments from senior administrators to take voluntary salary reductions, ranging from 10% to 50%, as well as commitments to transparency, equity, and due process for non-ten-year-track faculty (Hampshire does not offer traditional tenure); a provision for six-month notice or severance for long-term visiting faculty; protection for sabbaticals and professional development funds; and commitments to workload limits and equitable distribution. Several senior administrative positions were eliminated; combined with the voluntary salary reductions, the total salary pool for senior administrators was reduced by 44.5%

President Wingenbach committed to taking the largest salary reduction at 50%, which will put his own salary in the range—or even below that—of other senior administrators.

Process for reaching agreement

There are several lessons other colleges and universities can learn from Hampshire's process that might help avoid unilateral decision-making and create sufficient trust to allow rapid action. The success of the process depended upon several factors, including:

  • President Wingenbach took seriously the AAUP principles and standards for the COVID-19 Crisis, and worked closely with an elected faculty body (in this case, the AAUP-HC negotiating team) to make decisions.
  • The AAUP-HC negotiating team maintained constant communication with the faculty, which met regularly to review all of the proposals under consideration.
  • The administration shared with the AAUP-HC negotiating team all details about the College’s finances.
  • The joint commitment to shared governance was regularly reaffirmed.
  • The discussions were not limited to budgets and salaries, but included related issues of workload equity, protections for faculty whose work is disrupted by the pandemic, and the status of contingent faculty.
  • Regarding these issues, parties agreed on both immediate actions and commitments for action in the next academic year. The parties agreed to an immediate process to address workload inequity, with clear benchmarks, deadlines, and requirements for review.
  • Senior administrators agreed to compensation reductions, including a 50% cut by the President.
  • The faculty was empowered to allocate its own salary pool, using a model they developed and approved.
  • Meetings between the AAUP-HC negotiating team and administration happened regularly, with clear agendas and structured facilitation.
  • The importance of achieving a specific budget target was recognized by all involved, and the urgency to reach a solution shared.
  • Both AAUP-HC negotiators and administrators noted how the COVID-19 crisis and last year’s budget crisis have brought Hampshire’s longstanding institutional and structural inequities into sharper focus, and that any effort to end these inequities would take more than a condensed period of spring negotiations. Instead, it will mean a major culture shift in the institution and concrete commitments to change that cannot be deferred in times of budget austerity.