CLINTON, NY—Late last year, Hamilton College scuttled plans for the Alexander Hamilton Center—a new on-campus program that was to study Western civilization and the college’s namesake. But today it was announced—after concerned alumni have worked for years with faculty and the American Council of Trustees and Alumni to revive the marketplace of ideas at Hamilton—that there will be an Alexander Hamilton center after all.
“On Constitution Day, it is particularly appropriate that Alexander Hamilton finds a home,” ACTA president Anne D. Neal said. “And this fall, with the Alexander Hamilton Institute’s programs at their disposal, Hamilton College students will all benefit.”
The new center, called the Alexander Hamilton Institute, will be based at the former Alexander Hamilton Inn, a short distance from the Hamilton campus. A group including history professor Robert Paquette (who was to be the executive director), economics professor James Bradfield and 1976 graduate J. Hunter Brown (who runs a concerned alumni group) have been instrumental in the Institute’s launch. It has filed incorporation papers and has a website. ACTA’s Neal serves as a member of its Board of Directors.
Hamilton announced the creation of a new center on September 6, 2006. It then announced a $3.6 million pledge for it from then-trustee Carl Menges on October 13. Menges has since resigned from the college’s board and joined the Institute’s.
Hamilton faculty voted overwhelmingly to condemn the center-to-be. The resolution that passed mentioned its governance, but the student newspaper noted that many objections came because some thought the political views of the center’s founders were “offensive.”
On November 27, a dean sent an e-mail saying that “now is not the time to proceed with the establishment of the center on campus.” An announcement was also posted on the Hamilton website confirming the college’s move.
Students wasted no time bemoaning the loss of enormous educational opportunities. “Hamilton students have lost a great educational opportunity because people could not compromise,” one editorial said. Another added: “Yet again, many professors, because of their ideological biases, personal vendettas and politics, have deprived students of this great intellectual opportunity. They have ideological blinders on and cannot see that this center would greatly benefit the students, Hamilton and the larger academic community.”
In the wake of the decision, ACTA launched a national public exposure campaign, which resulted in articles in the Chicago Sun-Times, National Review, The Chronicle of Higher Education, Newsday, newspapers across New York, and several other national magazines.
“I congratulate the dedicated group that has made the Alexander Hamilton Institute a reality,” ACTA’s Neal said. “They are living proof that alumni will refuse to take ‘no’ for an answer when it comes to ensuring academic excellence at the institutions they love. They are an inspiration to like-minded alumni across the country.”
The American Council of Trustees and Alumni is a nonpartisan, nonprofit, national organization dedicated to academic freedom, academic quality, and accountability. ACTA has a network of trustees and alumni around the country including those from Hamilton. ACTA has issued numerous reports on higher education, including The Vanishing Shakespeare, How Many Ward Churchills, Intellectual Diversity: Time for Action, The Hollow Core, and Losing America’s Memory: Historical Illiteracy in the 21st Century.