There is no unconditional love, so here I wish to explain why I love Hampshire College.
I love Hampshire because it is imperfect. An imperfect school makes a perfect place for critical thinking. Hampshire College is never a finished product, it is a constant experiment and improvement. The students are not just service receivers, we are the creators and we take this responsibility eagerly and seriously.
I love Hampshire for its paradoxes, and let me name a few. Hampshire has the tradition of breaking the traditions; Hampshire is in the business of thinking out of the box. Therefore, Hampshire has an inherent restlessness in its gene. It has to keep reinventing itself and to engage in painful self-reflection and self-criticism.
Another paradox is that the best Hampshire students are the most critical of the school, and they are often the ones who take the most off-campus classes. This is a sign of Hampshire success, just as the parents are successful when the child leaves home and recognizes the parents' mistakes. But the child only loves the parents more.
A third paradox: Hampshire was very unique in 1970s, but less so now because other schools has borrowed Hampshire's idea. This is exactly what Hampshire set out to achieve --- to unsettle the rigid higher education. But Hampshire's success has led to the loss of its comparative advantages, so Hampshire has to find a new edge to be the pioneer in the next round of progress. The appointment of Jonathan Lash as Hampshire's new president is a decisive step.
I love Hampshire because it is doing the society a great favor by being the "venture capitalist" in education. Amherst College is like a successful pension fund, investing in only those blue chip stocks with low risk and sure returns. And Amherst students would probably still be successful without Amherst --- they will be admitted to other Ivy Leagues, or their daddy will figure something out. In contrast, Hampshire is the venture capitalist who welcomes unconventional students, giving them a chance to discover and express themselves, and in many situations, to have a second life. Also, there's no other place like Hampshire. Hampshire shows the world that there is more than one definition of success --- all roads lead to Rome. But more importantly, Hampshire makes you realize that probably Rome is not where you really want to go.
I love Hampshire because I am pushed to work extra hard. First, we must have a command of the orthodoxy; then we have to critique it; finally we have to create something new and better. Another way to look at it: Hampshire students have to take care of spiritual and material worlds at the same time --- being successful is not enough; we have to do good.
Of course, Hampshire is full of its own shortcomings. My biggest objection is people's showing up late for appointments. Also, critical thinking might turn into self-righteousness. Sometimes, I am quite disturbed by the situation in the College, but soon to realize that this disturbance is an invaluable education.
To conclude, I will tell a story. At the age of eighteen, I meet a girl. She is unique, creative, energetic and sometimes crazy. She is sincere, unpretentious, not totally mature, and she loves nature. I decide to spend my four precious year with her. She makes me laugh, and makes me angry. Sometimes we fight and try to break up. Eventually, I get to know a lot about her, and through her, I have learned even more about myself. We are growing together, and this mutual growth will never end.I love her, and I think you know her name.