Simon's Rock College

From Academic Kids

Simon's Rock College is a small liberal arts college located in the small town of Great Barrington (population 8,000), in Berkshire County, Massachusetts. The foremost of the many unusual things about Simon's Rock is that most students enroll after completing the tenth or eleventh grade of high school, rather than after graduating.

The college's founder, Elizabeth Blodgett Hall, had formerly been a private girl's school headmistress at Concord Academy. She concluded from her experience, and that of her colleagues, that for many students the latter two years of high school are wasted on repetitious and overly constrained work. Many young students, she thought, are ready to pursue college-level academic work some time before the usual system asks it of them.

While Simon's Rock is still the only college to take this approach with all of its students, it is now only one of a number of early college entrance programs, that provide opportunities for talented students to enter college one or more years ahead of their traditional high school graduation date.

Because Simon's Rock provides this accelerated program, it also attracts many students who might not consider a "liberal arts" education if they had to wait two more years. Computer geeks, pre-med, and math students read Plato, Dante, Nietzsche, and Foucault alongside dancers, artists, and literary types. Students generally transfer to larger institutions after two years, though many stay for four.

Simon's Rock has some notable features that distinguish itself from other colleges.

  • There are only about 400 students, resulting in a very low student-to-faculty ratio.
  • It is a school policy that teachers are on a first name basis. It doesn't matter if you just finished 8 years of school and a 1000-page dissertation; teachers are not permitted to force students to call them "professor" or "doctor." Students don't refer to the former dean as "Dr. Bernard Rodgers." They call him "Bernie."
  • Class sizes do not exceed 17 students, but usually have no more than 15, and average around 12. It isn't unheard of to have a class with as few as 4 students.
  • Classes are discussion-oriented, with a majority of them occurring around tables.
  • In 2000, Simon's Rock was rated as the second most gay-friendly college in the United States by gay.com (http://www.gay.com/). Students tend to be very open-minded.

Factoids

  • For its first few years in the '60s, Simon's Rock admitted only women.
  • Simon's Rock was the unfortunate site of a moderately famous school shooting in December of 1992. A student, Wayne Lo, went on a shooting rampage leaving two dead and four injured. According to students, Lo held hateful and violent attitudes towards diverse groups including African Americans, Jews, homosexuals, AIDS patients, and individuals with disabilities.
  • In 1979 Simon's Rock became a part of Bard College, making the official school name "Simon's Rock College of Bard."

Famous connections

  • In September 1999, Mia Farrow enrolled her then 11-year-old son Seamus at Simon's Rock, making him the youngest student there at the time. He graduated from Bard College in 2004.
  • Joel and Ethan Coen, collectively known as the famous filmmaking duo The Coen Brothers, are alumni of Simon's Rock.
  • M. Doughty, formerly the lead singer of the band Soul Coughing, is also an alumnus and has played as a solo acoustic set on campus.

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