Yellow Springs Chapter of Antioch College Alumni Association meets at Olive Kettering Library (Slideshow)

Photos: Yellow Springs, Ohio area Antioch College alumni meet at their alma mater’s Olive Kettering Memorial Library to participate in College’s fourth or fifth metamorphosis. Related Images:

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On Friday, Antioch independent Once Again

By Diane Chiddister

On Friday, Sept. 4, the keys to Antioch College will be transferred from Antioch University to the Antioch College Continuation Corporation, or ACCC. The action marks the college’s revival after having been closed for a year, and its return, after 30 years as part of a university system, to being an independent liberal arts college.

The public is invited to a recognition of the historic event at around 5 p.m. on the horseshoe on the Antioch College campus. The event will follow several hours of paper-signing by ACCC leaders Lee Morgan and Matthew Derr, who have been vested by the ACCC board with the authority to sign the agreements, and Antioch University Chancellor Toni Murdock and Antioch University Board Chair Art Zucker, who have been vested by the university board with the authority to do so, according to Morgan and Derr in an interview Tuesday evening.

Morgan, Zucker and Great Lakes Colleges Association President Rick Detweiler will speak at the 5 p.m. event, and Antioch professor emeritus Al Denman will give the benediction.

Friday’s closing finalizes an agreement between the university and the ACCC that was made two months ago. While that agreement identified Aug. 31 as the target date for closing the deal for an independent college, the amount of detail involved led to missing that target by a few days, Morgan said. The closing was dependent on the approval of several outside agencies, including the Ohio attorney general, the Greene County probate court and bondholders for Antioch University.

The June 30 agreement followed a year of negotiations in a task force composed of Derr and Morgan, representing the alumni group ACCC, and university trustees Dan Fallon and Jack Merselis. Detweiler served as the mediator for the group.

“There is relief that the year of hard work and focus resulted in an independent Antioch College and a university that has the best possible prospects to thrive,” Derr said. He and Morgan were speaking for the task force, they said.

The revival of the college is a singular event in the history of higher education, Derr and Morgan said.

“Antioch College was one of the top colleges in the country in the late 1960s and it fell on hard times,” Derr said. “Here we are reviving it. There’s never been a story like this in higher education. No one thought we could pull it off.”

The closing follows a two-year Antioch College alumni effort to save the college after the university board voted in 2007 to close the school the following year due to financial exigency.

The alumni effort to create an independent college succeeded because there was “such a broad and diverse group of people who put forth such a level of effort and conviction that the college should survive,” Derr said, describing the effort as a “relay race” in which, when one group of alumni faltered, another took over.

Many college alumni cared deeply about saving the college because they believed they had received a unique education that needed to be available to future generations, especially in an increasingly complex world.

“It’s a simple model but a powerful one,” Morgan said, regarding the Antioch College synthesis of scholarship, self-governance and real-world work experience. “No one else is doing it.”

The ACCC raised $6 million to pay to Antioch University as part of the June 30 agreement, and an additonal $10 million to begin college operations. Leaders anticipate the need to raise about $40 million more in the next several years, Derr has stated. Morgan and Derr were the key fund raisers for the effort.

The role of Detweiler and the GLCA in reaching the agreement was pivotal, Derr said this week.

“We’re very grateful to the GLCA and Rick Detweiler,” Derr said. “Without Rick and the support of the GLCA presidents, this agreement would not have happened.”

After the Labor Day weekend, Derr, who is the chief transition officer for the ACCC, will set up his office in the second floor of the Olive Kettering library on the Antioch campus. His immediate tasks include hiring people to trim the trees, clean the gutters, and other necessary work required to return the physical plant to good shape after having been shuttered a year, he said.

The hiring of the new staff for the college will also continue. ACCC leaders anticipate hiring about 37 faculty and staff, including the staff for Glen Helen. About 10 employees have already been hired, including Antiochiana archivist Scott Sanders and two administrative assistants, Derr said.

In a previous interview, Derr stated that the number of first-year employees will include about five or six faculty members from various disciplines. These faculty, who will be known as Arthur Morgan Fellows, will be responsible for developing programs for a “symposium year” in the college’s first year. ACCC leaders have stated that they do not anticipate having new students on campus until the fall of 2011.

But between the closing of the deal on Friday and the beginning of the newly independent Antioch College on Tuesday, Derr will take a few days off. He has not had a vacation in some time, he said.

Contact: dchiddister@ysnews.com

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Repost: A Deal to Revive Antioch

The following was published in Inside Higher Ed on July 1st, written by Scott Jaschik. Original article here

Antioch College is poised to come back.

On Tuesday, leaders of the college’s alumni association and the Antioch
University Board of Trustees — which suspended operations of the college a
year ago — agreed on a plan to make the college fully independent of the
university. The college will gain its campus, the endowment (about $19
million), the ability to use its name, and the literary journal The Antioch
Review. Most important to many, the college will have its own board and will
not answer in any way to the university. The college’s alumni supporters
will pay the university about $6 million in return for the assets being
turned over.

Leaders of the college alumni group anticipate admitting a new class of
students — 100 at first — in two years.

Before the process can move ahead, various regulators need to sign off on
the plans, but approval is expected. The deal ends two years of intense
negotiations to save the college — a process that alternated between
enthusiasm and recrimination as various efforts moved forward and fell
apart. The negotiations were revived and advanced in recent months with help
of the Great Lakes College Association, whose involvement was praised by
both the university and the college for keeping the talks going.

Matthew Derr, who serves as chief transition officer for the college alumni
team, said in a briefing Tuesday that the alumni board overseeing the
transition is committed to reviving a college in the Antioch model — mixing
liberal arts education with career experiences. Further, he said that board
members believed strongly in tenure for faculty members and expected to
rehire some of those who lose jobs.

“We have our work cut out for us,” he said. “There is a strong feeling on
the part of the alumni that to do that swiftly, we need people with
experience in the traditions of the college. That’s a critical piece for
us.”

The intensity of feeling that has surrounded the question of the college’s
future reflects its significant — and at times controversial — role in
American higher education.

Antioch was founded in 1852, with Horace Mann serving as its first
president. The college played a role in the abolitionist movement and was an
early institution to admit students who were female or black. In the 20th
century, Antioch was among the pioneers in “co-op education” in which
students alternated positions of work all over the country with their
education at the Yellow Springs, Ohio, campus. Antioch was particularly
notable in that the education was focused on the liberal arts, and the
college was known for turning out graduates who went on to play major roles
in intellectual life and social activism, people like Clifford Geertz and
Stephen Jay Gould and Coretta Scott King.

More recently, however, Antioch’s history has been more troubled. The
campus — designed for 2,700 students — saw fewer and fewer students
enroll. The college’s long association of liberal politics attracted more
students in the ’60s than the ’90s, when a policy requiring explicit verbal
consent before any sexual act made the college a favorite target of pundits
seeking to mock political correctness.

Many at the college also for years resented the role of Antioch University,
which came into being as the college launched branch campuses around the
country. These campuses primarily offered graduate programs taught by
non-tenured faculty members. A central administration and single board ran
the college and the branch campuses — and college supporters said that the
board didn’t pay enough attention to the college. When the board announced
plans to suspend the college’s operations, many supporters of the college
denounced the trustees, saying that they had sacrificed the very heart of
the institution.

The university will maintain its headquarters and its distance education arm
in Yellow Springs. The remaining university endowment is about $3 million.

Art Zucker, chair of the university board, said that after the initial
decision to suspend college operations, the university board had the
“responsibility” to rebuild the college and wanted to do so. In explaining
the decision to agree to make the college independent, Zucker said that “it
became clear that the funding would have to come from alumni, and rightly or
wrongly, we think wrongly, many of the alumni felt an antagonism toward the
university, so we felt the best best was to ask the alumni association to
take over.”

Many alumni have pledged to up their donations to the college,
post-independence. Derr said that one good thing that has come out of the
turmoil of the last few years has been renewed activism and philanthropy by
alumni on behalf of the college. As planning gets started on the revival, he
said that support “is critical.”

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April 27th 2009 Interview with Matthew Derr

My first question is… how are you doing ?

I’m doing well. This has been a very busy period in a very busy year. And I’ve been spending most of my time doing fundraising, travelling, getting ourselves in order in that way.

The task force met on Sunday in NY, with Toni and Art; how would you describe the atmosphere of the meeting?

Very positive, very focused on the specific steps that we have to take to make this separation happen and to prepare… both boards for making a really monumentous and important decision.

The press release talks about June 30th as the latest possible date for the resolution, do you anticipate and earlier resolution?

I think the hope is that it would be earlier. The date of the 30th relates to the hopeful transfer of the college, so that’s the conclusion that we’ve all hoped for and worked for hoped for in these past two years-that the college would ultimately be independent and that’s the date that’s critical to that. So if the definitive agreements come about sooner that’s what we’d like to see happen. Going beyond that date becomes problematic for everyone.

When will the ACCC get its 501(c)3?

Well, we’re all filed and it’s really in the hands of the Internal Revenue Service but we sought as much help as we can in moving that process along so I don’t know the answer to that but we hope very quickly.

Any vague estimate?

Not really, no.

Why was there such an imperative to create a non-successor corporation?

I don’t know what there is and it’s an area where there’s been a lot of conjecture and a lot of talk and the Board Pro Tem is in the process of understanding the whole scope of decisions around whatever kind of entity the college becomes as a separate 501(c)3, so I don’t think there’s an answer to that question yet.

In a previous interview Lee Morgan said “we’ve been trying very hard not to be a successor corporation…”

I think there are elements of that that have to do with the physical plant, that have to do with all sorts of things. I think that he has a view of it that he’s developed and we’re trying to get more information and get the whole board up to speed and get Lee up to speed on all of that but we haven’t got through that process yet. And it’s a tricky area because it doesn’t involve just one concern, it involves the way in which the separation happens with the university and what happens with endowments and records and obviously future/past staffing and facilities and what’s in the facilities…it’s not an easy question to answer I think it’s interwoven with all of the other decisions, so I’ll let Lee speak for himself but that’s my perception.

In the worst case scenario-I mean second to worst case scenario-the agreement would be reached on June 30th; that would be the end of the faculty and staff contracts for Nonstop. Is the board planning to take steps to communicate prospects to faculty and staff?

First, the two things are unrelated, June 30th has to do with the end of the fiscal year, and frankly it has to do with really needing to have a deadline here for the transfer and I think people should really read the press release carefully because the earliest possible time phrase has everything to do with working to complete the definitive agreements so that the two boards can really make decisions about the separation in time for the transfer at the end of the month. […] It’s not my sense that any statement is about to be made. I think the board has been informed by Nancy Crow who’s also a board member that the task force is doing its work and that a report will be produced, but beyond that I think the relationship between the two things is not fully developed at this point.

Is the board aware of the ACAN petition in support of Nonstop?

It is.

Do you think the petition demands are reasonable?

It’s a long list of demands; I think there are elements of it that I think everybody can understand are maybe hard for the Board Pro Tem to read. I think they’re trying to behave as responsibly as they can and as thoughtfully as they can and I think these are extraordinarily difficult circumstances.

Will the Board Pro Tem respond to the petition in any manner?

As I understand it, it was written to an alumni audience and Nancy Crow shared it with the Board ProTem as a whole. I guess I understand the nature of the petition is that at some point it will be shared directly with the Board Pro Tem, so there is no immediate plan to respond -or to whom a response should be written.

When and where will the BPT meet next?

There are a number of options on that, I’m just going to say that right now we have a plan to meet and really hear from some of the expert counsel and legal team around the definitive agreements, but at this point that’s all that’s established.

In the accreditation report it was stated that the ACCC looked into accreditation really early in its deliberations, why is the report coming out so late?

It wasn’t intended to come out, it was a request that the Transition Advisory Group made with me here in Yellow Springs a couple of weeks ago. We thought that it might be helpful for people to understand what we’ve learned thus far. It’s not a fixed document, it’s not a finished document; it just represents what the board has learned until this point. Further work is going to be done and obviously the circumstances around the separation of the college and the timing have a lot to do with what accreditation will look like. We’re obviously interested in getting the place in the kind of condition that it should to be a college and to be able to make the decisions that lead to accreditation as quickly as possible so we’re looking for the fastest route that we can sustain.

So the board is ready to consider other alternatives than the timeline that’s outlined in the report?

The timeline that’s outlined is essentially what we’ve learned to date and we’re continuing to do more research on accreditation.

Who authored the report?

Frances Horowitz is the board member who’s had the most to do with accreditation and it’s pulled from a lot of different communications. I think there’s a number of pens involved but I think that Frances is the person that’s the most knowledgeable on the board.

The report was the first place where the phrase “small cadre of faculty” was used, even though there were implications before that only a core of a few faculty would remain it’s the first time we’re seeing it in writing, even though it had been said that these discussions hadn’t happened yet. So they have happened to a certain extent?

I don’t think there’s a contradiction there because small is a vague concept; I think we’ve talked very openly about student-faculty ratio and an entering class that is small at the beginning, in part because we want to make sure that the resources are there for the faculty and students and the funding to support it is there so the small cadre comment is being taken out of context a little bit if it’s not seen in the same vain as the other comments that have been made. It will be a small college to begin with, I think everybody knows that , so it’s not a surprise to read a reference to a small faculty.

Did you get the reversion clause revised in the definitive agreement?

It’s not a difficult question to answer in the sense of confidentiality but what I’d say is that the board–the university board of governors and the task force and the board pro tem seem to all be on the same page as far as the questions that involve reversion: that the university be protected and be able to exercise its fiduciary responsibility and that the college be free and independent. One critical issue that’s been talked about is the capacity of the college to go out and finance building projects or really anything that the future president and board would like to finance, if there are reversion clauses that cause that to not be possible that’s not acceptable and the university understands that and said that they support that concept.

What will be the main challenges of the next couple of months according to you?

If I knew it, I’d know exactly what to do! I think this is a very stressful moment, particularly for the Nonstop Community. There’s so much that’s unknown, and yet there’s that timeline and deadline that seem to be looming; people are gonna be making very difficult decisions, and Pro Tem Board is going to be in the position of trying to figure out whether the financial support and the demands for the revival of the college meet up. And I’m optimistic and positive that they will but it’s going to be overly demanding next months.

Are you optimistic?

I am. Very. I believe that the college is too important and too critical in Higher Education to fail. And I marry that to the opportunity to really create something that is exciting and returns the college to its place as a bully-pulpit in Higher Education. So, I’m optimistic in part because I think philosophically there’s a need for Antioch and practically and pragmatically I’m optimistic because I see the level of support that’s out there, I see people extending themselves in ways to save the college and to reinvent the college that are moving. I’m also optimistic about the process with the University, which is the embedded question there. Nothing has happened in the task force work that leads me to feel that we’re not gonna come up with an agreement.

Where are you going next?

I’m here in Yellow Springs for two days, and then off to fundraising.

Where?

All over the place.

Thank you for your time.

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Open Letter to the Board Pro Tem, by Lincoln Alpern ’11

Open Letter to The Board Pro Tem
(CC’d to the entire Save Antioch! community)

As I write this letter, there has been no new word on the Definitive Agreements between the Board Pro Tempore of Antioch College and the Board of Trustees of Antioch University. This, to me, is not an issue, as my point revolves more around the end of the ninety-day period which began in January. If the deal falls through, then the rest of this letter becomes moot. If not, however, then my arguments stand, regardless of where we are in the process.

I will begin by inviting my readers to take a trip with me back through time. It’s late in the year 2007. The Alumni Board of Antioch College and the Board of Trustees of Antioch University have come to an agreement in principle that Antioch College will stay open, but donors are balking and many members of the Antioch community (on- and off-campus) have grave misgivings about the way in which the Trustees are moving forward.

Among the biggest of those misgivings: the Trustees’ continued threats to reduce faculty and staff, despite the unpopularity of the idea among Antiochians. (Also, their refusal to recruit first-year students for Fall ’08.)

Now let’s go further back. It’s Reunion, 2007. Mere days ago, the Antioch community heard the announcement of the college’s closing, and people are hopping mad. At Reunion, Antiochians come together in support of Antioch College. They do not support the Board of Trustees’ decision to close the college (especially without consultation with the other stakeholders). They do not support the idea of waiting until 2012 to reopen the college. The time is now, or not at all. Antiochians denounce the Trustees for casting aspersions on and for maltreatment of faculty and staff. Those gathered at Reunion go on record as supporting the staff and faculty of Antioch College.

Fast-forward to April, 2009. The college is closed, but a loyal core of Antioch faculty, staff, students, alumni and villagers remain in Yellow Springs. Over the past two years, they have endured an emotional rollercoaster of optimism building to exuberance … only to descend into disappointment as the latest deal falls through. They have endured being unceremoniously thrown off campus and then out of their new headquarters, and then being put on limited occupancy in their current headquarters. They have endured mistreatment, humiliation, ridicule, near-libelous attacks on their qualifications, broken promises, and horrible neglect (mostly from the Trustees and the University). All this on top of the ordinary stresses of a curriculum for which the descriptor “rigorous” would be a laughable understatement. Over the past six or eight months, they have also endured a process which has more than once been likened to learning how to fly a plane while in the air and while stilll building the plane.

This incredible group of Antiochians has worked diligently for almost two years to keep Antioch College alive, making unbelievably generous sacrifices in terms of money, time, energy, talent, and (very importantly) in terms of future economic solvency. Many have put their very futures and those of their families on the line for the sake of Antioch College. (Toxic culture, my ass.)

But now events are fast approaching a crisis point. The program is on life support, with only two months’ financing left through the Alumni Board-and that only barely-and still no assurance from the Board Pro Tem that they will be funded after the end of June.

The Board Pro Tem has informed this dedicated group of Antiochians that they cannot work with them until after the Definitive Agreements with the Board of Trustees have been signed. The ninety-day period set forth in the Letter of Intent signed by both the Board Pro Tem and the Board of Trustees ends on Saturday, April 25th, 2009.

Now, a legal nit-picker might say “Well, that doesn’t count as a promise. They could still get an extension, or sign the agreements in stages. And even if they do sign the Definitive Agreements on the 25th, the Board Pro Tem has no obligations to start working with the Yellow Springs group right off the bat.” An outside observer might also add “Besides, they’re funded for another few months. They can afford to wait a little longer while the Board Pro Tem works on other things.”

The latter of these two hypothetical characters is dead wrong. The former is correct, but completely misses the point.

No one, especially not faculty or staff, can wait until 11:59 June 30th, let alone until July or August, to hear the good news from the Board Pro Tem. Because until the Board makes a commitment to the faculty, staff and students of Antioch College, there can be no certainty among them that the news will be good.

These Antiochians have pinned their future on that of Antioch College, but they cannot do so for much longer. Sad as it is to say, we live in a society which does not automatically guarantee that people who so selflessly contribute to their communities will receive equivalent compensation in the form of resources they require for survival. With the very real possibility that they will not continue to be funded by Antiochians after the end of June, the faculty and staff have to act now to secure positions elsewhere or risk their livelihoods and those of their families. Some are already moving on.

I don’t have any particular insider information, but by my best guess we have two, maybe three weeks for the Board to make a commitment to faculty and staff. If those two or three weeks elapse and still no commitment, I believe that staff and faculty will leave Antioch en masse.

… And then Antioch College will die.

It is true that (rightly or wrongly) we cannot go forward as a college without legal title to the brand name, the buildings or our accreditation. But these things are ultimately peripheral to what makes a college.

At its heart, a college is a community of learners, an educational and political entity dedicated to the pursuit of knowledge and-more importantly-wisdom. A college is a community where people aim to support and educate themselves, each other, and, ultimately, the rest of the world.

For all intents and purposes therefore, we in Yellow Springs are Antioch College, alive and thriving. Look past the name and off-campus structuring, and you will find everything that has made Antioch College the forerunner in the field of higher education. We’re not perfect, but we’re the best there is, and we strive always for a more perfect college, a more perfect world.

But if the Board Pro Tem continues its policy of procrastination, we won’t be much longer.

One of the foremost reasons we fought so hard to separate the college from the university is that we recognized the monstrous injustices the Board of Trustees had committed against the college. We knew that a board which could even consider killing off Antioch had no business running the college under any circumstances.

Well, time is running out. And if Antioch College does die after all, it will not be the University Board that killed it. It will be the Board Pro Tem, for withholding medicine from a dying patient is murder as sure as driving a knife into their heart.

I do not ask the Board Pro Tem to commit to us lock, stock and barrel. I do not advocate a blanket acceptance of every person, structure, and institution associated with Nonstop Antioch. All I am saying is that the Board should (quickly) commit to work with those of us here in Antioch-College-In-All-But-Name as they move forwards toward reopening the campus. Some aspects of the current project will likely have to go, but surely we should be a full party to the decisions of what will be preserved and what negated. (This, as I understand it, was the essential problem with the Agreements in Principle of November 2007. The University understood that they would make a top-down decision about who and what had to go to keep Antioch running, while we assumed that faculty, staff, and other Antiochians would have an equal contribution in making decisions about our own futures.)

Therefore, I call on the Board Pro Tempore within the next ten days to commit (via phone conference or some other venue, as they deem most appropriate) to adopt the suggestions laid out in the “Petition to Support Nonstop” (www.saveantioch.org./), and to take immediate steps to implement those principles.

I call on the larger Save Antioch! community to aid us in this endeavor: to sign the petition, write e-mails, and otherwise express their support for this necessary component of a reopened Antioch College. I also respectfully ask them to pledge and/or donate to the College Revival Fund. We cannot reopen the college without significant financial resources, and the more we get, the better off the project will be.

And I beseech you to treasure up in your hearts these my parting words: Be ashamed to let it die. Be ashamed to make it die.

Lincoln Alpern
Antioch College, class of 2011

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