Space: The Final Frontier

by Marjorie Jensen 

Recently, Antioch’s administration has pushed for marketing our radical institution to the rich, white, straight population. While I am not totally opposed to the concept of hegemony, I believe that mainstreaming Antioch will corrupt the integrity of the college. For me, and many other students, Antioch is a place where we can be queer, alternative and revolutionary. It is our space.

Why is the concept of exclusive space so important? With a few notable exceptions (like San Francisco, neighborhoods in New York and Miami, and, of course, Boystown in Chicago) most of America is run by and for the population that the administration is working to attract. Their privilege includes having the vast majority of the power and money. They take up most of the space.

Before we come to Antioch, and after we graduate, minorities of all kinds are caught in a world where we are condemned, segregated and threatened. All we are asking for are four years (actually less, because of the time spent on co-op) in a place just for us. A liberal haven where we don’t have be subjected to the kind of discrimination that has dominated our lives. We just want a little space. I’ll give you an example. After spending a wonderful afternoon in Boystown shopping for a new vibrator, I had to work the late shift at Jimmy John’s. At 4:30am, a group of young, drunk, white, rich men filled the store. Gathering by my register, they decided to call each other “gay,? throwing the term around in a derogatory manner, contaminating the space.

I’m not sure exactly when the phenomenon of using the term “gay? as synonymous with “stupid? or “lame? began. All I know for certain is that it is still prevalent among the demographic that the administration is trying to attract. Why bring people with this attitude to Antioch? We have more than enough experience with this brand of ignorance. Why can’t we keep our space?

Now, perhaps I am showing my escapist colors. The point of claiming space, however, is not an escapist concept. Giving us the opportunity to commiserate, empathize and discuss the problems we have encountered in the “real world? is a way for us to “win victories for humanity.? For a very limited amount of time, we can bond over our collective pain in a space that is safe and positive.

Another example: when I was working as a freelance journalist in California, I was covering the Marriage Equality Act passing in the Assembly and Senate (it was later vetoed by Arnold the “discriminator?). I contacted Equality California, a major player in the campaign. Not surprisingly, an Antioch alum worked there and got me an interview with the Deputy Director of Marriage Equality USA.

This speaks to the connections that can be formed at Antioch in the queer community (or any alternative community) that will help us improve the “real world.? Antioch has historically been a breeding ground for revolutionaries. This is, in large part, due to giving us the space to meet, study, play and work with likeminded people.

I feel peaceful hegemony is a utopia beyond Antioch’s reach. Asking for less confrontation and working for mainstreaming is counter-productive. Actively recruiting people with privilege is going to lead to more confrontation. They have more to deconstruct in themselves in order to recognize the problems in society. Antioch is going to be, inherently, a confrontational space.

The way to achieve a less confrontational atmosphere is to recruit more minorities. Most colleges offer a homogenized, mainstreamed culture. Antioch is unique in our population of “others.? We experience a freedom of expression that many have never encountered before, and may never again. For the first time (and possibly the last) we have a space where we can be ourselves.

I understand Antioch is struggling. I know we need higher enrollment numbers and a far greater retention rate. But we are not going to achieve these goals by disillusioning those who come to Antioch. People search for a place where they will “belong.? Antioch promises to be that space for the radicals, the outcasts, the revolutionaries and the minorities.

The desire for our own space is not intolerance. We are not discriminating against anyone. There is no such thing as reverse prejudice. Asking for a little liberal haven does not impinge on the privilege that the majority enjoys. They have the world. Please don’t take what little space we have away from us. Antioch is the final frontier.