You may have noticed by now, that whenever you make your way to Kroger or maybe go for a delicious snack from the Wendy’s dollar menu, that a rather large building is taking shape with signs advertising a new McGregor University. It seems like everyone you talk to has an opinion about the McGregor expansion. Whether they feel like it’s an ecological nightmare comparable to the Exxon oil spill, an economic fi asco not seen since the likes of Jurrasic park 2, or the saving grace of the Antioch brand an ambitious dream project capable of transforming McGregor from niche institution to nationally revered graduate program. Rumors are fl ying and it seems like everyone has something to condemn, or defend about the project. Some big questions that come to mind upon seeing the construction include; what spawned the need for a new University building, where is the money coming from, and why doesn’t McGregor want to be our neighbor anymore? A development this big is bound to have great effects on the town, and our college so I sat down with our own Steve Lawry, and Barbara Danley the president of McGregor to discuss what these effects might look like, specifically what they would mean for Antioch college and our relationship to McGregor.
Why the expansion?
It’s no secret Antioch College caters to a different type of student than the university set. While we may be content -resplendent even- in our graffiti laden squalor, a grad student type may have a slightly different academic aesthetic in mind.
Barbara Danley explained in an interview:
“The average age of our students is 38,” Danley says, “so what they look for is different from younger students of course. Most of our students are commuter students. They’re looking at the ease of ‘how can I get to you’, ‘how far am I willing to travel’, ‘what kind of facilities will I be learning in’, but also, ‘what kind of accommodations are in that space when I as an adult coming in for a 5:30 class am tearing out of my office passing only fast food and I don’t have time to go into the community’.”
“We share classroom space and we’re not always given first choice,” Danley continues.
“It’s not reflecting the look of the corporate culture that our business students come from. They’re used to conference rooms and all types of amenities. They don’t care that they’re going to a campus, when they go to UD or Wright state they see the corporate setting in the business schools. They’re demanding that.” McGregor is growing. In order to cater to that growth it’s imperative that they have ample parking, as well as a strong recognizable brand, separate from that of Antioch College.
Danley: “Part of the competition is the message that we’re here we’re strong and we’re here to stay. As long as we’re a tenant, at another campus, we don’t look as if we’re as much of a competitor as far as being a solid institution. So by building this new building it’s a statement to the region that McGregor is a strong campus. We want to show that we’re fi nancially stable enough to support our own institution.”
As McGregor pursues this growth, we here at Antioch are left feeling jilted, and wondering just how this could happen. In a time where we are constantly bombarded with the knowledge that we are “in the red” and fi nancially unstable as an institution it seems curious that our sister institution should be undertaking such a huge expansion. Which leads me to my next question-
Where is the money coming from?
“We did what is called a 5 year proforma, [this projects] what will our income be, what will the cost of the building be, and what would it take to sustain the building and through several discussions we were able to get the board’s confi dence that we’ll be able to pay for the building. The building comes from an organization called the Ohio School Facilities Commission. They fund private school bonding that goes through banks, which the college has used often. So 12,000,000 dollars in bonds which we’re obligated to pay back and a few million in fundraising and we’ve got it covered as far as the building goes. This comes mostly from corporate alumni and other private donors,” Danley explained.
Steve Lawry feels the monetary effects of the expansion are neutral and will not affect our struggling school. He does have hopes for the plan’s outcome:
“I don’t see a negative fi nancial impact on the college. What I’d like to see is greater integration of education programs with the college and McGregor, which is not a space or building specifi c kind of matter. For example a 3.2 program where a student would do a 3 year liberal arts undergrad, followed by a 2 year masters program in education with McGregor.”
Everyone is very willing to talk about how this separation will bring us closer together, but as far as collateral goes no one seems to want to talk about the common practice of borrowing against buildings, and quite possibly our buildings. At a time when the college desperately needs to use it’s own assets, do we have access to all those assets? Has anybody borrowed against our endowment? No one seems willing to answer these questions.
Who said you could?
Chris Hill was around for the proposal: “Two springs ago Barbara Danley met with the college faculty to announce they were going forward with a plan to create a new McGregor facility on the outskirts of Yellow Springs. This was a time when the college was beginning to work on a new curriculum, and there was great concern these changes would mean a considerable loss of students. A looming fi nancial situation was on the horizon, but the Board Of Trustees was quick to assure college faculty they would support the school fi nancially though times of turmoil. If the college is having problems meeting it’s budget, what does it mean that McGregor is building a new building?”
Many older students are probably familiar with the name Glen Watts. For those of us who aren’t, Watts is the former Vice Chancellor in charge of fi nance at the University level. Around six years ago he initiated something called Consolidation. Prior to Consolidation Antioch had it’s own physical plant, tech resources, and vice president of fi nances responsible for meeting with the president to prepare the budget every year. This had to pass through AdCil on its way to the Board of Trustees.
Under Consolidation all those things formerly controlled by the college were combined with McGregor’s resources marrying us to them, de facto detracting from the college’s autonomy. Perhaps most notably is the fact we now share a budget planner with McGregor. Two years after Consolidation went through, AdCil voted for a routine investigation. Rick Jurasek, who was Dean of Faculty at the time, didn’t appoint anyone to head the investigation, so AdCil took it upon them to create a committee to be headed by Pat Linn, former Co-op faculty member. Pat Linn left the following summer, and Rick Jurasek became acting president and took no initiative to push forward with the investigation. Antioch is then in a pattern of unstable leadership, process of consolidation, and a loss of autonomy. This could lead to micromanagement by the University and Glen Watts, who is often known to publicly criticize the college culture, and faculty. Incidentally Glen Watts is currently a paid consultant on the McGregor expansion project. What will become of the buildings formerly home to McGregor University? Little is known as of yet, but there is an advisory board which Glen Watts and Rick Jurasek are seated on. No plans have been announced, but there is a lot of money surrounding the project, and whatever becomes of it will undoubtedly affect the college, as it is right across the street.
The most troubling part of the McGregor expansion is that there has been no public discussion with the college faculty, or general community surrounding the project. There are people such as Barbara Danley, and Glen Watts who over time have gained control over the Board of Trustees pushing forward a project that promises to have great impact on the Village of Yellow Springs, and Antioch College. Without defi ning whether this impact is positive of negative it seems suspect to me that a project proposal never came before AdCil, and was never discussed with the greater community.