A letter from Michael Brower ’55

To: Shelby P. Chestnut `05, Community Manager 2005-2006 and to Daniel E. Solis Operations Manager 2005-2006, and to those current students who may agree with your angry letter:
From: Michael Brower `55, Alumni Board Member

I saw your highly critical letter to Steve Lawry posted on SaveAntioch. org. I did not see the version you published in The Record a few weeks ago, nor the other letters in The Record supporting Jimmy Williams. So I can’t respond to other letters, but I do want to write to protest three things about your letter:

1) Your lack of historical facts, logic, or fairness

2) Your lack of economic logic. And,

3) Your intemperate hostile language

I understand, and have heard also from many other students and recent Alumni, of how much liked and appreciated Dean of Students Jimmy Williams was and is. But it seems to me that clear, logical and careful statements of support for him, without the illogic and name calling you have used, might be more useful than what you have written.

1) How much have you investigated and informed the community of the long history of declining student enrollment and rising attrition, resulting in rising budget defi cits — all of which were happening long before President Steve Lawry took offi ce in January 2006? Even if you disagree with some of the steps he has taken, and wish to challenge them, how does it help your case, or make any sense, to blame Lawry for the fi nancial and other community crises he inherited and was hired specifi cally to reverse?

2) You wrote, in part: ” We understand that the College’s fi nances are in serious condition, but we fi rmly believe that the consequences of fi nancial mismanagement should be borne by those responsible for those decisions. We ask that you personally take responsibility for the fi nancial situation of the College and reduce your pay. We also ask that your fellow high administrators do the same.”

Nothing of these three sentences makes ANY sense at all. Those responsible for “financial mismanagement” — these are your words, not mine — and “those decisions” are not Steve Lawry and his new Administration — they are people who preceded him and passed on to him the current fi nancial crisis. So new President Lawry could not possibly, logically, take responsibility for those past decisions.

When you were in CG, did you protest THEN to those “responsible for those decisions,” whoever they were? In fact, in my view from outside and far away and afterward, there were no people or group, but rather a long series of events and mistakes and failures to take the necessary bold actions to reverse the downward spiral.

You ignored completely the following history. I presume you are aware, and if not as recent leaders of CG you should be, and you should inform the Antioch community, that Antioch College has been running a large and unsustainable defi cit for many many years, that EVERY OTHER unit of Antioch University has been taxed to subsidize the College every year, and in recent years the College has raised less income than budgeted and then gone back to the University for additional subsidies. And have you informed the Antioch College community that the rest of the University centers have protested the College’s inability to make realistic projections and live up to them, and told the College to get its fi nancial house in order? That, in short, without the other University branches, the College would have been closed years ago? And that the Board of Trustees has raised not a few, but many many millions of dollars, to support Antioch College during this very difficult transition period and return to health? And did you inform our community that FINALLY the Antioch University Board of Trustees, who hired Steve Lawry as our President, in February at their meeting in Santa Barbara, ordered Lawry to immediately cut $1.5 million from the College expenditures?

Now, given this order to him to cut $1.5 million what sense does it make for you to write that Lawry “personally take responsibility for the financial situation of the College and reduce your pay. We also ask that your fellow high administrators do the same.”?? Please give us the arithmetic. How many high Adminstrators, including himself, would Lawry have to cut — completely, to zero – to save that $1.5 milllion? In fact, Lawry made a decision to a) spare the faculy from taking ANY cuts at all, b) to make no significant cuts in the Admissions and Development offices, and c) to cut 10 Administrators and staff from ALL levels, top to bottom, at the same time, including the Executive VP, a popular Dean of Students, and other salaried and also hourly union workers. You can argue with some of the specific choices he made. And you and many others did, in the case of Jimmy Williams. But you have not proposed any alternatives for saving anywhere near the $1.5 million he had to cut. Unless you have top Administrators making $1.5 million in salaries and fringes (which you don’t) you cannot save that kind of money just by reducing salaries, without actually taking out people.

3) Throughout this message, your language is hostile, angry, offensive and non-useful. For example, when you write: “we appeal to what shred of reason might exist within you,”

What good does it do to address President Steve Lawry, or ANY fellow human being, with disrespectful insulting language like that? Nor does it do any good to then sign your message “In love” when there is no trace of love to be found in the text.

By the way, I have heard that some members of the then CG wrote President Lawry a nasty threatening letter and delivered it to him during HIS FIRST WEEK in office, in January of 2006, before he had met very many if any people in CG, or on campus. Was that you? Or whether it was you, or anyone else in CG, why would ANYONE do such a thing?

And have you ever gone to President Lawry, or written to him, and presented to him and to the Antioch community, an apology for such weird and angry and non-useful behavior?

I was a member of both Comcil and Adcil in the 1950’s and strongly believe Community Government is a vital part of Antioch and its unique education. And I have told this to President Lawry. But when he is “greeted” by that kind of letter in his first week, and then “greeted” by bricks thrown through his office windows and those of VP Jurassek, and by destruction in the Union, how could anyone expect him to start with any respect for CG or the student body? I appeal to you, and to all students and Alumni, to calm down, to use responsible dialogue, to demonstrate to President Lawry the positive value of CG, and to help suggest and support positive solutions to rescue our beloved Antioch in this time of grave crises, and to keep it from being closed.