“I feel stupid for not having seen this coming”, exclaims Lynda White, class of ‘88, “It frightens me that this is the way they are going to handle everything now: a big quagmire and not telling us anything. I’m very upset”.
It is 8:10 PM Eastern Time, and the alumni that have gathered in a small East Village theatre to watch the Board of Trustees’ Q&A broadcast are upset indeed. Antioch University Chancellor Toni Murdock just announced the cancellation of the event. The official reason? Antioch College faculty have just filed a permanent injunction against the BOT. “We are now unable to comment on the lawsuit or its subject matter” declared Murdock.
The alumni present, however, do not seem convinced of the Board’s candour, and suspect the lawsuit to be a convenient excuse behind which to retreat. “I’m not surprised”, sighs Sonia Jaffe-Robbins, ‘65
“As soon as I heard about the lawsuit I knew that the Administration would take advantage of it. I wish the faculty had waited until after the broadcast.” she added later.
“We had to move quickly to prevent the selling or liquidation of College assets–these include the buildings, the land, Glen Helen, The Coretta Scott King Center, Antioch Education Abroad, and the College endowment. The College has already been seriously damaged by the Board’s announcement and we wanted to make sure that no further dissolution went forward” explains Ann Bohlen, Professor of Communications.
Professor of Philosophy and Political Theory Scott Warren recounts: “Most of the faculty thought that the cancellation of the Board webcast was a bit strange. They certainly knew more than five minutes before the webcast that we were filing a lawsuit.” Indeed, Marylou LaPierre, speaker for the University, asserts that the faculty’s decision to take legal action did not come as a shock. “We had heard rumors. We were only surprised about the timing”, she added, “We expected it to come sooner.”
The faculty reached an agreement as an overwhelming 32 out of 40 voted to fight to keep the college open and to engage in legal action. The faculty is trying to foment unity not only within its ranks, but among all community members who are committed to saving Antioch College. “Our efforts are in conjunction with the Alumni Board and the Union (Local 767 of the U.E.), Community Government, members of the Village of Yellow Springs and former members of the Board of Trustees”, specified Bohlen. The Alumni Association and the Faculty have indeed officially expressed their support for eachother in a series of communiques.
Among the factions of the Revival movement, however, the College faculty, were in a particular position to act. ‘When the University Board of Trustees refused to reconsider its decision to close Antioch College, the faculty became convinced that we had no other option than to initiate legal procedings, and the tenured faculty is the only group with the legal standing to do so,’ explained Bohlen.
According to the faculty press release, the legal complaint alleges that “the Board breached their contractual responsibilities” in several ways: by implementing a damaging renewal plan in 2004, by failing to consult with faculty and AdCil before reaching their decision, and by choosing to close down Antioch college when “less drastic measures were available.”
The faculty involved in the lawsuit are hoping that an injunction will prevent the College from closing its doors in 2008, preserve faculty positions –including tenure– and protect the College’s assets from liquidation by the Board.
The Board has 28 days to respond from the day the lawsuit was filed. Professor Scott Warren emphasized the optimism that he believes is shared by his colleagues. “The efforts of the faculty, alumni, students, staff, and other interested parties are very encouraging.”