A wind of panic spread among Antioch students upon their return to campus last week. Along with the traditional contact sheet that they were asked to fill out, they were requested to sign a “Student acknowledgement of suspension of operations of Antioch College”.
Paragraph four, in particular, (reprinted below), constituted a source of worry, as it appeared to be protecting the University from any potential legal action by non-graduating students based on a breach of contract.
Community Government, acting upon the advice of alumni legal committee members, published on Pulse a message to enjoin students not to sign the form, which could potentially waive their legal rights. The possibility of signing “under duress” was also discussed, as a significant proportion of students had been under the impression that they would not receive their dorm key if the document was not signed.
The validity of this assumption was immediately denied by Associate Dean of Faculty Eli Nettles, who dismissed it as a rumor. “There’s no conspiracy at hand here”, she further affirmed, “The Ohio Board of Regents told us that we needed to make sure all of our students were informed that the college was closing.” Nettles then explained that when the decision to suspend the operations of Antioch college was announced, the college worked on a new walker requirement plan to let more students have the possibility to graduate. The plan has been accredited by the Board of Regents, which required for it to be distributed to all students. “We got the language from the Ohio Board of Regents”, stated Nettles, “If you don’t want to sign it, don’t sign it, I just don’t want students to realize at the last minute that they can’t graduate”.
Shane De Garmo, from the Institutional Authorization Office of the Ohio Board of Regents, however, declared that “The Board of Regents did not create this document; “this is the language that the college created.” He also stated that the acknowledgement form “was not a requirement” of the Board upon which accreditation was conditional.
This version of events was denied by Antioch Dean of Faculty Andrzej Bloch, who maintained: “They told me point blank that they did not want us to create even the impression that the college would remain open. They are also a kind of consumer agency and they wanted to avoid receiving any complaints in the future.” Bloch then denied the idea according to which the Acknowledgement form would block the road to student legal action. “Nobody can take away the sacred right to sue”, he said with a smile.
Bloch did confirm, however, that the language of the form had indeed been drafted by the University legal council. An Ohio attorney, who wished to remain anonymous, suggested that the document contained “questionable language”, and that the document “was meant to protect the University”. He unofficially advised students to refrain from signing the document, but added that the poorly drafted statement of acknowledgement would “probably not hold out in court” anyhow.
Student Acknowledgement of suspension of operations of Antioch College (excerpt)
4. “I understand that this written acknowledgement supersedes any other prior or written statements that may have been made to me by any person on behalf of Antioch University relating in any way to my continued enrolment or my ability to complete the requirements to receive a degree from Antioch College and that no future statements that may be made will establish any binding obligation on Antioch College or Antioch University without the express written consent of an authorized representative of Antioch University”