“I’m sorry,” “you understand my position,” “I’d rather not,” “I don’t think it would be wise of me to speak, right now,” “don’t quote me on that, I will lose my job.” This is a selection from the repertoire of answers a reporter at Antioch has to work with these days.
With the firing of Steve Lawry, the college CEO was moved off campus and fear moved in. Some Non-unionized staff openly admit they are afraid to loose their jobs, others have been bullied to the point where they stopped caring.
This is not to say people have lost their voice altogether, but they have become selective where to put it. The last two months have seen a collective move away from the University server. .gmail replaced .edu. and mobile phones ousted the office land line. It’s sad, it has come so far that workers can no longer feel secure in their own office. And as much as I want to understand the responsibilities administrators like Milt Thompson have ”in these times”, this feeling of discomfort is not solved by hiring an extra security guard or locking buildings at night.
Being the life artists they are, staff, students and faculty take it with a degree of humor. “I love about Antioch; It’s all about experiential learning. I feel like I’m experiencing fascism first hand,” one of our staff writers joked while watchfully sipping his cup of coffee behind the Sontag Fels Building this weekend. The mistrust remains.
Critical conversation around campus nevertheless is still very much alive. Classroom discussions digests the latest event of the day and one-on-ones in the hallways become impromptu meetings when passers- by smell a new perspective or juicy scoop. In many ways people are voicier than before as if freed from the idea that biting your chewed-out tongue one more time in a structure of eroding community standards, is not going to help the situation any longer.
As much as it continues to impose pressure and discomfort, the board’s decision of the summer and university actions beyond, have shook up the community in ways it needed to be. I will argue that when we come out of this in one piece it will be this new spirit of faculty, students and staff that will ensure that, what we experience now will not happen to us again tomorrow.
The quote that we almost chose for our masthead this week reads: “Everything secret degenerates. even the administration of justice; nothing is safe that does not not show how it can bear discussion and publicity” (-Lord Acton).
Since we have come back to campus, Kim and I have been surrounded by cautiousness. “Not on the record” or “I can’t comment on this”are phrases that we probably have heard more often in the past two weeks than previous Record Editors have throughout a whole term.
Yet this recurring silence is not due to a lack of things to say, and the numerous “Please don’t quote me on this” never fail to end up in a big, loud, “But…”
The Record cannot, however, run articles based on background or hearsay. As we are trying to find breaches in the increasingly thick fog of secrecy that has fallen on campus over the summer, we find ourselves bumping against more and more walls.
Since Friday, the haze has gone thicker still. After a week of respite and “cautious optimism” resulting from the Cincinnati Meeting, the events of last week have brought back distrust and anxiety. After believing that openness and candour were finally possible between the college and the other side of Livermore Street, we find ourselves questioning our own naivete. Locked doors. Gag Orders. Steve Lawry gone without a goodbye, and replaced with an ersatz of a president, who still does not know whom he reports to…
When we were sitting on the lawn in front of the Sontag Fels building this weekend, taking shifts to see whether anything secret would be secretely removed from the secret offices of the top secret development offices, an Antiochian declared, half amused: “Antioch is teaching me a lot these days. It’s like experiencing fascism firsthand!”
While the experience of having to deal with closed, opaque systems is certainly a valuable experience worthy of Antioch’s hands on tradition, we will hopefully soon learn how to dismantle them.