Sentiments at Antioch College are changing fast these days. Euphoria over the August 27 announcement that the Board of Trustees of Antioch University is willing to work with college alumni on a business plan to keep the College open past June 30, 2008, over the weekend has been replaced by distrust and fear.
On Friday, University Chancellor Toni Murdock in a series of press releases announced college CEO President Steven Lawry stepping down effective immediately, to be replaced by a an “administrative team,” headed by former dean of faculty Andrzej Bloch who assumes the new title of chief operating officer (COO) at the college.
Around the time Lawry’s sudden abdication was first presented to a selected group in a closed ad hoc meeting in Main building mid afternoon, employees of the college’s alumni relations and development offices found themselves confronted with a lock smith changing the locks on their office doors. “We were told to leave and we don’t have access to our First Class [college server] accounts anymore,” head of Alumni Relations, Aimee Maruyama told The Record on Friday. Automated out-of-office replies were installed on Maruyama’s mailbox and those of her colleagues Fred Kraus and head of development Risa Grimes. The message stated their office was closed for a long weekend and they would not be responding to emails until Tuesday.
When approached for comment at his house on Friday afternoon Steven Lawry said he was not allowed to talk, but confirmed he too no longer had access to his First Class account.
Lawry, who on Friday morning was still making plans with a student to join him on a trip to an alumni meeting in Chicago, had originally announced his resignation by 31 December 2007.
In a conference call on Saturday with University spokesperson Mary Lou LaPierre and newly appointed Special Assistant to the COO, Lynda Sirk, LaPierre commented on the Friday lockout: “It is true the locks were changed. We are in the process of developing a new relationship with the alumni board.Up until now our fund raising efforts had been totally different. We told Risa [Grimes] and [administrative assistant] April [Ratliff], who were there, that, ‘until we have that new relationship, you should take a long weekend.’”
The Friday events crated a buzz on campus that quickly spread onto alumni chat lists and further cultivated mistrust between the development office staff and the University. “I might not be an Antiochian, but I can’t believe this is Antioch,” Grimes said after returning to her office this week. “This is not the Antioch I heard about. We are living in a state of fear.’”
The level of tension was tangible during the first community meeting after the Labor day weekend on Tuesday, when Bloch, appearing in front of the community for the first time in his new capacity, had to fend off a plethora of questions about the new chain of command. In addition community members questioned the qualificationsnew of new Special Assistant, Lynda Sirk, to oversee the Office of Development and Alumni Affairs.
Sirk had been working for the College as head of communications and PR since 2005. Last Friday she joined Milt Thompson and Andrzej Bloch as a member of the new “administrative team”, which is now running operations at the college. The day the announcement was made Sirk was on her way to Seattle to meet with the vice chair of University advancement, she said.
Thompson came to Antioch two years ago as head of auxiliary resources. In that capacity he was partially employed by the University up until the elimination of the dean of students position, previously held by Jimmy Williams, in February of this year. In the restructuring process that followed the February job cuts, Thompson became new vice president of student affairs and services. His additional tasks in the new structure under Bloch are stil to be determined.