AdCil in Quest of Identity

“We should close more often” quipped Kim-Jenna Jurriaans walking into a packed Main Building conference room at 8am on Tuesday. The first Administrative Council of the term was unusually crowded with community members looking for answers amidst the current bureaucratic fog. AdCil thus faced the difficult task of addressing the most pressing matters on the college’s administrative agenda while facing an existential crisis of its own. Where does AdCil fit in the newly recomposed power flow chart with no president to advise and no clear chain of command and accountability ?
“Keeping as many students as we can”
Director of Admissions Angie Glukhov and Associate Professor of Economics Janice Kinghorn presented an update on the operations of the Office of Transition in the summer and reiterated its present role as a facilitator for students seeking a plan B for a worst-case scenario in October. A series of events are planned in the current of the week to help secure these options for non graduating students; on Friday the 14th, representatives of Antioch University campuses will present their undergraduate as well as graduate programs; on Saturday the 15th, a panel representing 35 colleges will be on campus.
“I have a hard time sharing the enthusiasm of the transition team” declared Faculty member Hassan Rahmanian, expressing reservations about the OT advocating for transfer rather that staying in a more passive, responsive role. Kinghorn replied that for the approximately 100 students who will not graduate in the Spring, the approach “I love Antioch but I want to keep my options open” was the most responsible at this time. She asserted the Office of Transition’s commitment to “keeping as many students as we can” should the college remain open.
The Meanders of Accreditation
Faculty Member Patricia Mische asked COO Andrzej Bloch whether the college was in danger of losing its accreditation. Bloch explained that Antioch College is independently accredited by the Ohio Board of Regents. In case of a reversal of the decision to suspend operations at the college, a delegation from the OBR would visit campus to evaluate its potential for accreditation. The college is also accredited nationally by North Central Association as part of Antioch University. The issue of whether the college should receive separate accreditation from NCA under the Revival Plan is currently under debate as it would entail a very lengthy process and binding requirements such as enough funds to operate for three years.
The Waiver Issue
When the question of the “student acknowledgment of suspension of operations of Antioch College” was raised, Bloch reiterated his statement that the Ohio Board of Regents recommended that a statement be drafted to make sure that all students were informed of the graduation and walker requirements. As to who drafted the waiver, Bloch declared “We started to write the document, it was edited by our legal council and then it came back to us”, and admitted that the legal council might have been “overzealous” with the language.
“If anything goes wrong, you can blame me”
As the issue of the governance structure was brought to the table, Bloch clarified the positions of the administrative team. Milt Thompson remains the Vice President for Student Affairs and Services; Lynda Sirk is the Special Assistant to the COO for Institutional Advancement and Public Relations and Andrzej Bloch is Chief Operations Officer and Chief Academic Officer. As to what these titles imply, it was more difficult to reach a consensus around the table. Lynda Sirk will be a liaison between institutional advancement and the COO and will work to facilitate discussion between the Board of Trustees, the chancellor and the alumni board. While she is primarily paid by the College, the University contributes to part of her salary. Andrzej Bloch stressed that his functions were essentially those of a president, “So if anything goes wrong, you can blame me” he said. Debate arose over the conflict of interests resulting from the concentration of the roles of CAO and COO in the hands of a single person. Faculty Member Hassan Nejad pointed out that on AdCil, the president and the Dean of Faculty are two distinct ex-officio voting members; and that no other institution of higher education allowed for the combination of these two positions. He then raised questions about the relevance of AdCil in the circumstances: “I don’t know what AdCil can do if most of your directions come from across the street” he told Bloch.
“An institution known for democratic process, openness and transparency ”
The process by which Steve Lawry was made to step down and Andrzej Bloch appointed COO was criticized as contrary to college policy. Bloch denied there having been any breech in protocol, “I don’t remember AdCil ever voting to appoint the president,” he said, “it has always been the prerogative of the Board of Trustees and the Chancellor”. Nejad insisted that in the past, search committees had been appointed and AdCil consultation sought. He expressed the concern that this breach in institutional procedure undermined the legitimacy of the college’s leadership. “This is an institution known for democratic process, openness and transparency,” he declared, “we have not seen that in the past few months. It is very troubling.” Andrzej Bloch responded by stressing that he was merely an interim between two systems. If the college were to stay open, then the new Board of Trustees would proceed in due form to the appointment of a new leadership. “The process of consultation is different in different times” he concluded.

“We have never been without a president”

More concern was expressed over the fact that, for the first time in its history, Antioch College has no acting president. AdCil members feared that the situation sent a negative message to the outside world, implying that the college was so close to death that it didn’t need a president, but only a caretaker. Student member Julian Sharp reminded the assembly that Lawry was still officially president, but on administrative leave. Questions were immediately raised as to the language of the press releases which claimed that Lawry had “stepped down.” “I would like to know why he is banned from campus and why I can’t talk to him” emphasized Sharp, who then proposed that AdCil formulate a request to get these questions answered by the University Leadership. As a result, AdCil unanimously voted on extending an invitation to University Chancellor Toni Murdock, BOT Chair Art Zucker and Steve Lawry to attend AdCil on Tuesday September 18th to discuss “ the process by which the current leadership of the college was appointed.”

Legitimacy?

When faculty member David Kammler informally proposed for AdCil to resolve to give its advice to the newly appointed COO, objections were raised as to whether AdCil should give its support to the current situation. “We are legitimizing something that the faculty gave a vote of no confidence to”, warned faculty member Hassan Rahmanian, further requesting that more light be cast upon the situation before AdCil voted on the matter. The conclusion to the legitimacy debate was summed up by student member Julian Sharp: “ We are all legit’ here. We were all elected. The question is whether the administration team is legitimate.”