Long ago seem the days that we still had a Dean of Students and a President who was actually allowed to call himself that. Adapting to new status quos, indeed has been quite the theme since I arrived here 13 months ago.
The recent dismissal of our president and the strong student and faculty reaction to Rick Daily’s presentation at the senior center made me think back to February when Jimmy Williams was made to leave.
Standard consultation processes were disregarded. students were outraged, screamed for transparency. Then Steve came in with the numbers, everyone was baffled and in the end the baby was thrown out with the bathwater.
In a different context but similar situation, students and faculty were alarmed after last week’s off-campus meeting with representatives of the college alumni board. Again there was legitimate concern. But If not addressed well, there again is a chance that the baby is thrown out with the bathwater.
I remember not being pacified by Steve’s presentation of the daunting numbers that led him to cut 20 positions in February. I regularly attended Adcil and was there when Lawry presented the need to restrict operational costs drastically. In between all that daunting reality, however, I never got past seeing the elimination of Jimmy Williams’ position as a welcome political move amidst a general decision driven by necessity.
Last Thursday, transparency of processes again became a concern. This time it was those who lead our (the college’s) crusade that were in deficit. Appearing in front of a community that’s been shaken and brused by a series of top down decision making and stripped of its self governing ability, and de facto saying “you will just have to trust us to watch the store,” shows poor understanding of the sentiments of the college community right now. Talking about military people assessing our buildings and the need to “make sure Adcil is relevant” hardly won him over the trust of the assembled community either.
Talking personally to the alumni involved, on the phone, by email or reading the intra list servs, I don’t believe there is malice or power lust on the part of the AB, but if the language does not become more inclusive, people will jump ship.
At the same time, it’s vital that students and community inform themselves beyond second hand information that is heavily editorialized by the time it reaches them (including this one). If rumor becomes our main mode of communication, we will fail. I don’t believe in liaisons, I believe in Gmail and speed dial and tackling people on the way to their car; Email Rick Daily, call Nancy Crow, chat to Ellen Borgersen while you help her move her boxes into her new office in Weston. Talk to Noreen Dean Dresser, a New York alumna who used to work on making lifeless military communities viable again. Ask questions, difficult questions if needed. But above all listen, to the lines and in between. Go to Adcil and ComCil. A lack of transparency is what brought us to this point in our history. If you are missing information, ask for it. Find it. If the front page article on the Antiochpapers shows you anything, it’s that it’s out there. -KJ
Last week, a handful of students made their way to the Yellow Springs Senior Center to listen to Rick Daily adress the Community. It was the first direct interaction we had with the Alumni Board since the August 25th Meeting, so as we sat on the floor of the meeting room, we felt eager to hear news from the frontlines.
But as we heard the dramatic events of the past weekend minimized as mere “mistakes,” and miscommunications, we started to look at each other with eyebrows raised. Our president was not allowed to set foot on campus, college staff were locked out of their own offices, all of which in the most suffocating silence, and the reaction of those who are defending our interests was to urge us to get over it and move on?
“I feel like he’s handling us” I wrote on a corner of my notebook to my right-hand neighbor.
Then, as we listened to diatribes about the “opportunities” that opened to us, and how Antioch could be made great in the future; as we listened to talks about developpers and army-lead operations in our buildings, we starting shaking our heads in disbelief. Talk about the new board’s vision and independance, yes, there was plenty. Talk about community input, none. Maybe it was not the time for this yet, so we swallowed our concerns and waited for the next part.
“I’m tired of this superficial pep talk, it’s not worthy of Antiochians” was my next message to my neighbor who nodded, looking as anxious as I felt.
Finally, we listened to our faculty members expressing some of our concerns, about transparency, democratic process and responsbility. But their remarks were dismissed as counterproductive, as if we were not allowed to question the process in which we are all involved in any way, because it will not bring pragmatic results. “We have to make sure that AdCil is relevant” was the last straw.
So as I listened to Rick Daily’s joke “we are consensually hijacking the campus”, I wrote to my right-hand neighbor: “I feel like our efforts are being hijacked for a plan that is not ours!” But when I turned to her for an answer, I saw that she was sobbing.
Maybe we were mistaken as to the purpose of that meeting was. For us, it was an opportunity to meet alumni to share information and insight for the first time since the Cincinatti meeting. Maybe it is too much for us to ask to be acknowledged in the language, as a very much alive, vibrant community, whose democratic governant bodies are relevant. Maybe people will turn to us later, when the “divorce is secure”, in Rick Daily’s words. But we have suffered from way too much top-down authority recently. And we hope that if we are to have an independant Board, it is to reclaim that long-lost power back for the community, not to put it in the hands of, –however concerned and dedicated– trustees to realize their Vision from yet another top-down perspective.
Because Antioch College today is not some kind of no man’s land, a shack to rebuild to its greatness. Antioch today is doing pretty damn fine, thank you very much, (except for one or two details). And I wouldn’t have prefered go to Antioch at any other time.
At the end of Thursday meeting, a member of the assembly asked for more transparent processes to be put in place. A faculty member added that faculty should be included. At that point, I cried out “ And Students!”
I hope someone heard me.