Mending Fences

Rick Daily“We have a hole in this triangle as far as trust is concerned,” Antioch College Professor Hassan Rahmanian fumed to a crowd of alumni and students and villagers last Thursday at the Yellow Springs Senior Center. The three points in the triangle, Antioch College alumni, the University, and the campus community, are engaged in the Alumni Board’s efforts to keep a viable Antioch College open past the announced closing date in 2008. The relationship between the three has recently been tested by direct intervention of the University Chancellor in the operations at the College.

The meeting, organized by the Alumni Board, was meant to facilitate dialogue about the future of the college in an informal, off-campus environment. Attendance was high, with many guests taking position against the wall or on the floor.

Alumni Board Treasurer Rick Daily fielded questions throughout the meeting, meriting the dialogue as “an operation of openness.” The meeting came shortly after the news of the college development office’s lock-out, which Daily described as “an unfortunate movement” that was “made under stress.”
Lynda Sirk, newly appointed special assistant to the college’s interim executive Andrzej Bloch, also attended the off-campus meeting. Sirk, in her new function as liason between the University and the Alumni Board will act as “the eyes and ears” of the Alumni Board, according to Daily. The announcement that, as such, she will report back to University Chancellor Toni Murdoch for many added to the mistrust that has been generating over recent months. “Where is the swinging door ?” College Professor Beverly Rodgers openly questioned what to her showed a lack of report mechanism back to the college community. Daily emphasized that Sirk’s role will be in the benefit of the alumni and urged those in attendance to recognize the joint efffort between the college and University. “Lynda is part of the truth delivery system,” he said.
“This is a consensual hijacking of the college”, Daily quipped. He explained the relationship as inextricable, adding, “Their fates are mutually intertwined” When questioned about plans for the college, Daily remained optimistic, describing the current efforts to save the college as “an opportunity to lift [the] college out of the doldrums.”
Not everyone shared in Daily’s optimism, however. A number of faculty and townspeople expressed their discontent with the handling of the development office the week before and could not help but find irony in Daily’s view of the meeting as a “trust-building exercise.” Steven Duffy, a graduate of the college and long-time librarian at the campus asked: “I’m hearing a lot about hears and mouths but I’m wondering where the heart is.”
Antioch Professor Hassan Rahmanian made reference to the thirteen million dollar deficit that had been calculated as part of the college’s liability to the university and explained to the crowd that, through his examination of numerous records and documents, he had not come across the same numbers. He requested to know where the numbers had come from and an explanation of the nature of the deficit.
Rahmanian later described “surprise” at Daily’s presentation of the financial sitution in a frame of liability because he felt that the language was “compromising.”
Rahmanian emphasized that the college has dealt with financial deficits throughout the majority of its history, although he also related that in each instance of major deficit, “different measures of cutting the budget” were employed in order to ensure the college’s survival. Examples cited were the selling of land on two separate occasions and one instance where a campus-owned building was also sold for revenue.
While much of the meeting was centered around concerns of accountability, progress was made on several levels. Daily emphasized the efforts that are currently organizing to save the college and made note that the development office would be moving to the first floor of Weston Hall in the future. This is a positive development because it will simplify the facilitation and exchange of information between the campus community and the alumni board. The relocation process of the development office should be completed by the end of September.