“You asked me to visit, so here I am” declared Antioch University Chancellor Toni Murdock as she sat down at the AdCil table at 9 a.m. on Tuesday. Murdock was responding to an invitation sent to her two weeks prior by the Administrative Council –which was also extended to Board of Trustees Chair Art Zucker and College President Steven Lawry. The invitation’s purpose was “to discuss the process by which the current leadership of Antioch college was appointed.”
Student Representative Julian Sharp opened the discussion. “Question number one is why AdCil wasn’t consulted in the change in college leadership.” Murdock said that under more “normal conditions…, a more thorough process,” would have been followed. When Steve Lawry “resigned,” he recommended Andrzej Bloch to run the college under the suspension of operations. “Since we are under suspension there was really no need to have a new president,” she further explained. “It’s very normal, when a president is [out of office] that the Chief Academic Administrator takes over in that interim type of position.” Murdock confirmed that Lawry was currently under Administrative Leave until December 31st, when his resignation will take effect. When Sharp insisted to know whether Steve intentionally “stepped down” or was forcibly “placed” under administrative leave, she refused to make any comment. “That’s a personnel issue,” she argued. “I would subscribe that indeed when you have a situation of lack of normalcy and crisis you need to act with more legitimacy and credibility in order to heal the crisis,” remarked faculty member Hassan Nejad, “and that has been lacking and I don’t know why.”
Community Events manager Rory Adams-Cheatham stressed the educational value of AdCil for Antioch students, and pointed out the contradiction between the claim that the college would be operating “under normal conditions” this year and the fact that the educational opportunities of community governance were stripped away by the top-down processes recently implemented, “I just was wondering whether or not we are operating as a college this year or if we’re operating as a bunch of dying people?” she asked. “To go so far as to not use the governing bodies that have been put in place that are maybe a large part of the reason why students and faculty and staff came here and stay here…I don’t understand how you can say that we’re now not going to use these bodies at all, we’re just going to push them aside.” “I can see why you’re upset and I apologize for that” replied Murdock, Toni Murdock at AdCil Union-elected member Carol Braun asked the chancellor to account for the second part of the August 31st events–the lock down of the Office of Institutional Advancement. She stressed the fact that that automatic answers were left on the development office’s employees’ FirstClass accounts, which could constitute forgery as they were signed with their names. “I’ll take responsibility for it,” said Murdock. “It happened under my watch, I’m the chancellor.” She accounted for the lock down as being a result of a “chaotic situation,” and emphasized that “much of it [was] trying to honor the donors.”
Questions about process and accountability, however, remained unanswered for many AdCil members, as faculty member Hassan Rahmanian wished to point out in his statement. “I hope you realize what kind of hellish condition you put us through with these decisions.” he said. “I don’t understand how you can call a team ‘leadership team’ where there is no legitimacy in the process of appointing that team.” He then addressed the question of the trust crisis created by the situation. “Taking all these administrative privileges adds to developing an ‘avalanche of no confidence,’” he commented, “and my question is do you care about that, as a leader, and if you do, what have you done? What are you going to do to restore it?” The chancellor answered that the distrust between the college and the university had been an issue for more than 30 years. “That distrust is so wide that I wonder whether we can ever work together,” she declared. She also deplored that the alumni engagement with the college had been so very recent. “What a shame that it’s taken this to wake up the alumns!” she exclaimed.
“What are you doing to ensure that the college stays open?” enquired faculty member Hassan Nejad. Murdock replied by stating that the news of the closing “shouldn’t have come as as big of a surprise” to the community, as the dire financial situation was well known for years. “I would say right now we have bent over backwards to help the alumns,” she further explained, “which hasn’t been real easy; they’re wonderful people but very chaotic.” As to whether she was optimistic about the college staying open, chancellor Murdock replied “I can’t say. They have a lot of money in pledges, and that doesn’t operate for us, you’ve got to have cash.”
“You are in a position to make a difference’” Nejad told Murdock as the meeting drew to a close, “The board listens to the chancellor. You can make a difference.”