By Kim-Jenna Jurriaans
Antioch shakes you to your core; it breaks you and puts you back together with pieces of the people around you becoming part of you. That is what the past four months have felt like for me. If anything diverts me from the disappointment over the resolution that was meant to be the moment of relief and reward, then it is holding on to the unexpected bonds I made since this summer. I do not feel relieved, I do feel rewarded.
But as the wider college community is moving tighter together, the university is drifting ever so steady away from its mother unit. Public statements from the Alumni Board and Board of Trustees highlight intense collaboration, but actions speak louder, and they shout contradiction. Collaboration to Antiochians means give and take in good faith, with a level of risk on both sides. The agreement that lies before us does not show any risk-taking on the part of the university, which takes what good can be gained from the revival, but stifles the college’s ability to succeed in the mission that started the movement.
The statements made by MaryLou LaPierre in this week’s “Inside Higher Education” about the Antioch College curriculum do not attest to good faith on the side of the university. They are a disgraceful stab in the back to the mother that was pushed to the ground by its drunk child, which then lend a slippery hand as if helping her to get back up.
Instead of taking responsibility for a select group of officials leading it astray from the needs of the mother institution, the university trustees are protecting themselves on all sides and putting all responsibility for success or failure of the revival on the College and its alumni. It shows the university’s fear of chaos, fear of the tiniest instability. And ultimately it shows a lack of belief in their own abilities; the ability to rise out of chaos and to make it back out of adversity based on one’s own merit no matter what.
But above all it attests to arrogance. An arrogance based on ignorance and a fundamental lack of self-criticism. For years the university has looked upon the college as somehow inferior, unable to balance its budget. It is ironic that the university itself can’t get their accounting straight as proven by the million dollar reporting error in the university budget this year. But even more worrying is the fact that no one on the board seems to have picked up on this when going through the report that falls on their door mat a week before every board meeting.
What about the university’s history of broken promises to the college? On two occasions in the last ten years the university promised major fundraising campaigns to support the college implementing program changes. While holding the college responsible for reaching sexy benchmarks, the Board of Trustees itself did not hold itself to its own goals. It did not adequately fund development and when the campaigns stalled, rather, they claimed it was the fault of the alumni of the college that were simply not willing to give.
I was astounded when I sat in the office of the Antioch University CFO, Tom Faecke, a week ago and he straight out told me he couldn’t answer any questions regarding the Board’s promise to float the college through five years of the Renewal Plan, because he “wasn’t there at the time” and “didn’t know about a Renewal Plan when I started working here.”
It is this sort of setup for failure that seems to be reflected in the current resolution. It is saying “we work with you,” and it is asking to “just trust us.” How can you ask for trust if you have not given us reason to trust you? When you present us with an agreement that does not show any trust in us? There is no real investment, no commitment and no self-reflection. It is easy to say you’re committed, but there is no real investment unless you break a little and take a piece of the other side and let it be part of you.
Recent actions of the university and board have led me to question that they want to be a part of mother Antioch and it has led me to question that they should.
In an earlier Record article former Dean of Faculty Ann Fillmyr’s shared her recollection of a meeting with one of our trustees, Bruce Bedford, in which he questioned the relevance of Antioch as an institution that “only produces teachers and social workers.” Bedford headed the Board’s finance committee for years in a period that a number of former trustees in interviews have referred to as “hostile to the college.” I do not doubt the decency and good will that many of the members of the board bring to the job, but I cannot help but ask “How is it possible that people like Bedford, with so few of the values of Antioch make it to such key positions in our institution?”
It is these and many other reasons that lead me to believe that getting the hell away from this board and the university it serves is the only way forward for Antioch College.
We once again married into a condition that does not allow us to flourish, that sets us up for failure and it is up to us to break out of it. We are indeed not done yet. We are fighting an arrogant force.
The nice thing about arrogance is that it tends to come with underestimating the people around you. Regardless of at least 500 alumni at Reunion, $18 million in 125 days, regardless of antiochians.org and The Antioch Papers, this University continues to underestimate the combined force of those with roots at Antioch College.
The chancellor condescendingly in AdCil calling Antioch alumni “chaotic” only shows her own ignorance. Antiochians thrive in chaos. They share an almost naïve believe in their own abilities to change the status quo for the better based on the values that this institution has given them. They know the value of conservation, but they also know when it’s time to break things and rebuild, and come out stronger on the other side. After all, they themselves have been broken many times before.