Letter from Bob Devine ’67

   I am more than a little disappointed that continued financial exigency is a part of the agreement.  The original declaration of financial exigency was based on (a) rapidly declining enrollments (in which the
Board played a major role), (b) large deficits (made larger by Board policy with regard to depreciation and COLLEGE endowment growth), (c) projected continuing decline in enrollment and revenue (cast as pessimistically as possible), and (d) cash flow problems.   The Alumni Revival effort came up with $18 million in cash and pledges.  The COLLEGE’s endowment last year earned $3.4+ million (I would guess that the College received $1.2m of that, with the remainder being booked as growth on the UNIVERSITY’s books).  More students showed up for fall enrollment than had been anticipated, particularly since the Board had done such a fine PR job in making it clear to the world that the College would be closing.  It would seem  to me that with $30 million in endowment, pledges of $18m in hand  (accomplished miraculously in just 125 days), and the promise of a full-bore fundraising effort among alums (conditioned on the independence of the College), that the College would have moved past financial exigency.
It seems to me that continued financial exigency provides the Board, and the University, with power and control in this dynamic.  The implications of not lifting the financial exigency provide some catch-22s for the College’s revival.  First, the exigency makes it impossible to recruit new students — the very thing that is needed to establish long term stability.  Adhering to OBR and NCA standards, you can’t really recruit students to a program that may not be around for four years, and the financial exigency circumstance clearly enunciates the tentativeness of the College’s existence.

Second, the continuation of exigency suspends tenure.  The resolution says that “adjustments” will be necessary, and we can be fairly certain that some faculty will be FIRED, regardless of tenure.  Who will make those sorts of decisions?  Will they involve the Antioch faculty, Administrative Council?  (It’s worth noting that the faculty was not mentioned in the resolution and agreement except in terms of downsizing.)  Where will the cuts be made?  What can we afford to lose?

Third, financial exigency will make it more difficult to raise the sort of resources that are specified in the agreement.  Will my contribution to the College’s revival get devoured by deficit funding? Will it support a truly independent College?  If the Alumni Board is unable to raise the  benchmark funding required by the agreement, and as a consequence, the closing of the College is once again imposed as of Dec. ‘08, what will become of the money we’ve all  contributed to the Revival of the College?

Fourth, without addressing head-on the considerable governance issues, and without putting a strong administrative infrastructure in place at the College, financial exigency serves to keep the College weak.  In spite of the considerable resources that its alums and its endowment bring to bear, the College remains the dependent stepchild of the University, without the real capacity to chart its own future. The faculty cannot lead because the financial exigency puts them on notice.

I am more than disappointed.  The criteria of financial exigency have not been clearly defined, nor have the criteria for lifting exigency. It seems that the target keeps moving — 20 million, 40 million, 50 million, 100 million, and each time we turn around, something new has been added to the College’s indebtedness (e.g. a $1.4 million charge was recently added to the College’s current budget for “asbestos  abatement” — projects that were done several budget years ago!)

Further, we have no local process for even deciding these matters; AdCil and the Faculty have been bypassed at every stage.  I can only assume that retaining financial exigency is seen as a mechanism for retaining control.

Bob Devine ‘67, faculty member, alum and former President