November 5, 2007
(Guy Fawkes Day)
For the sake of all current Antioch students, I am pleased to hear that the planned suspension of operations has been lifted. However, as an alum, I am deeply disappointed with the bargain that has been struck between my elected Alumni Board representatives and the Antioch University Board of Trustees.
“When will we learn that treating with the University is like courting the embrace of a strangling vine?”
What’s wrong with this picture? Once again, the University profits from the hard work of the College and its community members. When will we learn that treating with the University is like courting the embrace of a strangling vine? Alumni have stepped up and worked hard to save Antioch College. This effort has involved more than simply raising money, although it is the money the University is apparently most interested in. As a participant in the effort to save Antioch, I have networked with other alums (which has been a pleasure) and tried to support the faculty, staff, and students who are presently enduring hardships on campus. Alumni have developed business and recruitment plans, and have waged a campaign against the disinformation and misperceptions about Antioch College perpetuated in the press. We have given testimony about the virtues and vitality of an Antioch College education, we have honored prize-winning alumni, we have hastily formed alumni chapters and given precious time and money, and we have made art to celebrate our alma mater. We have tried to exemplify the ethos of the legacies we inherited from Horace Mann, Arthur Morgan, and Algo Henderson.
“It will take a lot of convincing for me to be able to contribute any more money to Antioch unless I am assured that the University is out of the picture”
Meanwhile, what have the Trustees or the University Leadership Council been doing to save Antioch College? Have they raised money? Have they answered any of the questions posed by the AAUP about the legal and ethical matters surrounding the declaration of financial exigency and the revoking of tenure? Have they taken any responsibility for the disastrous consequences of their previous bad decisions (i.e. the precipitous drop in enrollment resulting from the Renewal Plan)? Have they taken steps to rectify the questionable accounting practices that keep the College at a disadvantage? Have they acknowledged the votes of No Confidence in the Chancellor? Have they been honest and respectful in their conduct toward community members, and advanced these standards of behavior in others? We know the answers to these questions. At every turn, the Trustees and University administration have insisted on the prerogatives of power, but have refused to be accountable for their actions. Denial inspires little confidence; a show of humility might help restore some credibility. Failing that, a change of leadership in the UBoTs and ULC would signal a new beginning, both to alumni and the world at large.
One reason alumni succeeded in raising money where the University had not is this: we alumni do not have faith in the University. The Trustees need not take this personally, as it is a long-standing problem: the decline of the College began with the inception of the University. The money raised for the Revival Fund was solicited on the promise of an Antioch College that was independent of the University. The current agreement does not seem to make sufficient progress toward that goal. It will take a lot of convincing for me to be able to contribute any more money to Antioch unless I am assured that the University is out of the picture and the College can chart its own destiny. Alternatively, I have no philosophical qualms whatsoever about contributing funds to support the faculty lawsuit against the University.
“Thus far, the University has mostly demonstrated its willingness to save face and take credit for other people’s hard work.”
I have nothing but esteem and affection for those members of the Alumni Board I have met and worked with, but I did not sign on to appease the egos of petty authorities or perpetuate the failed governance policies of the University. When are we going to get busy speaking truth to power? In the short term, the current crisis has been caused by the leadership of the present Board of Trustees. In the long term, there has been a history of difficulty with the governance structure between the University and the College. In both cases, the University is the problem. The alumni have demonstrated both the will and ability to rescue the College from the brink of disaster. Thus far, the University has mostly demonstrated its willingness to save face and take credit for other people’s hard work. I am still waiting for the University to demonstrate (in actions, not rhetoric) that they will work as hard to save Antioch College as the alumni and other stakeholders have worked. I understand that the Trustees are nervous about their financial liability, but if they can’t stand the heat, they should get out of the kitchen. The University Board of Trustees should cede full control of the College to an autonomous College Board of Trustees. If the University and College have different goals (and even different ideas about what counts as education), then it is time for the two institutions to separate.
Dan C. Shoemaker, Ph.D.
Antioch College Class of 1992