Fight Our Own Battles
Thanks to the historic Nov. 2 agreement between the Antioch College Alumni Board and the Antioch University Board of Trustees, the Alumni Board is now an official part of the college’s power structure. That’s a very good thing. The college has desperately needed someone with real authority in its corner these past years, as it has weathered neglect, autocratic mismanagement, and the bleeding of its resources, at the hands of the University administration and Board of Trustees. Now that the Alumni Board has bought its $18 million place at the table, the fox will no longer be guarding the henhouse. But the Alumni Board made some serious concessions to persuade the trustees to lift the suspension of operations.
“Lifting the suspension has bought us some time, but we have to fight hard or they will kill the college by slow suffocation. “
What a deal for the University administration and trustees! They get handed an $18 million bailout to offset their own fundraising failures, and they still need not take responsibility for the devastating blow they struck against the college by declaring financial exigency and suspension. We didn’t make a mistake, Board of Trustees chair Art Zucker insists at every turn, “the circumstances changed.” The college and its allies are now left to undo the damage done by the suspension: to accreditation, enrollment, public image, and morale. Meanwhile the University continues to make statements that undermine the college’s credibility, like this one, from the Nov. 5 Inside Higher Ed:
“Mary Lou LaPierre, vice chancellor and chief spokeswoman for the university administration, said that the board believes it would be wrong to recruit new first-year students until facilities are fixed up and academic programs are improved. ‘We need to take a look at the curriculum, with some concern that the curriculum is not attractive enough to attract enough students,’ she said. Time will be needed to plan those changes and for ‘market testing,’ LaPierre said. While she said she didn’t know how long it would take to be able to recruit freshmen, she said that it would be impossible this fall.”
“What a deal for the University administration and trustees!”
Lifting the suspension has bought us some time, but we have to fight hard or they will kill the college by slow suffocation. The Alumni Board, in its newly official position, may be unable or unwilling to take the firm, aggressive stance necessary to challenge those who remain intent on dismantling the college, its faculty, its staff and its infrastructure. The Alumni Board is doing the diplomacy and making the compromises that they believe are needed to keep the Board of Trustees at the table. We can’t rely on the Alumni Board to be on the forefront of calling out the University on its abuses and demanding swift, decisive solutions. That’s up to the rest of us.
In the wake of the highly conditional victory that the Alumni Board has won, I believe a coalition is coalescing, of students, faculty, staff, alumni, and Yellow Springs residents who do not accept that the terms of the Agreement are the best that we can do. We have to be united and resolute in making our demands for the defense of the college and its integrity, and we have to be ready to enforce those demands as necessary, in the courts, in the press, with our dollars, and with direct action if it comes to that.
The impression I’ve gotten from the handful of students I’ve talked to, is that while you’re grateful for the efforts of the Revival, you feel disconnected from the process and unsure how you can participate. I think you need to make it clear to all those acting on your behalf, what is it that you need? How would you allocate the college’s still-scarce resources? Is it really possible to cut deeper into the curriculum and into student services, and keep things working? Don’t let any of us forget how these decisions affect you. It’s your fight most of all. The college is your home, and your future. Interim President Andrzej Bloch commended you for being well-behaved during the negotiations. But I hope you won’t let them dismantle your school. You don’t need a lawyer to stop an unjustified demolition, if you know what I mean.
“We have to be ready to enforce those demands as necessary, in the courts, in the press, with our dollars, and with direct action if it comes to that.”
This is an opportunity for a renaissance of Antioch College that preserves its radical values and its people while returning the school to its rightful place of prominence in the cultural landscape. But we can’t expect anyone, even the Alumni Board, to fight our battles for us. I think there are still financial details to uncover that could help shift the balance of the debate over the college’s future. We all need to find the students we know are out there who belong at Antioch, and get them in the door. We need to make sure that the students, staff and faculty who are living through this struggle are treated with the respect they deserve. We need to keep telling our stories, in mainstream and grassroots media. We need to stay engaged in the official process, and make sure that promises are kept, and offer our own creative solutions. I’m thrilled to be a part of it.
Ed M. Koziarski ‘97