By Jeanne Kay
“AdCil has a moral, legal, institutional responsibility,” proclaimed Faculty member Hassan Nejad in Main Building conference room last Tuesday. As AdCil met for the first time since the lifting of the suspension of operations of Antioch College, its members felt the responsibility incumbent upon them to take leadership in the reconstruction of the college. When the meeting finally adjourned, at 1 p.m. on Wednesday, four resolutions had been passed and two committees created.
Resolution 1: AdCil is instructing the interim president to revise and rewrite the contract letters that were sent to faculty and staff ending their employment with the college due to the decision to suspend operations at Antioch College by the Board of Trustees, and to immediately initiate a process in consultation with AdCil to abate financial exigency
Only one item was on the agenda of a historical, triptych session of AdCil this week: “Discussion of the process leading to the implementation of the Board of Trustees’ resolution to lift the suspension and the agreement between the Board of Trustees and the Alumni Board,” yet no less than five hours of discussion—spread out throughout two days–were necessary to finally adjourn the meeting.
“AdCil has much responsibility to this community,” declared Faculty member Hassan Rahmanian, “Suspension is lifted but we are facing more suspense now than last week.” The issues tackled included faculty and staff contracts, accreditation, recruitment, Financial Exigency, and retention. Much tension pervaded through Tuesday’s meeting, as AdCil members struggled to urgently take concrete action to guarantee the survival of the college “Andrzej I cannot go to my class like this,” exclaimed Rahmanian on Tuesday morning, “I [won’t] leave this room until we’ve got something on paper.” The tone of the following Wednesday meetings, however, was much more collaborative, as AdCil members took steps to empower AdCil at this crucial time in the history of the college.
Faculty and Staff Contracts
After Hassan Nejad inquired about the revision of the letters sent to faculty terminating their contracts in June, Interim President Andrzej Bloch declared that there was no reason to change the contract letters, as “Financial exigency was declared in June of this year; the contracts were issued on the conditions of financial exigency. These conditions did not change.”
Kammler: “We’re all fired until we’re told otherwise?”
Bloch: “Including myself.”
Several AdCil members disagreed with this interpretation. Faculty member Cathy LaPalombara remarked: “Financial Exigency would not necessarily mean that everyone loses their job.” Nejad declared: “I would argue that the rewriting of the letters is important because the letters were prepared for a different situation and these conditions have been modified” while Union Member Carol Braun denied the argument that the letters sent to staff and faculty were based on anything other than the suspension of operations: “Financial Exigency has nothing to do with our letters,” she said, “that legally has no standing for us.” Bloch said that it would be necessary to resort to the guidelines of the Personnel Policy in order to proceed to the re-hiring of faculty; “we intend to follow that process,” he concluded.
“If we have financial exigency we need to deal with it yesterday,” quipped Nejad. Bloch argued that it would be the job of the college’s new Board of Trustees to lift the financial exigency; he also emphasized: “it is not up to me to define which conditions need to be met.” Union Member Carol Braun underlined the contradiction according to which the Personnel Policy says AdCil’s responsibility to deal with the financial exigency whereas the agreement set up by the Trustees says it is Toni Murdock’s prerogative. Bloch clarified the situation by explaining that if AdCil played a role in the abatement it didn’t decide on the actual lifting of the exigency.
Nejad put a motion on the table (see Resolution 1), to instruct the president to rewrite the contract letters and start the process of abating financial exigency. It was reinforced, the following day by Hassan Rahmanian (see Resolution 4) who moved to instruct Bloch to present AdCil, the following week with a plan for the abatement of financial exigency.
Andrzej Bloch objected that a plan to deal with financial exigency was already presented to AdCil in June, and that “the plan continues to be in place,” to which Nejad replied “We had not part in that plan. Faculty member Eric Miller remarked that “any plan is subject to revisions,” and advocated for a plan under which “the morality of it meets the legality of it.”
Resolution 2: AdCil instructs the interim president to immediately put in place a process to professionally staff Admissions and vigorously recruit first years and transfer students for fall
“The point is that financial exigency is something that cannot be dealt with in a short period of time,” argued Bloch. LaPalombara said that what was required was a “clarification of what happened and what we need to do to reverse that,” while Braun pleaded: “we need to know what it is so that we can have a target… we may never come out if we don’t have a target”
Alumni Board member Steve Schwerner told Bloch: “As an officer of the University you can ask Toni and Art what are the exact criteria that need to be met to lift financial exigency, and that shouldn’t be difficult to get by Monday.”
Bloch pointed out that his position was difficult as “this damn lawsuit is part of the issue,” and questions were raised as to whether a way to deal with financial exigency that didn’t have legal implications for the president could be found in order to install a more productive dialog.
Faculty Member Patricia Mische declared that not recruiting students is “saying that we are committing suicide by degree from above.” “What is a college without students?” asked Nejad.
When will we be able to recruit? When will we know when we’ll be able to recruit? These questions went around the AdCil table several times without a clear answer being proposed in return. Bloch explained that for legal reasons, we could not recruit before getting accreditation and degree granting authority from the Ohio Board of Regents and North Central Association.
Resolution 3: AdCil instructs the interim president to prepare as soon as possible a proposal in consultation with AdCil and the faculty to the Ohio Board of Regents and Northcentral, requesting the authority of Antioch College to grant credit and award degrees
Hassan Najad put a motion on the table (see Resolution 2) recommending that the president push forward the recruitment process.
Community Events Manager Rory Adams-Cheatham pointed out the lack of admission staff that could at least accept applications and answer the phone for questions.
“I don’t know who you think you’re kidding,” said student member Julian Sharp, commenting on the possibility that there would be no entering class next year,“[students] will all leave if they’re the only students on campus, we are not considering the fact that everyone would be leaving.”
“It seems to me that we’d go to the Ohio Board of Regents with a plan to recruit,” said Mische, arguing that a plan to recruit might make the college seem more viable.
Nejad put a motion on the table (see Resolution 3) to urge the interim president to speed up the process by which the application would be completed and sent to the Board of Regents.
Bloch said that he was aware that accreditation was “one of the most important issues to deal with” and promised he wouldn’t “spare any time.”
He also warned that “Writing the petition is one thing, preparing for the questions that come afterwards is another.” He also pointed out that“The Ohio Board of Regents may be very moved by the amount of pledges but unfortunately they will not take pledges as cash.” Alumni Board member Ellen Borgersen contested this point, saying that “There’s a way to account for pledges that’s very well recognized.”
Resolution 4: AdCil instructs the interim president to present a report to AdCil specifying terms, conditions and process through which the financial exigency will be lifted
Nejad inquired whether the information transmitted to Ohio Board of Regents would be shared with AdCil. Bloch said that he wouldn’t go through AdCil but follow usual procedure, and “consult all appropriate bodies,” including AdCil and the curriculum committee.
Retention & Morale
“The morale of faculty is at an incredible low… the students are thinking about transferring” diagnosed Mische. “The students don’t know if faculty in two years will still be there, they don’t know if they want to be here,” said Braun. Student representative Emma Emmerich reiterated: “not knowing whether I’m going to have a professor in my major is very very hard to handle.”
Sharp directly asked Bloch: “Can first years graduate?” The interim president answered that current first years “will have the opportunity to graduate,” but that it was a “slight leap of faith”
“I don’t believe this is a leap of faith,” commented Sharp, “this is leadership.”
Andrzej Bloch, on Wednesday morning announced that the decision implied “two fundamental changes: increase operations from zero to some level and recall faculty to service to offer the curriculum…We will establish two communities who will try to establish these issues,” in order to decide how many faculty will be recalled and to prepare for OBR questions.
The creation of a new Budget committee, a Curriculum committee, and a Student services and physical plant committee; however only the charges for the first two were drafted by Wednesday, the third one being delayed to upcoming weeks. Questions were raised about the possibility of having an alumnus seat on the curriculum committee, an issue that should be resolved in the next AdCil meeting. The nominations for the two committees should also be voted upon next week.