November 7, 2007
When I attended Antioch from 1959 to 1964, it was a vibrant, bustling campus known for political activism, although only about 50 of us on each division actually went to meetings and demonstrations. I went to Columbus to protest the blockade of Cuba, to Selma to march for civil rights, and to Wright Patterson air force base to protest militarism. I was arrested right in Yellow Springs for protesting segregation at Gegner’s barber shop, and spent the night in jail in Xenia.
My FBI file reports that Police Chief James McGee told the FBI that I was a “very unreasonable type person.” The picket in front of the Union on June 17, 1963, was to protest an FBI investigation of my freshman hall advisor who had refused to take an oath of allegiance to the United States when inducted into the Army. Ironically, the investigation worked to his benefit because the FBI decided he wasn’t loyal and the Army exempted him from service.
I pretty much gave up on Antioch after all the publicity about sexual relationships. It was too Orwellian to defend, so I just stopped mentioning that I’d gone to Antioch. But I happened to be in Ohio last June for my wife’s high school reunion, so I came to Antioch for what turned out to be the big blow-up over the suspension of the College.
I was dismayed by the spectacle of the alumni venting their anger and frustration at the University Board members who I thought were trying to deal realistically with a difficult situation. Most of the alumni seemed convinced, however, that the Board had deliberately screwed the College.
When I started following events on the WEB and posting to the antiochians.org discussion list, I found I was in a minority, although several people emailed me privately to say they agreed. I was more bothered by the tone of the discussion than the content. Several people were nasty and insulting and proud of it. Even the reasonable people seemed convinced there was nothing much wrong with the College, everything was the fault of the Board and the University.
This strategy seems to have worked for fund raising. The alumni campaign was much more successful than I thought it would be. And the Alumni Board seems to be working out its differences with the University Board. I commend both Boards for their patience.
At this point, it may be possible to focus on College issues. I think the college needs to clearly define its “niche” in American higher education. An article in last Sunday’s New York Times described it as “known for its alternative life styles and student driven education.” This isn’t bad; there aren’t too many colleges in that niche. But “alternative life styles” can be interpreted in a way that may scare away straight students, especially men. Maybe a focus on “activism and social change” would be better. “Bootcamp for the revolution” is dated, but maybe the slogan can be modernized.
Another niche Antioch might fill could be to start an early college, for students of high school age who are ready to start college. Both of my children went to Bard College at Simon’s Rock to get out of high school early. Now my oldest grandson is there and it is quite vibrant and successful. Antioch University has an early college in Seattle, for Native American students, but I don’t know of one in the Midwest. It could be marketed to young people seeking an alternative to the typical high school life style.
Antioch needs a new project, something other than “back to the good old days.” The good old days were progressive for their time, but those days are past.
By Ted Goertzel ‘64