Time to Move On

While drinking my routine cup of coffee in Emporium yesterday, my eyes lingered for a minute on the bright red flag near the window that reads “Antioch alive!” I remember thinking “Yeah… It is for now. But for how long?”

In spirit, the campus appears pretty dead right now; students and faculty are trying to secure a future at other institutions and alumni throughout the country are once again left without agency.

Every time I have to think bout it, it makes me angry, because it wouldn’t have been necessary. How great it would have been if we would have come out of this victorious. Students and faculty were ready to rebuild and welcome the future generation of quirky, dedicated Antiochians to “the school that lived.” Hundreds of formerly estranged alumni, high on a drug called “achieving the unachievable” and the sheer magnitude $18 million raised in 125 days, were ready to go out and spread the gospel that Antioch College is open for business and accepting first year applications from all those who dare.

Yet here we are: we are not accepting first years, we cannot go to high schools and fairs and recruitment for students seeking a four-year degree is off the table even after OBR review in the spring. I remember the disbelief when Andrzej presented this in AdCil a couple of weeks ago.

I guess this leaves us with the option of putting up a booth in front of Sinclair in the hopes that transfer students from community colleges are not going to be bothered by the fact that our faculty are still collectively fired coming June 30.
But the frustrating thing about this godforsaken malaise is that it is NOT the OBR or NCA that are being difficult. A recent article in the Yellow Springs News underlined once again what many had expected all along. It is not the bureaucratic jaws of the degree and accreditation agencies that are eating our victory alive. As so often in the history of the marriage between the university and the college, it is once again the University that is sabotaging the college in shaping its own destiny.

If what Andrzej has presented  to AdCil and its subcommittees is true, the only thing that could hold us from recruiting first year students is the OBR’s need of assurance that the college can provide incoming freshmen the same program and support four years from now that it could today. With thousands of newly invigorated alumni and a major capital campaign on the move, this hardly seems a problem. In the mean time, the OBR is asking the University Board, as the holder of the fiduciary responsibility for the entire university, to stand behind the school that just achieved a minor miracle and ensure their support. They, however, refuse to take responsibility for the college, hiding even deeper behind the veil of financial instability and responsibility to the University as a whole.

All the while a fresh group of able, willing people is ready to take on that responsibility on a separate board for the college. Unfortunately, this is not enough.

Regardless of donors in New York demanding full fiduciary responsibility for the college, it appears that this is at least temporarily impossible as long as the college is part of the University. As long as we are part of the structure, accrediting agencies will always ask the University Trustees to do their job and roll up their sleeves to stick up for the college. And all that the majority of the current trustees are doing is stand on the side lines and watch.

There needs to be a change of culture and attitude in the highest ranks of the university, including the current board of trustees, to make a turn around possible for the college. Reading the apathy with which this university administration has treated major donors to the college revival until this week, (none of the six major donors had received as much as a thank you from either the chair of the Board or the Chancellor) asking for the current board to resign and bring in a new University Board together with the inauguration of the college Board seems the only logical choice for the college community moving forward to shaping its own future.