By Tyler Morse
Recruitment has been a constant theme in discussions about the future of Antioch College. Several months ago, when the Antioch College Board of Trustees finally offered a compromise with the possibility of keeping the school open, Antiochians began to think about what the college might be like next fall in its “dim” state if the school was still part of the University. When the major donors thought about it they decided they didn’t want to be major donors at all unless the college was free to conduct its own affairs. The problem is it would probably be cheaper for the University to close the college then sell it, so there is much to discuss before an agreement can be reached and probably a long wait for an already frustrated community. How long that wait turns out to be could have big effects on campus beyond the stress it creates. Because Antioch College might not be open next year the Board of Trustees feels it is unethical accept any new students even if they are well informed about the situation. Currently, if someone sends in an application, “We just file them,” says Meredith Taylor, who by herself makes up half of the Antioch College Admissions Department. Meredith has filed 71 completed online applications and there are at least 21 more in progress, along with many that were sent by mail or fax and filed but uncounted.
Kip Vosler is a twenty-one year old gas station attendant in Yellow springs and is one of the 21 incomplete online applications. He first visited Antioch with a former student he met at the Yellow Springs street fair. His reaction was an “instant attraction” to the campus, but then again it may have been for the student that he is now dating. Kip’s attraction to Antioch is not just physical, he especially likes the concepts of the co-op program and narrative student evaluations. He was surprised and a little mad to learn that the University believes Antioch’s program is unattractive to serious students. According to Meredith, Kip is not the only prospective prospective student that wants to show the Board how serious he is. Unfortunately for Kip, the Admissions Department is not currently allowed to process applications beyond filing them for later analysis, and there has been no active recruitment of a first year class for the coming fall. For a school that might be closing next year, with an Admissions Department of two people, over a hundred applications is a very impressive number, but during a normal school year Meredith would expect about five hundred applications by now.
There is a constant dialogue among Antioch students about problems caused by low enrollment. Beyond wishing more people came to the parties and social events, there is frustration about constrictive course times and overlapping classes. All that is not to mention that if the college had a larger student body in the last few years, the school might not be in financial exigency in the first place. James Kutil is a second year at Antioch who plans on transferring after this semester. He needs to leave because the school because it no longer offers the classes he needs to take, “We don’t have an education program, isn’t that ridiculous?” James is also taking a third level philosophy class as an independent study because the class wouldn’t fit his schedule. Without an incoming class there would be maybe ninety students next year. Regardless of the difficulties, the Dynamic Duo at Antioch Admissions remains undaunted, “We could get forty to fifty students easy…look what we did last year,” Meredith is very confidant that the applications she has received are from students that are very serious about coming to Antioch; students applying online would have difficulty not finding out that the college is closing. Her confidence should be encouraging considering that last year she was largely responsible for finding a first year class that wanted to come despite the fact that the school might not be there in a year. All she says she needs is a green light from the powers that be and the admissions process can begin, and the sooner the better.
The possibility of first year students for a possible next year is mostly a race against time to decide between what is beginning to look like a few probable outcomes. If the College is purchased from the University before the applicants have to make their final choice of schools, then the Admissions office can process the applications and recruit new students; in this senario there could be over one-hundred-fifty students on campus in fall. That is only possible if admissions is given enough time to accept students; door number two puts Antioch under new management but with fewer than 90 students. The third likely outcome is that no agreement can be reached. The Board will not sell the college, and seeing little merit in a closed institution, donors don’t donate.
What the people surrounding Antioch do over the next few months will decide what happens to the college and the social networks it has created and contributed to. If an agreement can be reached and the college becomes independent then Antiochians will have a lot of work to do, rebuilding enrollment, staff and a few of the buildings. Antioch was founded to educate people in making change and in the past has had outstanding results. The schools participation in equal rights activism and media have and are helping shift social inequities of race, gender, and sexual identity. The culture at Antioch shows its students how to make culture by contributing to it and thus molding it. The question is can Antioch College do what it teaches its students and create a change for itself that could continue to create change in the world.