By Jeanne Kay
It was not easy, on Tuesday morning, for AdCil members to discuss the first items on the agenda as if Friday’s announcement had not happened. The state of aggravated uncertainty brought to the community by the reaffirmation by Antioch University that operations at Antioch College would take an end under the University watch on June 30th made order of the day topics subordinate to dealing with the consequences of the new situation.
The Subcommittee for Campus Services submitted their report about the short-term needs of different campus services (including IT, Counseling and Wellness, Financial Aid, the Gym, the Theatre…) yet several AdCil members felt unable to take action to meet these needs given the level of uncertainty about the future of the college: “In order to meaningfully evaluate these issues we need to have a timeframe in our minds and we don’t have it” declared faculty member Hassan Rahmanian. Interim President Andrzej Bloch replied that although there was no clear picture of the future of the institution, the report pointed out “small things that could be fixed right away.” Union member Carol Braun, however, ventured that “The University is covering itself from a lawsuit by students… By going through a community institution like AdCil, so they can prove they’ve asked the community…and show that that they’ve tried to support students throughout the term.”
Although Bloch dismissed Braun’s assumption as belonging to the realm of conspiracy theory, suspicion as to the ulterior motives and of the University was an underlying thread of the remainder of the AdCil session. When Head Librarian Richard Kerns announced that the Olive Kettering Library’s OPAL contract had been signed before deadline, and OhioLink renewed for the next three years—and that the cost of the subscription would be shared between the University branches – questions were raised as to whether the O.K. library could be eventually taken over by Antioch University McGregor. Kerns answered that the Olive couldn’t be taken over by McGregor unless it was purchased—an unlikely event in face of the satellite’s current financial situation. Yet McGregor depends on Olive Kettering being open for accreditation, which contributes to the decision by the University to keep the library open after June 30th. When librarian Sandy Coulter asked whether the current staff would be kept or let go, Bloch answered that it was too soon to tell.
Interim President Bloch’s briefing on the Los Angeles Board of Trustees meeting finally came to the table; he began with a brief timeline of events of the past four months: on November 2nd 2007 the Agreement in Principle between the Alumni Board and the Board of Trustees specified the conditions under which the college could maintain operations after June 30th of the following year; the financial conditions, according to Bloch, were not met last December—ACCC and Alumni Board member Steve Schwerner specified that it was disagreements over the Governance structure that prevented the major donors from following through with the transfer of funds to the University; then, Bloch continued, University Chancellor Toni Murdock and Board of Trustees Chair Art Zucker proposed the formation of an independent non-profit corporation by the donors and alumni and to enter negotiations for the complete independence of the college; on December 6th, the BOT instructed their negotiating team (composed of Murdock, Zucker, University CFO Tom Faecke and two attorneys hired by the University) to engage in negotiations with the Antioch College Continuation Corporation; on Thursday, February 21st the Board moved into session for several hours to discuss the report from their negotiating team but the issues were “so complex” that no agreement could be reached; Bloch specified that there were no “substantial discussions about the college” in the following days; furthermore, a proposal from the ACCC to present their business plan directly to the Board of Trustees was rejected by the executive committee of the BOT. “Regardless of the outcome of the negotiation,” specified Bloch, “the BOT instructed…to proceed with the winding down process of the college. If the agreement is made, the University will wind down and transfer, or wind down and close [the college].”
Community Manager Chelsea Martens, who was in Los Angeles during the BOT meeting, insisted on presenting an alternative view of the situation. “The University is watching its ass at the expense of everyone else,” she stated, “[it] needs to figure out how to bow out; but negotiations are still happening.” She also declared being “concerned” at the way the situation was presented to both the community and the media; “the way the information has been presented has just been spun,” she said. Professor of Anthropology Beverly Rogers inquired whether the BOT breeched their agreement with the ACCC about press statements being jointly issued, but Andrzej Bloch refused to comment on the question. He further emphasized that if the announcement had been damaging to the morale of the community, “it would be equally immoral to perpetuate the feeling of unjustified hope.”
Faculty member Hassan Nejad argued that the announcement could have been made in a much more positive manner. “I know you have no control over the BOT the University or the negotiations,” he told Bloch, “but you can say as president of this institution, ‘Even though I’m asked to wind down the college, at the same time I’m working very hard, actually fighting for the survival of the college.’” He also argued that if the University considered transferring the college to the ACCC they should not proceed with winding it down, or even be preoccupied with the state of the curriculum or our chances of survival: “If I buy a house from you” he said “it’s none of your business to tell me I need to fix the bathroom.”
By Jeanne Kay