By Jeanne Kay
“A sense of deja vu” is how Lincoln Alpern, Nonstop returning student and Antioch class of 2011, describes the uncertainty regarding the future of his education in Yellow Springs. After the publication of the Letter of Intent (LOI) paved the way for the reopening of an independent college, many questions remain about the near future of the former Antioch faculty, staff and students.
The Nonstop Liberal Arts Institute (NLAI), a project of the College Revival Fund (CRF) to keep the DNA of Antioch alive until the college reopens as an independent institution, is guaranteed funding until June 30th, 2009. According to CRF Acting President Ellen Borgersen, the decision to provide funding past this date will be taken at the March 6th/7th Alumni Board meeting, but she specified that this could change; “It’s really gonna come down to the money,” Borgersen emphasized, “Raising money for Nonstop outside of Yellow Springs has been difficult.”
Meanwhile, the Nonstop community remains in a precarious situation. Borgersen enjoined faculty and staff to get a plan B: “I am not in a position to ask anyone to delay doing what they need to do to protect their careers, their families, their livelihoods;” she said, “I deeply regret that that’s the case but ethically, I couldn’t possibly ask people to make decisions about their lives based on the assumption that we’re going to be continue Nonstop.”
Staff and Faculty in Limbo
Beverly Rodgers was a member of the Co-op faculty at Antioch before she became Associate Professor of Anthropology in 2004. She now teaches at Nonstop but knows that after June 30th, her salary will no longer be guaranteed: “I’ve been applying for positions since the announcement and continue to do so;” she said; “I have to do that because I can’t live on 319 dollars a week-that would be my unemployment. We [she and her husband] have decided that by the 1st of April we’ll have to decide whether or not to put our house on the market … I know what our insurance would be and I know that we can’t afford it.”
Nevin Mercede taught Visual Arts for ten years at Antioch College before she joined the Nonstop faculty because she believed that “that the college was closed inappropriately,” as well as “in Antioch: its values and its mission.” She thus “wanted to make it continue in any way that [she] could.” She is also preparing for the worst case scenario, with limited optimism: “I’m looking at things because you have to, just like students have to … but the market is exceedingly difficult especially for people who’ve reached the ripe age I’ve reached and especially in the field that I’m in.”
Nonstop staff too are worried about their job security; yet, as Registrar Donna Evans pointed out, “A lot of the people in the United States today are all in that situation, so I guess I’m not any different than anybody else – not knowing whether or not their jobs will be present in six months time.” Evans worked in the Registrar’s office at Antioch College for 18 years and became Head Registrar in 2004. She finds Nonstop “a little less organized but honestly not that much different” from the college. “I’m looking at the paper, looking at job advertisements;” she said, “I would love to be able to find another job or know that I have some place to go come July 1st. I can’t go without insurance … I am hoping that I’ll have a future with the new Antioch College.”
As to students, feelings and prospects vary greatly. Lincoln Alpern has made no plans to transfer: “I’m expecting that there’ll either be Antioch or Nonstop continuously assuming the negotiations for the college go through,” he said, “I feel like we’re going to keep going, and that things are going to be alright.” Caroline Czabala, class of ‘11, will be attending Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado if things fall through after June. She says Nonstop taught her to speak her mind, and most importantly to keep going: “Wherever I go I’ll be like: going to Nonstop was really crazy, this is so much easier!”
A variety of options are available to students after this term. “Since the number of students isn’t so large we can find out if there are other schools people are interested in applying to … and help them with that process-including … ways to get their credit equivalents accredited at another place” explained Coordinator of Student Services Joyce Morrissey. Ellen Borgersen suggested that students get “the basics of a liberal arts education” at surrounding colleges while maintaining a program in Yellow Springs “that supports community” until the college reopens in 2010. Executive Collective members Susan Eklund-Leen and Hassan Rahmanian are hoping that students will go to co-op in the summer and come back for a fall term in Yellow Springs.
Nonstop and the new Antioch: Collision or Integration?
As well as the personal stakes involved in the future of Nonstop, institutional questions stem from the possibility that the heritage of Antioch could be further dilapidated if a hiatus between Nonstop and the new college were to break down the community. Chelsea Martens, Class of 2008 and Community Manager from 2007 to present, strongly opposes such a separation: “I think the question that has to be answered is: what is Antioch college? And Antioch College, as of 2008, is the current faculty staff and students and that is what Nonstop is a home to.”
To Martens, keeping Nonstop alive until the college reopens would also be a strategic move on the part of the ProTem Board: “I don’t see how a curriculum could be developed, administrative systems developed, and culture continued if the current faculty staff and students do not have a place now to develop these things;” she said; she further suggested that all Nonstop staff faculty should be hired on, and the project funded until the transition; “I don’t see how you could recruit 150 students without them seeing classroom activity, student culture, and community be enacted.”
Nic Viox, a 1st year Nonstop student -and new ComCil chair- who has been helping to build the Nonstop Headquarters at Campus North, believes that there is hope for Nonstop to garner enough alumni support to continue until Antioch reopens: “I know that there’s a lot of people who are willing to fight for it; from what I understand on ACAN a lot of alumni are behind Nonstop, and a lot of Alumni Board members are behind Nonstop; so I hope that it will continue.”
Faculty involvement with the new college
After the publication of an online article by Charlotte Allen in which Lee Morgan was quoted saying that the former Antioch faculty were “not going to set the curriculum” for the college, questions arose about the extent to which faculty would be participating in the recreation of Antioch. Professor Nevin Mercede believes that “the board ProTem and others would benefit by bringing [the faculty] into the conversation.” “We’ve proved ourselves flexible enough, having had 4 curricula in five years,” she argued; “We don’t insist that whatever gets created there be what we created in the past but rather we’d like to bring the things that we found successful from the past and offer them as a possibility for the future and have that be part of a discussion.”
A “Transition Council” (TransCil) that would be advisory to the ProTem Board will be formed in the upcoming weeks, Matthew Derr announced at the January 27th Nonstop Community Meeting. ExColl member Susan Eklund-Leen recalls that “the promise was made that former Antioch faculty would have some involvement with the transition council.”
“Something called Nonstop doesn’t have an end-that’s in the name”-Gerry Bello.
The future of Nonstop will be clearer after the Alumni Board meeting of the first weekend of March, and even more so at the end of the 90 day period leading to the Definitive Agreement. Despite the existential uncertainty, Nonstop continues on its course and has set out for a term of classes, community and Nonstop Presents events. “The best thing that we can do this term is do this term the best we can” summed up Community Manager Chelsea Martens. Nonstop is not simply a bridge, it is also an educational institution with tremendous intrinsic value, according to CRF President Ellen Borgersen, who declared: “I think that the students who have taken the step of coming to Nonstop are some of the most courageous committed and intellectually serious students I’ve ever met. It’s a phenomenal group. The Antioch faculty is phenomenal, and the entire community, including the staff, have created a miracle here. I’m very much hoping that we can find ways to carry that forward to the new college. It’s a terrific foundation on which to build a revitalized Antioch College.”
By Eva Erickson
It’s the beginning of round two for the Nonstop Liberal Arts Institute, and the Nonsters are back and ready to fight. They come in all different shapes, sizes, and styles including self-proclaimed: smelly nonster (1st year Rose Pelzl ), hermit nonster (2nd year Stacy Wood-Burgess), awkward, yet joyous nonster (2nd year Ashley McNeely), an artsy-fartsy/party nonster (3rd year Shea Witzberger), and even a stick-to-your-ribs nonster (8th year Jonny No). Team Nonster has lost a few teammates since last semester, but has gained many former Antioch students and returnees from Antioch Education Abroad in Europe and Mali, and even a few fresh faces.
Katie Connolly, one of about three totally new students to Nonstop, came here from Chicago after attending three years at Northeastern, and decided she wanted to be in a smaller college with a stronger sense of community and more personal connection between the faculty and students. She’s also interested in learning how to make documentaries and couldn’t pass up the opportunity to make one with Anne Bohlen in the “Toxic Tours” co-op. She learned about Antioch through her older sister, Kelly Connolly, who graduated in 2003 and is currently involved with the Chicago Alumni chapter. She also wants to learn the history of Antioch College’s transformation to Nonstop.
Other students, like Shea Witzberger, have returned from their study abroad semester, hers in particular was in Mali, West Africa (for more detail see [Dennie Eagleson’s interview]). Before she arrived at Nonstop, she was keeping in touch with some of her Antioch friends, so she had a pretty good idea about what Nonstop would be like, but “I was impressed when I got here by how lively and impassioned people are. And also, I was impressed by the breadth of classes available. I was not expecting there to be so many.”
There were in fact, about 60 classes originally offered, but many were cancelled due to lack of attendance. Of the classes still remaining, some of the popular ones include: Queer Animals (using Queer Theory to explore the limit between humans and animals), Introduction to Post-Structural Thought (Philosophy), New Continental Feminist Theory, and Palestine in Fiction and on the Ground.
Ashley McNeely, a math and post-structuralism major, is looking forward to Queer Animals in particular “because I’ve always been interested in how our culture views animals … and how I can change that.” Although there are no math classes currently available, Ashley’s relationship with Antioch is decidedly monogamous. “We’re married,” she says frankly. The reason for this is that no other institution would accept her as she is like Antioch does; both Antioch College and Nonstop are almost universally accepting and supportive of queer people. When asked if she’ll stay at Nonstop or in Yellow Springs, she replied, “If there’s work to be done, I’m here.” Otherwise, she’ll “probably go somewhere else, have a horrible semester, and then come back.”
By Rose Pelzl
Atis Folkmanis, ’62, and his wife Judy, ’63, are best known for their puppet pioneering, but did you know that Atis is also one of our Pro Tem Board trustees? In a telephone interview with the Record, Atis reflected on his time at Antioch, and laid out his vision for the future college.
Why did you agree to become a Pro Tem Board member?
Well, originally, before Pro Tem, I gave them a million dollars because, believe it or not, Antioch College brought my family from a refugee camp in Germany in 1949, and of course that’s changed our lives. I went to Antioch and grew up in Yellow Springs. (…) Given the situation I felt there wasn’t anything else I could do but do what I did, given that I had resources. This event was so important in determining the course of my life. If I hadn’t ended up in Xenia, Ohio, and Yellow Springs I would be a different person, you know? Growing up in Yellow Spring, given my background, was a good place.
What’s your vision for the new Antioch?
The vision we have is the vision we used to have. That is when I was going to school in the 60’s. I mean, what we’re planning is not exactly the same, still many of the same teachers. There’s plans to retain the co-op program and over-seas study and so a lot of this is the way Antioch used to be. And I went to school with Mario Capecchi, who won the Nobel Prize, you know. I went to school with Stephen Jay Gould, who was just a great paleontologist. Believe it or not, [Antioch is] still 19th in the total number of students who became PhDs. Given that we’re a small school we produced a tremendous number of very, very good students. And I think we’re going to get the same type of students.
I think people want this type of slightly different place, interactions among your friends, fellow students are very important, and the coop plan and all these. The concept, the most important part of going to college is learning how to think, and Antioch knows how to do that. Clearly there’s the impetus that it will continue to be. So I am very excited about this new thing, and I think its going to work.
How do you think Nonstop will be integrated into the new Antioch?
[Folkmanis declined to comment on the issue.]
When do you think the new Antioch will reopen?
Well, I think the tentative schedule right now is 2010, and given the current economic situation I think that would be the earliest we could do it. And I think it’ll happen.
What was your major?
I was a chemistry major, and then I went on to get a PhD in Biochemistry.
What was your favorite Co-op?
I was in the sciences so, even now probably the people who are on co-op in the sciences get paid a fair amount of money, and actually I could send myself through college because I had such good jobs. I had a job with a research firm in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and that was probably the most interesting. (…) Living in Boston was wonderful, and it was a very significant job. And I was fairly independent in what I could do and that kind of thing.
What was the most significant thing Antioch taught you?
Self sufficiency. You know, I’m fully convinced that if we had not gone to Antioch we would not have gone to the Peace Corp which we did after Antioch, and we would not have started our business. Because I think Antioch imbued this sense, from our experiences, that we can do things. You think that even though you’ve never done it before you can figure it out. That’s how we felt about the business.
Could you tell me a little more about your business and how it got started?
(…) I don’t know if you’ve ever been to Berkeley, but there’s this street called Telegraph Avenue and people sell their wares, people would make various things, jewelry in particular. My wife started making these Sesame Street-type puppets and started selling them on Telegraph. And in the course of doing that she started getting into realistic looking wildlife animals, and no one had ever done that. They look like the real thing from twenty paces! It was just such a good idea that it couldn’t fail. So that was 32 years ago.
(…) I think the Antioch experience was what [gave us] enough courage and so on to start a company. My feeling is that the Peace Corp background and the Antioch background were very important in that kind of decision.
Thank you so much for being one of our Pro Tem Board members.
I’m very honored to be such. Unfortunately right now things have to be done behind closed doors, and we’re not able to provide all the details. We’re very excited, and there are people involved, specifically Lee Morgan and Matthew Derr, that have been just fantastic, and they’ve been certainly a driving force for the steps forward.
Folkmanis Inc. Wildlife Puppets are for sale at the Glen Helen Nature Center.
By Carole Braun
Nonstop has moved to a space as innovative and arty as the Institute’s aspirations. Its new location in Millworks, 305 North Walnut Street, hosts its official open house on Friday evening, Feb. 6. The new Nonstop space is a work of art and a showcase for renovation with recycled and energy-efficient resources. In contrast to Nonstop’s previous location in a small house on Davis Street, the space provides extra room for staff and more options for students.
The transformation of the site from a plastics factory into the new home of the Nonstop Liberal Arts Institute will be completed by February 6, except for the construction of some rolling walls, according to Michael Casselli (1987). Casselli, whose own space is around the corner at Millworks, designed the renovation and is project supervisor.
The inclusiveness of the project was important, said Casselli. Townspeople, faculty, students and alums have worked on the space daily since fall to prepare for the opening. And since Nonstop moved here in December the construction and administrative staff have worked side by side.
The Nonstop space includes a main space, an atrium, a CG balcony, a library, a kitchen and an office area. The main plan was to create a space that is “open– but not totally open—to share heat and light,” said Casselli. Even the heat from the server is siphoned off and recycled into the office area. A Nonstop science class this term will be developing measurement sensors and controls to help balance heating needs in the entire space.
Almost all of the space has been renovated with recycled materials. “Everything but the lighting fixtures,” Casselli said. “The old ones weren’t efficient.” Small skylights called sola tubes dot the ceilings. Domed solar collectors on the roof reflect light through a tube into diffusers above offices. On a sunny day sola tubes reduce the need to turn on lights in areas where there are few windows. Another innovation is layering translucent polycarbonate over existing windows to help heat interiors. The polycarbonate not only insulates, it generates heat from sunlight.
The library, with glowing yellow walls lined with shelves, will have two matching work stations. Casselli wants the space to be “visually balanced so it’s not distracting. It helps with work.” The library will also include matching planters made from recycled material and filled with greenery. A kiosk for email will sit in the corner of the space.
The main space also will feature a kitchen, rolling worktables for student art projects and presentations, a projection area for large groups, and a geodesic dome on wheels for meetings. Manufactured by Antioch alum Bruce Lebel as an emergency shelter, the dome will be used for Comcil, Excil and other meetings. The dome will hold 25 chairs which by necessity will be arranged in a circle.
Overlooking the main space is the balcony CG Office. Community Managers Meghan Pergrem and Chelsea Martens are decorating the space to make it familiar, cozy and welcoming for students. The furniture is arranged reminiscent of the furniture in the old campus CG office. Photographs of Birch and North hang where the windows looked out on similar campus views.
At the end of community meeting last week, members sponged their hands with paint and autographed their handprints on the CG balcony. The area is ringed with chalkboards for community art and graffiti. There is a rooftop smoker’s lounge, a dumbwaiter for delivering items upstairs and space for a future student media workstation. And students are hanging out already, said Nic Viox, first-year student.
“The CG space is awesome,” he said. “And it will be more cozy and homelike once we get more furniture in it.” In addition to being a student, Nic is a member of the construction crew. He’s currently working on completing the main space bench and the roof of the atrium.