On Saturday March 7th, the Antioch College Alumni Board reelected President Nancy Crow ’70, and elected Joe Foley ’64 as its new Vice President. Though Foley was not supposed to take office before October, outgoing Vice President/former Acting President of the College Revival Fund (CRF) Ellen Borgersen ’67 immediately resigned from her officer functions; the transition is thus to take place immediately.
According to Tim Klass ’71, Chair of the Nominating Committee, who specified that his empirical assessment was based on a relatively short experience, “it is unusual for an incumbent officer not to be nominated for re-election, assuming the incumbent is eligible and wishes to run.” To Borgersen, the nominating committee’s decision not to bring her name to the floor is equivalent to a vote of no confidence; “I did not see it coming at all,” she confessed.
The incumbent Vice President addressed the Nominating Committee on Saturday morning; “I said that my position on the hard issues facing the Alumni Association were well known and if they didn’t agree with me, they shouldn’t nominate me,” she recalled; “that could have easily been taken as throwing down a gauntlet.” Yet she was surprised by the negative response of the committee; “It surprises me that these views could be controversial because in my view these are our legal obligations, this is what we are required to do; and the full board never got to vote on that… It was the nominating committee that refused to pick up my gauntlet.” When asked if she wanted to be nominated from the floor, she declined, because she “thought it would be harmful to Nonstop and… Antioch to have the debate about those issues at that time.”
Though Borgersen admits that her ousting made her feel “relieved” she raised questions about the circumstances of the decision; “what I taught at Stanford was legal procedure. I am a process freak… and that process was completely ridiculous.” She further stated that she was surprised that no one had told her beforehand that her leadership would be challenged.
Terry Blackhawk ’68 is a member of the Nominating Committee. According to her, “discussions were fair, balanced, and considered all sides of a person’s contributions and involvement with our cause.” “The two persons the committee added for the first time to a ballot in this year’s elections had several things in common,” she stated; “a good sense of humor, depth of experience and respected reputations in higher education, wisdom and the capacity to promote unity.” Susan Opotow ’65, another Nominating Committee member, declined to comment on the subject.
Nominating Committee Chair Tim Klass said he could not assess on the record whether the process was problematic since it “would violate confidentiality because the bylaws leave most details of the process up to the committee.” He emphasized that the “Nominating Committee is one of the larger and more diverse committees of the board in terms of age, ethnicity, financial circumstances and geographic distribution. We have 11 members, including me as chair, from graduating classes ranging from 1952 to 2000.” The voting members who took part in the decisions were Terry Blackhawk ’68, Susan Opotow ’65, Wayne Snively ’63, Don Wallace ’60, Tim Eubanks ’00, Emily Kirby ’52, Greg Williams ’95, Mike Brower ’55 and Ed Goldson ’62. “Generally, I can say from experience on this and three other boards…that no nomination and election system is perfect,” wrote Klass, “it’s also no secret that the elections were held against a backdrop of tensions over a number of issues facing the board going into the weekend.”
Regardless of her qualms about the process by which she was ousted, Borgersen emphasized that “the result [of the election] is really right … I’ve become a lightning rod, I’m too close to some of the issues, I’m burnt out. And the next couple of months are going to be really hard no matter what happens. Joe Foley is coming in with fresh eyes and fresh ears and a whole lot more experience in Higher Ed management than I have. He’s the right person for the job.”
CRF Executive Director Risa Grimes is confident about the swift nature of the transition; “I think it’s gonna go really well,” she said, “they’ve already met and they’re both very pragmatic human beings with lots of life experience and so as much as we’ll miss Ellen we’ll welcome Joe.” When asked whether Nancy Crow would take one the responsibility of the CRF single-handedly or defer to Joe, Grimes answered: “I think Joe and Nancy will figure that out. Nancy will probably be really grateful to have some help but they’ll probably talk over what he can handle what she can handle but I don’t think they made that decision yet.”
Joe Foley met with Ellen Borgersen and Risa Grimes in Yellow Springs on Wednesday, March 11th. He stated he was “looking forward to the challenges [of his] new role in continuing to work to establish a college that is truly independent and is truly Antioch.” Meanwhile, Borgersen is considering staying on the ground for the next critical months. “I was not an officer of the Alumni Board when I started coming to Yellow Springs,” she said, “not being Vice President has nothing to do with what I’m gonna do going forward. What’s gonna influence that is whether I think I can be productive and helpful. My commitment is to the revival of Antioch College… It’s going to be a very difficult couple of months and there’s a lot hell of a lot of work to do, and if I can be productive and useful in Yellow Springs, that’s where I’ll be.”