April 27th 2009 Interview with Matthew Derr

My first question is… how are you doing ?

I’m doing well. This has been a very busy period in a very busy year. And I’ve been spending most of my time doing fundraising, travelling, getting ourselves in order in that way.

The task force met on Sunday in NY, with Toni and Art; how would you describe the atmosphere of the meeting?

Very positive, very focused on the specific steps that we have to take to make this separation happen and to prepare… both boards for making a really monumentous and important decision.

The press release talks about June 30th as the latest possible date for the resolution, do you anticipate and earlier resolution?

I think the hope is that it would be earlier. The date of the 30th relates to the hopeful transfer of the college, so that’s the conclusion that we’ve all hoped for and worked for hoped for in these past two years-that the college would ultimately be independent and that’s the date that’s critical to that. So if the definitive agreements come about sooner that’s what we’d like to see happen. Going beyond that date becomes problematic for everyone.

When will the ACCC get its 501(c)3?

Well, we’re all filed and it’s really in the hands of the Internal Revenue Service but we sought as much help as we can in moving that process along so I don’t know the answer to that but we hope very quickly.

Any vague estimate?

Not really, no.

Why was there such an imperative to create a non-successor corporation?

I don’t know what there is and it’s an area where there’s been a lot of conjecture and a lot of talk and the Board Pro Tem is in the process of understanding the whole scope of decisions around whatever kind of entity the college becomes as a separate 501(c)3, so I don’t think there’s an answer to that question yet.

In a previous interview Lee Morgan said “we’ve been trying very hard not to be a successor corporation…”

I think there are elements of that that have to do with the physical plant, that have to do with all sorts of things. I think that he has a view of it that he’s developed and we’re trying to get more information and get the whole board up to speed and get Lee up to speed on all of that but we haven’t got through that process yet. And it’s a tricky area because it doesn’t involve just one concern, it involves the way in which the separation happens with the university and what happens with endowments and records and obviously future/past staffing and facilities and what’s in the facilities…it’s not an easy question to answer I think it’s interwoven with all of the other decisions, so I’ll let Lee speak for himself but that’s my perception.

In the worst case scenario-I mean second to worst case scenario-the agreement would be reached on June 30th; that would be the end of the faculty and staff contracts for Nonstop. Is the board planning to take steps to communicate prospects to faculty and staff?

First, the two things are unrelated, June 30th has to do with the end of the fiscal year, and frankly it has to do with really needing to have a deadline here for the transfer and I think people should really read the press release carefully because the earliest possible time phrase has everything to do with working to complete the definitive agreements so that the two boards can really make decisions about the separation in time for the transfer at the end of the month. […] It’s not my sense that any statement is about to be made. I think the board has been informed by Nancy Crow who’s also a board member that the task force is doing its work and that a report will be produced, but beyond that I think the relationship between the two things is not fully developed at this point.

Is the board aware of the ACAN petition in support of Nonstop?

It is.

Do you think the petition demands are reasonable?

It’s a long list of demands; I think there are elements of it that I think everybody can understand are maybe hard for the Board Pro Tem to read. I think they’re trying to behave as responsibly as they can and as thoughtfully as they can and I think these are extraordinarily difficult circumstances.

Will the Board Pro Tem respond to the petition in any manner?

As I understand it, it was written to an alumni audience and Nancy Crow shared it with the Board ProTem as a whole. I guess I understand the nature of the petition is that at some point it will be shared directly with the Board Pro Tem, so there is no immediate plan to respond -or to whom a response should be written.

When and where will the BPT meet next?

There are a number of options on that, I’m just going to say that right now we have a plan to meet and really hear from some of the expert counsel and legal team around the definitive agreements, but at this point that’s all that’s established.

In the accreditation report it was stated that the ACCC looked into accreditation really early in its deliberations, why is the report coming out so late?

It wasn’t intended to come out, it was a request that the Transition Advisory Group made with me here in Yellow Springs a couple of weeks ago. We thought that it might be helpful for people to understand what we’ve learned thus far. It’s not a fixed document, it’s not a finished document; it just represents what the board has learned until this point. Further work is going to be done and obviously the circumstances around the separation of the college and the timing have a lot to do with what accreditation will look like. We’re obviously interested in getting the place in the kind of condition that it should to be a college and to be able to make the decisions that lead to accreditation as quickly as possible so we’re looking for the fastest route that we can sustain.

So the board is ready to consider other alternatives than the timeline that’s outlined in the report?

The timeline that’s outlined is essentially what we’ve learned to date and we’re continuing to do more research on accreditation.

Who authored the report?

Frances Horowitz is the board member who’s had the most to do with accreditation and it’s pulled from a lot of different communications. I think there’s a number of pens involved but I think that Frances is the person that’s the most knowledgeable on the board.

The report was the first place where the phrase “small cadre of faculty” was used, even though there were implications before that only a core of a few faculty would remain it’s the first time we’re seeing it in writing, even though it had been said that these discussions hadn’t happened yet. So they have happened to a certain extent?

I don’t think there’s a contradiction there because small is a vague concept; I think we’ve talked very openly about student-faculty ratio and an entering class that is small at the beginning, in part because we want to make sure that the resources are there for the faculty and students and the funding to support it is there so the small cadre comment is being taken out of context a little bit if it’s not seen in the same vain as the other comments that have been made. It will be a small college to begin with, I think everybody knows that , so it’s not a surprise to read a reference to a small faculty.

Did you get the reversion clause revised in the definitive agreement?

It’s not a difficult question to answer in the sense of confidentiality but what I’d say is that the board–the university board of governors and the task force and the board pro tem seem to all be on the same page as far as the questions that involve reversion: that the university be protected and be able to exercise its fiduciary responsibility and that the college be free and independent. One critical issue that’s been talked about is the capacity of the college to go out and finance building projects or really anything that the future president and board would like to finance, if there are reversion clauses that cause that to not be possible that’s not acceptable and the university understands that and said that they support that concept.

What will be the main challenges of the next couple of months according to you?

If I knew it, I’d know exactly what to do! I think this is a very stressful moment, particularly for the Nonstop Community. There’s so much that’s unknown, and yet there’s that timeline and deadline that seem to be looming; people are gonna be making very difficult decisions, and Pro Tem Board is going to be in the position of trying to figure out whether the financial support and the demands for the revival of the college meet up. And I’m optimistic and positive that they will but it’s going to be overly demanding next months.

Are you optimistic?

I am. Very. I believe that the college is too important and too critical in Higher Education to fail. And I marry that to the opportunity to really create something that is exciting and returns the college to its place as a bully-pulpit in Higher Education. So, I’m optimistic in part because I think philosophically there’s a need for Antioch and practically and pragmatically I’m optimistic because I see the level of support that’s out there, I see people extending themselves in ways to save the college and to reinvent the college that are moving. I’m also optimistic about the process with the University, which is the embedded question there. Nothing has happened in the task force work that leads me to feel that we’re not gonna come up with an agreement.

Where are you going next?

I’m here in Yellow Springs for two days, and then off to fundraising.


All over the place.

Thank you for your time.