Collaborative Process: Concept Paper Commentary by Dan Reyes

[From the Editor: On April 1st, 2009, the Concept Paper for an independent Antioch College was released on antiochians.org. Read the concept paper here.]

Continue the Discussion on the Record’s Forum

There’s a lot of irony in this document and its appearance, obviously professionally produced and presented in a fairly polished fashion but ambiguously signed, a collective ‘we’ of an untold number of heads and hands that, by all accounts, speaks a future of Antioch College without involving the trouble of an open discussion in the present with the people who over the last several decades have done the work of continuing the much lauded tradition of exceptional educational outcomes, often in conditions of institutional distress that would have predicted anything but the levels of success Antioch has enjoyed. This document makes its gesture to past successes but looks back much further to supposed greener fields before any of us personally remember, to Mann and Morgan. A substantial number of exceptional young people have gotten their start here much more recently, up, very nearly, to the present and that’s in large part connected to a committed faculty who have resolved to make things happen without remorse about resources lacking.

I’m calling signature of this document ambiguous and a little odd for what it excludes. It’s not the first time we have gotten this feeling reading about Antioch action and policy with surprise. This isn’t a matter of content, although I believe there are matters of content that need to be discussed. It is a question of process, and for the aggrieved faculty of Antioch College to read this report waxing optimistically in a vague future tense about a newly empowered faculty of the college as a future project is where it gets ironic, and it might even be a little funny except we’re all in a very serious and precarious position that doesn’t much lend itself to laughing.

A report about moving forward, if it is going to do justice to the present and especially if it is going to learn from mistakes of the past, benefits immensely from an open dialogue and constructive partnership with the faculty who most understand what has distinguished Antioch even in its hard times; an intellectual and professional partnership that can serve as a basis forward. In this past year in which for the broader American culture so many of the smug ‘wisdoms’ of the market status quo have proven to be puffed-up nonsense, pyramid schemes built only on personal acquisitive ambition rather than any sound sensibility for how we all might better move ahead, Antioch’s values have not been found bankrupt. There has not in recent decades been a time better suited for Antioch values to find a receptive ear, and again consultation and collaboration with the most recent Antioch faculty seems one of the simplest and surest ways to pursue a renewed vitality and an educational plan that arises from the educational offering this new Antioch community would embody.

Of course the document on the table is just a document on the table and not necessarily the last word on what is planned or what might be hoped for. I would though find my confidence better bolstered and much prefer to see a renewed inflection on the newness that gets talked about here brought to practice in the present by favoring fully inclusive process.
Dan Reyes
Community Member,
M.Arch. and Ph.D. in Educational Leadership and Cultural Studies

“This is remarkable,” Op/Ed by Tony Dallas

Having watched Antiochians over the past fifty years, it has been my experience that while Antioch has gotten smaller–as a direct and indirect result of the ’73 Strike, the 25% cuts in faculty the year after (financial desperation has never worked as a recruiting tool), lingering on the edge of bankruptcy and oblivion, presidents who have not been fond of the institution and have tried to change it into something more marketable and mainstream, shrinking resources and departments (we all know the story)–the students who have come out of Antioch over the years (and those now at NonStop) continue to be, more or less, of the same cloth. Folks, this is remarkable. And the reason for this is the faculty, staff and the smart students who saw through the absence of trappings to something genuine that would engage them.
To be an effective teacher at Antioch demands a dedication and malleability on the part of teachers most institutions don’t require.
I am in the midst of a long essay on Antioch. I have interviewed 20 people, each person for about two hours: from students in the 1930s to current students at NonStop, as well as a number of faculty and two presidents. I think this bit of transcript from my interview with English Professor Jean Gregorek more than makes my point.
JEAN: I was teaching 19th Century British Lit. 20th Century British Lit. Post-Colonial Literature. Literary Theory. Contemporary Drama. African Literature and Caribbean Literature. And Detective Fiction.
ME: Boy, that’s a lot.
JEAN: (Laughs.) In my line of work it’s unheard of. I’m a complete anomaly. No one tries to cover that much…A normal English Department at a small school is, you know, six or seven people.
(Actually, after I interviewed Jean, I checked both Oberlin and Kenyon’s Websites: they both have between 15 and twenty instructors in their English departments. Antioch in its last year had two and a half.)
The point I am trying to make is this: these teachers are not only damn good in their fields, they take on an extraordinary amount of extra work because of their devotion to the ideals of Antioch and because they get a charge out of the students (OK, not all of the students: but even the difficult ones, they are there for them). Teachers for Antioch are as self-selecting as the students. And if outside proof were needed to make this point clear, let me direct you to the 2000 and 2001 National Survey of Student Engagement-sponsored by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and the Pew Forum on Undergraduate Learning.
Antioch College ranked number one among 470 institutions in “Level of Academic Challenge” and “Enriching Educational Experiences” and in the top 10% in “Active and Collaborative Learning,” “Student Interactions with Faculty Members,” and “Supportive Campus Environment.” And, according to the Franklin and Marshall study of Baccalaureate Origins of Doctorate Recipients, Antioch College was among the top twenty undergraduate institutions whose graduates went on to earn Ph.D.s.
Loren Pope, in his 1996 addition of Colleges that Change Lives, says of Antioch College: “Antioch is in a class by itself. There is no college or university in the country that makes a more profound difference in a young person’s life, or that creates more effective adults. None of the Ivies, big or little can match Antioch’s ability to produce outstanding thinkers and doers…For decades this yeast of American higher education…has produced higher percentages of future scientists and scholars than any Ivy League university except Princeton.”
Between 1985 and 1990, according to Ph.D. data supplied by the National Science Foundation, in overall Ph.D. output (in all fields) relative to total undergraduate enrollment, Antioch College outranked M.I.T., Harvard, Princeton, Yale, Stanford, Cornell, U. California-Berkeley…and the list goes on.
It is past time we stopped this self-flagellation. The problems of Antioch are not and were not the quality of its faculty. The NonStop faculty and staff is the DNA of Antioch College. And without that DNA what you have is little more than an instruction manual.
Let us not forget the passion and dedication from which NonStop was born. Let us remember were it not for the threat of a lawsuit by the University, Nonstop would have been called what it has always been in reality: Antioch College in Exile. And let us remember the Alumni Reunion of ’07 and how for so many of us it was the assault on the faculty that galvanized us into action. Or as Emeritus Dance Professor Dimi Reber articulated our collective concern in her eloquent letter on behalf of the faculty: “I am writing because current faculty are facing possible layoffs and the elimination of tenure and feel unprotected…Our dignity as faculty is at stake, the definition of what Antioch is and has been is hanging in the balance.”
At this crucial time of transition we must support what is the mind, heart and soul of Antioch College–the staff and faculty of The NonStop Stop Liberal Arts Institute. More than support them, we must celebrate them!
Make your donation now to NonStop to guarantee the future of a vibrant and prosperous Antioch College! (secure.imodules.com/s/1050/qs1_index.aspx?sid=1050&gid=1&pgid=310&cid=809)
Carpe diem!

Tony Dallas

Support Nonstop, by Chad Johnston ’01

Dear alums and supporters,

My name is Chad Johnston and I am an alum of ’01 and a Community Manager of ’01-02. I was a very nontraditional student who always sought out alternatives to conventional education. Antioch was the only college I applied to and I cannot tell you how influential Antioch was to my life and my career.

I was able to go to Nonstop to talk about my current work in media reform, social justice and media policy. I knew from a distance why the committed employees and supporters of Nonstop were so important to the future of the College. However, I did not realize how deep the spirit of these brilliant people ran until I was able to be with them.

I realized in theory how Nonstop was the DNA of the institution, but until I was there to hear and see the students, faculty and staff in action, I did not realize how in practice this was so very true. The people of Nonstop are beyond courageous, and exemplify what an Antioch education means when taking subjects beyond the confines of the academy, and into action. Without this DNA, a new Antioch will be just as those in the University wanted it to be: safe, marketable, and without real value except in respect to the bottom line.

I run a nonprofit and understand on a day to day basis how this economy has effected our ability to do good work. I also understand that when times are tough, it is up to supporters to engage even more. I was speaking with a board member of a foundation the other day. I told them that we were expecting foundations to tighten their belt. He told me, “if there was a time foundations and supporters should be stepping up even more, now is the time and it will happen.”

My nonprofit is small. We have an annual budget of about $170,000 a year. I do not make a ton of money by any stretch of the imagination. However, after seeing Nonstop in person, and after hearing much of the conversations over the last couple of days about them being left in the cold, I have decided that I must do something.

I will contribute $100 a month just to support Nonstop, which is roughly %3 of my salary before taxes. Duffy called me the other day and told me he had given his entire paycheck back to the Revival Fund and Nonstop. If Duffy can make that kind of sacrifice, so can you. If Nonstop employees, who are risking their livelihoods for the sake of saving Antioch College, are giving back part of their paychecks, you can too. By supporting Nonstop, we also send an important message to the “powers that be” that we are in full support of Nonstop being an integral part of the new college, its values and its future. If we can raise millions of dollars for a new College, but not support those who have kept the institution alive and have literally put their ideals and lives on the line, then what have we really done?

I am a change agent and a social justice advocate because of Antioch College, and I need it to survive. We need it to survive. In my opinion, Nonstop is the lifeline to assure that Antioch College, in its new form, carries on the values which have made me who I am, and I’d bet, who you are as well. I am ashamed to die until some victory for humanity is won by my actions. I am committed to living life without dead time. I am a life learner, a risk taker, and an activist who will fight for justice until I have no breath left to give this world. That is because of Antioch College. Those who will come after me as Antioch graduates, will have a history and a new phrase inscribed in their lexicon, and it will be Nonstop.

I call on each one of you to do what you can for those who have stepped up to keep Antioch alive.

Donate by going here: nonstopinstitute.org/support-nonstop/donate/please-donate-today/
When you go to donate, make sure you specify that you want your contribution to go to Nonstop.

Chad A. Johnston – Executive Director
The Peoples Channel 300AC South Elliott Road
Chapel Hill, NC 27514
919.960.0088
www.thepeopleschannel.org

Board Member
The Alliance for Community Media
Washington, DC
www.ourchannels.org

In this Issue:

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Uncertainty, for a change: Nonstop in Limbo

ProTem Board Member of the Week: Atis Folkmanis

Nonsters Return: Students Ready for Round Two

Campus North Opens at Millworks

Newsbriefs from Yellow Springs: The Future of CRF, Risa Grimes on Fundraising, and ProTem Board to visit Nonstop

Meet Your New Cil Representatives

Art and Culture in Mali: “It was Glorious”: an interview with Shea Witzberger

Letter to the Editor

Some Notes on The Reader

Question of the Week

Uncertainty, for a Change: Nonstop in Limbo

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.”

Students’ Prospects

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.”