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.”