ProTem Board Member of the Week: Nancy Crow

Why did you agree to be a Pro Tem Board member?

Well, of course I’m in a somewhat different position from other Pro Tem Board members because I am there ex officio as the president of the Antioch College Alumni Association. And of course, we could go back to 2000 to talk about why I am on the Antioch College Alumni Association. I’ve actually been on the board, the alumni board, since 2000, and was elected first vice-president, served as vice-president for four years, and now in my second two-year term as president of the board. I was on the University Board of Trustees, as an ex officio member, until February 18th when the board was reconstituted as a Board of Governors with individual subordinate boards for the campuses in the Antioch University system. At that point I was off the board because there was no longer a position in the bylaws for Antioch College, and I was able to move onto the Board Pro Tem. I had been meeting with the board Pro Tem, and in person meeting in December in New York as an invited guest, so I’d been very much a part of the process.

So you served on the UBOT, how was that, how did cope with that … over the last two years with the college closing and everything?

It was very challenging, very, very difficult, I think I did a lot of good work both in representing the interests of the college alumni and also in forwarding the interests of the university as a whole. I served on the Governance Committee which reconfigured the governance structure for the University Board of Trustees and to the University Board of Governors, and of course when I started my work on that committee the thought was that we would be able to create a Board of Trustees for Antioch College that would have sufficient authority that it would satisfy the concerns not only of the alumni and um, major donors, but also of potential, you know, high quality presidents for the organization, because it became very clear that one of the reasons why the college has suffered in recent years was because the president of the college didn’t have his or her own board that was paying attention solely to the college, and that’s what’s so exciting now about the Board Pro Tem … once we have the keys to the college, we will have a Board of Trustees that’s solely dedicated to Antioch College, and it will be able to hire quality presidents and quality faculty, and really attract the um, students who are looking at other comparable schools, … the schools in our peer group, although, frankly the schools in our peer group, although they are wonderful colleges, in particular I have to give praise to the Great Lakes Colleges Association, which Antioch College was a founding member, because it has provided such tremendous support and guidance, particularly … the president of the Great Lakes Colleges Association, all of our sister and brother schools within the Great Lakes Colleges Association are wonderful, wonderful places, and each one offers a somewhat different educational experience, and of course, one of the reasons, to go back to your question about why I’m on the Board Pro Tem, is because I believe that Antioch College can offer an experience, an educational experience that students need today and really is not duplicated anywhere else.

So now you’re on both on the Board Pro Tem and on the Antioch College Alumni Association as the president, how do you negotiate these roles?

It’s extraordinarily time consuming, and one of my goals right now is trying to help guide the Alumni Board back towards a more traditional Alumni Association role, now that we do have the Board Pro Tem that will be able to take stewardship in fiduciary responsibility for the College, what has happened, and I know this is a phrase that Jeanne likes to use, is that things have developed kind of organically and very quickly, the creation of a lot of ad-hoc committees, responding [to] the the University’s sudden announcement in June of 2007 that it was going to suspend operations of the College up to the creation of Nonstop is that we moved very, very quickly and we have, as I said last summer at reunion, gone places no alumni association has ever gone before and you know as a result things have been very, very quick to develop and um, not always understandable. We have, in typical Antioch fashion, developed scores of, (it’s probably a score, maybe it’s just dozens) of um, entities that go by many different names, and being Antiochians of course we have acronyms for all of them. … from the UBOG to the UBOTs to the ZBOT to the TAG and um, it’s very confusing and what I’m trying to do right now is trying to create a somewhat more understandable, easier to understand structure that is going to continue to evolve and that’s helping me. And I also think in answer to the two hats I wear question, that it’s very important for the alumni who, after all, are going to be the foundation for the rebuilding of Antioch College, to have a voice among the Board Pro Tem, which should, soon I hope, no longer be the Board Pro Tem, but the Antioch College Board of Trustees.

What is your vision for the new Antioch?

Well, as I was saying, oh was it the last week or the week before, I was speaking to a Chicago alumni group, as I was talking about the Board Pro Tem, I was focusing on right now the Board Pro Tem is looking at what the needs are for a world-class college, our educational needs today and the world yet to come. We want to create inquiring, knowledgeable, flexible human beings who can respond to the rapidly changing world today using the skills that they’ve learned in, of course, the familiar fundamentals of an Antioch education, rigorous classroom, community governance and co-op.

The concept paper, which is of course, in some form up for discussion up on the Internet and there’ve been a number of comments related to it. It is an evolving document but it does represent the ideas that the Board Pro Tem is exploring.

How do you think Nonstop will be integrated into the new Antioch?

That’s a very good question. And I don’t think we know yet. Right now the Alumni Board at its last meeting in March on campus, authorized a task-force which is going to help the folks who have been working on proposals for the future of Nonstop, to refine those proposals for presentation to the Board Pro Tem. What we’re anticipating is that those ideas, recommendations, will be ready for presentation at the time that the definitive agreements are entered into which we’re still looking at, I hope, you know, around April 25th date for the definitive agreements. I don’t know whether there will be any slippage in that, but that’s around the end of the 90 day due diligence period for the definitive agreements. So what I’m anticipating is that the task-force will come up with a series of recommendations. The presentation that we heard in March was excellent, it gave a lot of different ideas, about how people from Nonstop, ideas from Nonstop, … can form the foundation for planning for the future of Antioch College. Exactly how that’s going to happen I don’t know, but of course Nonstop has been the keeper of the flame, and has a lot of wonderful people, and wonderful ideas that will help move the process further, but exactly how they’re going to be integrated really hasn’t been decided yet.

It’s unfortunate that we are ending the fiscal year that the Alumni Board was able to commit to through CRF to Nonstop and we don’t yet have the keys to the College, which means the Board Pro Tem is not yet in position to make any commitment to Nonstop and that’s, there may be a gap, I hope it’s not too much of a gap and I’d rather of course not have a gap at all. I’d like to just have an evolution, but I’m hoping that a lot of the great work that Nonstop has done will evolve into work, and part of that is going to, of course, require us to do some reflection, which is again, very Antiochian, um, and what we’ve learned from Nonstop and the experiences of Nonstop.

What was your major? …

I graduated in 1970, I started Antioch in 1966, at that time Antioch was a five-year program, but by testing out of certain general ed requirements I was able to graduate in four … The men did not avail themselves of that option because … the men were subject to the draft, I wasn’t subject to the draft, and therefore I graduated in four years. My major was in the combined departments of Sociology and Anthropology with a focus on Sociology.

What is the most important thing that Antioch taught you?

Great question. The most important thing, the most important thing that Antioch taught me was to be open to new experiences and to examine those experiences and understand them and learn from them.
What did your Antioch look like, or what is “your Antioch”?

The Antioch of my era? … Well, of course it was a much larger student body than it became in later years, and there were a lot of buildings that are now gone on the now temporarily closed campus. And as a result there were people in my graduating class that I never knew. It was interesting: I came back for my 25th reunion, not having come back to Antioch since I left in 1970, and I left without actually going through graduation … I got my degree [laughs], it’s hanging on my wall, but I didn’t go through graduation. In part because it was a very weird time, it was the time of Kent State, which created a huge disruption in Ohio in particular and all over the world. And I came back 25 years later and the first person I saw from the class of 1970 I looked at, and she looked at me, and we said “I’ve never seen you before in my life!” [laughs] which is kind of funny, is that there were half of us on campus at any one time and half of us were out either on co-op or on AEA, and there were a lot of people on campus, a lot of different areas of interest, a lot of pockets of special interests that, they weren’t called, you know, the Independent Groups at that time, but we had them, including of course a great many very politically oriented groups, this was the time of the Vietnam War, it was still the time of the civil rights movement and there were people on campus who were very, very active in those movements, and it’s interesting, one of the other movements that really was just beginning at that time was the environmental movement which was also a strong focus on campus and the very first Earth Day occurred while I was on campus, I think it was April of ’70, and there were people very, very passionately involved in creating Earth Day and it’s fascinating to see how it’s developed in the 39 years since then.
The classes were compelling and challenging, so much so that when I got to law school which I went to after I took a year break traveling around Europe, were so challenging … when I got to law school I found law school to be pretty easy, it was interesting to run into people who’d gone to other schools who say, “Oh, my gosh, I’m terrified, I’ve never written a twenty-page paper before,” and I think I had to write at least a twenty-page paper for almost every class, except of course in math classes.

Anything else you would like to say about being on the Pro Tem Board or as the president of the Alumni Association?

Well, Antioch’s education made a huge difference in my life, in addition to what I said before, another aspect of my Antioch education was my ability to learn and explore areas outside of my career, like film for example, something that was a big focus at Antioch and that I’ve enjoyed film ever since, the ability of Antioch College to provide people with an education for their entire lives is something which is very, very important and one of the reasons why I believe so passionately in what we are doing to ensure that Antioch College can continue as a residential liberal arts college that prepares people for life and for future leadership.

Blog: Dispatches from the Left Forum, Part II

“A couple of years ago if you had held a panel about banks at the Left Forum at 10 a.m., nobody would have showed up!” The theater of Pace University, however, was full this morning, and I got one of the very last seats. So, the panelists were asked, should we nationalize the banks or not? Yes, they unanimously answered, with slight divergences. The first one proposed using bailout money to create new, accountable financial institutions; he advocated for “creeping socialism” which, although “disappointing” was actually “heroic under current conditions”: creating economic alternatives to Wall Street economy–changing material relations concretely instead of changing the system first. The second speaker advocated for a not only complete but also permanent nationalization of the banks (not the alan greenspan type, which he called not nationalization but “pre-reprivatization”!) in order to get democratic control of finance and credit–he quoted Stiglitz saying that the neoliberal theory of the efficiency of the private sector had been proven false. He stated that Geithner’s plan was worse than Paulson’s, as, while they had the same objective–Geithner’s plan was more “deceptive” as it delays its financing over several years. Both he and the following speaker challenged the notion according to which banks absolutely had to be bailed out to avoid a complete collapse of the economy, and the “too big to fail” argument. Nomi Prins, the next speaker (a lively, loud, boastful, charismatic young woman, standing out in a born-before-WWII all white male academics panel) “Why would you let something become “too big to fail?”” she asked; plus, AIG could have been left to fail: “the system will collapse argument is simply not true.” She also debunked the myth of the bailout money ultimately coming back to taxpayers in the form of loans: “Goldman Sachs has not intention to deal with any of you.” she told the audience. She advocated for a partial nationalization of the banks: nationalizing the commerical banks (everyday consumer transactions) and for letting “the other parts fail”. She very vehemently condemned the current decisions of the Obama administraion: “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results,” she said, “this is doing worse things each time and getting worse results.”
David Harvey was the last to speak, and all of us groupies in the room (who read his “brief history of neoliberalism” and consider it a gateway drug) held out our breath. He started his speech by saying that even though he was very glad to be part of this panel in front of such a large audience today, he wanted to remind us that for the past 30 years, he and the other few scholars who had argued along similar lines had been systematically marginalized, and that there had been a rising depletion of such scholars through the neoliberalization of academia, and, as a result, he said, we are finding ourselves with “a whole Economics profession that is dominated with people who have no idea what the fuck is going on.” Later, he said that he was seeing a rising generation of grad students that were promising but that for years to come academia would suffer from the vacuum created by the “neoliberal takeover of academics.”
Of course, Antioch comes to mind here, as at many other times in the forum, and especially the role it could take in being a leader in this rise of the left in years to come. About 7 or 8 times this weekend I got very excited, started scribbling frantically in my moleskine notebook about how Antioch could be exactly what this speaker is talking about, and how the story of the nonstop struggle and the rehired faculty and staff could be the beginning of a grand project as the renewed bastion of the left, a think tank for a post-neoliberal world. After a few minutes, though, I tend to remember that this does not seem at all like something that the PTB are even thinking about, and I went on to ask myself if there was, at all, any institution that ever held on to its promises.
So, back to David Harvey, who was using his celebrity status to extend his speech way over the time limit. What else? Wall Street controls part of Congress: as long as this is not changed, little hope for mainstream politics. “Bail out the bank and screw the people is the government’s strategy. We didn’t care when it happened in Mexico but now it’s happening to us.” Harvey is also pissed at how we’re misappropriating Keynes in the discourse about the rescue packages, the G20 etc…. when we’re still evidently operatiing in a neoliberal framework. He called for the left to expand its imagination. He talked about demonetarizing parts of the economy, for example, decommodifying housing completely.

Later I went to a panel about the impact of Venezuela on Latin America. (By the way, I don’t know if you saw, but Chavez yesterday gave Obama a copy of Eduardo Galeano’s Open Veins of Latin America, the idea of which makes my stomach jolt a little every time i think about it.) Nothing new at the panel, mostly, and even some party line as the Consul herself was speaking (but not only, professors too so it wasn’t too polished.) the solidarity programs were described in much detailed (ALBA, the Miracle Program, Heating Oil, PetroCaribe, Banco del Sur, etc…), but, most importantly, William Robinson outlined the three current tendencies in Latin American, as a response to the crisis: 1) the radically anticapitalist reponse (Venezuela, Bolivia, and possibly Ecuador), the more moderate, reformist states (Argentina, Chile, Brazil), and the right wing reaction (Columbia, Mexico, Peru.) He argued that Venezuela could very well tip the balance and set the example for moving beyond limited reform, thus influencing his neighboring countries. (Especially if the Banco del Sur is a success–though Brazil is a strong obstacle to it.)

Wearing an Antioch College t-shirt at a leftist symposium is either a fantastic or a terrible idea, depending on your level of sociability of the day. This morning, I was stopped every three feet, more or less, by alumni or sympathizers. An older woman stopped me and said, “Oh I’m from Antioch too. I work with their PhD program. -I’m from the college, I answered, I’m in Yellow Springs -But there’s nothing there, she said, what do you do? -The faculty are still teaching -You mean you’re at McGregor? -No, No, the faculty of Antioch College are still teaching in Yellow Springs. We’re not closed, we’re still fighting. -Oh. We’re still fighting too, good luck.” She hurried off quickly

Blog: Dispatches from the Left Forum, part I

Whenever I go to any leftist gathering, whether it’s an anti-G8 rally, an alter-globalist european symposium or an academic conference, I always feel like running with open arms to every person who crosses my path and shouting “God am I glad to see you!” I usually manage to refrain myself though, but I must say that this time, at the Left Forum, it is particularly hard. First,everybody is evidently in a good mood because of the current wind shift–and quite astonishingly friendly and united–it’s a little bit like Antioch alumni around the the time of the first Business Plan, if you can still picture it. Second, you can tell from the program that we all have a lot in common: panels hold names ranging from Seattle-generation hipster buzzwords (“From the barrio to the barricades: visions for a better world,” “Is another world really possible?”) to more old-fashioned stuff (“Beyond Capital’s Crisis,””Class struggle and the crisis: from workers to capital and back again” and Marx, Marx, Marx.) There’s also some more specific panels about campus activism, foreign policy, economic development, radical media, latin american examples, anarchy, global warming, race and gender, and yes, here and there, Obama.

Since between twenty and thirty 2-hour panels happen simultaneously at every time slot, you can imagine it’s quite difficult to choose. I decided to adopt the Groupie Strategy: my main criteria, then, is to go see the people I know; I have my list of the People-I-Just-Can’t-Miss. This morning, for example, I went to a discussion about Joseph Schwartz’s book “The future of democratic equality: rebuilding social solidarity in a fragmented America” because (drumrolls) Gayatri Spivak was there.( Now, the fact that I usually understand about a third (on good days) of what she writes is in no way a deterrent to my adoration. Students of Isabella’s will understand this feeling, I am sure.) The first speakers summed up Schwartz’s book–one of the main theme being the rebuilding of solidarity–“solidaristic politics”– in the US both as a moral and an intrsumental force. This “solidarity of citizenship” would be expressed in rainbow coalitions in which unity would be found among different groups, while preserving each one’s distinctiveness (Textbook alterglobalism, but okay…) A public philosophy should also be created, it was argued–and this is where Schwartz became controversial for the panel– as he accused post-structuralist thinkers to have given up on influencing public discourse and thus having abandoned the frontlines of the struggle against inequality. Corey Walker, Brown University Professor, critiqued that view by positing that 1) politics of identity were “always already a condition of any politics” (We, the people… who is included in the we? he asked) and that 2) our political imaginations were limited by the “citadels of western thinking”, and the limits of that thinking, sealed too early, needed to be pushed back–and new categories created… an activity of the poststructuralists! There was a visible rift, on the panel, between the two old-school marxists, talking about very concrete measures, and the two poststructuralist advocates, who advocated for placing the political fight on another level–the usual tension between the urgency of the socio-economic situation and what it requires as immediate answers, and the skepticism over an over-used proven-to-fail system–and the seemingly never-ending process questioning it would imply.

Then Spivak finally spoke, and, I must say, I could not repeat word for word what she said, or even weave an argument in a linear way. Not that I wasn’t listening to her every word, but I think even if you were there it wasn’t all linear and coherent. (I think she’s queering the idea of coherence, as Chelsea would say…) She is very elliptic, (if not ADD..) going from one idea to the next quickly– expecting you to get an idea in a sentence and then move on, as in “i’m going to drop an intellectual bomb on your every 5 seconds and then change the subject: deal with it”. She’s definitely one of the most charismatic, lively, interesting, funny speakers I ever saw. So, in about 14 minutes, she talked about: learning Chinese, Education, Criminal Capitalism, High school children, the falling bottom of the global South (“and they’re not in trouble because of poststructuralists you know”), she made fun of Derrida, Stiglitz, Jeffrey Sachs and the french media, she mentioned the system defeating Obama, short-lived mobilizations around crises, European centered masculine humanism, the failure of poststructuralists to pay attention to industrial capitalism, their inability to get tenure so quit accusing them, Communism in Bengal, Union politics, the world social forum, Dubois, Eric Foner, and the intellectual subaltern. Memorable quotes include: “Education–that’s where you build solidarity, that’s where I begin.” “To be equal is not to be the same, we can’t refuse this double bind.” and “Poststructuralists are a blip in the machine. They’re interesting, I like them, but….”
During Questions and Answers, I walked to the microphone shortly after Norman Birnbaum asked his question– and asked about the prospects for solidarity-building education in the current global context of the corporatization of Higher Ed, etc… Spivak said she signed the Antioch petition even though she rarely signs anything, really, and called Marx to the rescue, in a mid-weary, mid-esoteric way. Meanwhile, Colombus-Lawyer-Gerry- Bello-friend Bob Fitrakis had spotted me in the audience and came up to me afterwards to talk about Antioch.

The next panel I went to was much less impressive, I must say. It was called “Secularism and the Radical Imagination,” and I went so that I could make up to Iveta for my post-secularism essay being late by making it cutting-edge. There were, however, very few of us in the little classroom on the third floor of Pace University, to listen to the panel of CUNY Grad Students who gave their talks. The presentation was quite disappointing–content wise, it was really nothing you wouldn’t get in a handout Iveta would give you –secularism as false neutrality/tolerance, in reality very much based on christianity, double standards with islam, etc….Worst than the bland content, the delivery was either terribly boring– or the late-twenty-something grad student was unbearably pretentious, arrogant and, really, not that smart. This kindof thing is always a little reassuring however; former admissions director Angie Glukhov, who is now at University of Dayton always says that Antioch students could wipe the floor with the grad students she admits to UD– it’s quite reassuring (thinking about our uncertain shaky futures, Nonsters…) to know we could do the same with some CUNY grad students. (Sorry Frances Horrowitz…(ps it’s not too late to salvage us..!))

At 3 PM, the classroom for the future of Palestine after Gaza was so full I had to migrate to the end of the hall, to Africa and the Crisis of Global Capitalism. Panelists were editors or journalists for independent media covering African news and devoted most of their presentation to ridiculing the new york times and presenting alternative versions to popular newsstories about Africa. The East Congo conflict, for example, presented as “tribal wars” by the mainstream, is, Milton Allimadi argues, a well-planned project for Western companies to plunder raw materials in the region–and the guerrillas are not guerrillas but hired “corporate finance terrorists.” Another issue: Somali piracy, suddenly on the forefront when it’s nothing new–whereas the toxic dumping of western corporations on somali shores, or illegal fishing in somalian waters are hardly mentioned. Rosalind McLymont told the story of the group of women in one of Uganda’s poorest slums who, when they heard about Hurricane Katrina, broke and sold rocks to raise up to one thousand dollars, and called the american embassy in Uganda to give them the money for the victims. She put this kind of generosity in an asymetric parallel with the “Bono-style notion of aid” manufactured in the west.

What comes after Neoliberalism? was the title of the last pannel of the day, and, even though I was exhausted, I owed it to SANE to attend. First panelist was a member of the Berlin-based Rosa Luxemburg institute. He posited that neoliberalism was “still ruling but not leading anymore” and presented a pretty standard version of the different alternatives we could expect to surge out of the crisis: a public sector new deal, a green deal, the risk of authoritarianism, scandinavian-style Keynesianism etc… To tell the truth, he was not an exciting enough speaker to catch my attention for very long after 7 hours of lecture. But Walden Bello certainly was. He started by emphasizing that the crisis of neoliberalism preceded the financial crisis, that ever since Seattle, the paradigm shift had started to happen and was starting to reach mainstream consciousness–through mass movements but also ruling class intellectuals (Soros Stiglitz Sachs). The financial crisis only confirmed and precipitated the neoliberal crisis of legitimacy. He predicted that the alternative model that was likely to emerge would be a “global social-democrat agenda,” traces of which had already been seen at the G20. The crisis would continue to be blamed on extreme neoliberals, bad apples and some practical mistakes, and everything would be done by states to preserve and salvage the system as a whole. How successful would such a plan be? The methods of the 30s might not be applicable in a society that has, because of thirty years of neoliberal hegemony, lost a lot of the structures needed to implement keynesian reform, and there was always the danger of authoritarianism. Like other speakers, he emphasized that the crisis of neoliberalism was not going to automatically benefit the left. Interestingly, he mentioned Sarkozy as an example of straying towards that kind of authoritarianism: while declaring the end of free-market fundamentalism, the french president was going towards the far right, having co-opted most of the extremist national front electorate (I believe this is far-fetched, though I would love to use that argument against Sarkozy–his anti-immigration, law and order agenda was put in place way before the crisis, it is based on a political discourse that has been circulating in france for years and years, and he certainly hasn’t seemed to tighten his grip recently at all, quite the opposite.)

Walden Bello concluded by calling for a stronger left, that would shift the social-democrat agenda to the center, where it belongs. Other speakers, at the opening plenary and elsewhere, made the same call: when Paul Krugman is depicted as the radical left by the mainstream media, we’ve definitely got a problem. A strong, imaginative, bold, uncensored left should focus on bursting its self-containing bubble to reach the mainstream and build strong public support. A strong civil society is indispensable in a post-neoliberal society.

More tomorrow. It’s really warm in New York.

Nonstop Planning for June Alumni Festival

By Eva Erickson and Carole Braun

Ever since the Alumni Board’s official decision to move Alumni Reunion to October 2-4, from its usual time in June, Nonstop has been planning the Summer Alumni Festival, whose purpose is to both celebrate Nonstop’s accomplishments and to connect or reconnect Alumni with Nonstop. Much of the specifics of the Festival are yet to be determined, but the plan is to have work projects – such as painting a mural on the back wall of Millworks that parallels the bike path – dinners, and social events. The Festival is scheduled for the 18th through the 20th of June with hopes that the Alumni Board (AB) members will attend some of the events, since they will be in town for their summer meeting. The Alumni Festival could potentially sync well with the AB meeting, because it may have less time to spare in hosting visiting alumni. “The Alumni Board has already discussed having a very business-oriented meeting in June,” said Aimee Maruyama (’96), Director of Alumni Relations and Development. AB member Christian Feuerstein ’94 writes, “I would imagine that parts of our annual meeting are going to be Nonstop events, much as we did with our last AB meeting.”

Nancy Crow ’70, AB President, though hopeful that the Alumni Festival may bring more alumni to attend open meetings, is concerned that it may draw potential donors’ attention from the effort to get Antioch College back. “Calling the June event an alumni festival makes it appear as an alternative to the Reunion in October,” said President Crow in a subsequent telephone interview. It’s going to cause a tremendous amount of confusion,” she said. “We all share the same goal–to revive Antioch College–and we need to be strategic in our fund raising.”Crow would prefer to see the June event be framed as a celebration of what Nonstop has accomplished. Nonstop “carried forward the cause of progressive education,” she said.