Letter from Elizabeth Collier

Dear President Lawry,

As a third year transfer I have not had the same experience with “old� Antioch but I know what has impressed me about this place for the last 6 years and what disturbs me about these changes. Personally I feel a sense of betrayal. Admissions compiles a group of students who are independent and looking to change the world, regardless of what political leanings they may have. The school has always been rightly advertised as a place that is different – not just academically but socially. It seems now that group is assembled and our voices are quieted in order to make the school more appealing to the general population. It seems that our talent, energy and idealism is stifled and that we are not trusted enough to guide the direction of our education. The self-designed curriculum is present, yes, but a college education is more than that. We grow and learn to “shape our surroundings,� to quote the current website.

My roommate brought to my attention that so much of this process has been marked with what is wrong with the school and how the culture is driving people away. Why isn’t the focus on what brings people to Antioch rather than reinventing a long respected process? Bastardizing the school to attract the masses is not the way to bring glory to Antioch. Great schools are not recognized because they have huge numbers attending, they are respected because of the quality of the education and the opportunities available to students.

Despite how idealistic I may sound I understand that schools are in fact businesses. I understand that to continue running and offer those opportunities that bring respect that school must be properly funded. However I believe that in the long run more value will come from being a place of continued principle. Students will be attracted to a school that recognizes their competence and alumni will be more likely to feel a connection to (and donate to) the school that continues to use the methods and values they learned from.

Finally, it seems to me that imposing your will upon a culture that is so thoroughly resistant is an unnecessary waste of energy. Perhaps you believe that future students will expect less involvement in their government so this conflict will be short lived. Why exactly are you so publicly defiant of these long held beliefs? Any business, Antioch included, must answer to those who pay the bills, or risk irrelevance.

Elizabeth Collier

Letter To The Editor – 10/11/06

To The Editor:

We are new members of what one might term the “extended community� at Antioch. As family members of an Antioch student we have had the opportunity to visit campus a few times, meet a number of students, and read several issues of The Record. We have had the chance to meet some members of the faculty and administration, as well.
It is our hope that, as a “Boot Camp for the Revolution�, Antioch is a place where all assumptions are questioned, the voiceless are heard, and where those who will bring change to society are encouraged to observe, evaluate, and act. Indeed, the legacy of Antioch is one of promoting justice, peace, and a better world. Unfortunately, some of what we have read in this paper and experienced during recent campus visits is, rather than demonstrating openness, promoting a culture of insularity and mistrust of anything or anyone new or from the outside.
We have observed that there is a lot of introspection at Antioch, perhaps too much. It seems that a large number of community members are so engrossed in arguing about “Antioch values� that the school itself seems to be an end, rather than a means, to impacting and changing society. To wit: there was little or nothing that we could see on bulletin boards, in the school paper, posted on walls that speaks to issues outside of your small world on campus. Here are the three main messages we’ve been able to glean from these sources: 1.This is a place where there is tolerance and openness to all expressions of human gender and sexuality. 2. Safe, consensual sex is a value and right for all community members. 3. There is mistrust of those trying to bring about change at Antioch. This is frequently expressed by insults and name-calling.
Meanwhile, in the world beyond Antioch College, discrimination rages, the poor are getting poorer, civil rights are eroding, and those in power seek to rule via fear and suspicion. If Antioch is really the “Boot Camp for the Revolution�, we wonder why the major issue at hand seems to be a single-focused obsession with “the idea of Antioch�. Truth be told, we are not certain what is meant by that expression. We have noticed, however, that in spite of a seeming openness to ‘otherness’ and diversity at Antioch, there is instead intolerance and a willingness (on a shocking level) to engage in name-calling and profanity when describing those with whom one disagrees. There seems to us to be little or no ground for respectful discourse at Antioch.

There is much about Antioch that we admire. The idea of a liberal arts college that encourages independent thinking and then equips students to engage the world in a way that fosters justice and peace is something we support. Unfortunately, at least at this time, Antioch seems too self-obsessed to be able to engage in a respectful dialogue among even its own community members, much less the world.
Scott Leannah and Gina Kuemmel

Protest and Oppose Censorship of the Record

Protest and Oppose Censorship of the Record

To the Antioch Community:

As adjunct faculty serving as a mentor to students on the Antioch Record staff, I protest and oppose the Lawry administration’s censorship of the Record. I am advising the students to resist all censorship and intimidation.. And I urge members of the Antioch community to support the Record in affirmation of freedom of speech.

Censorship is — of course — grossly unacceptable. It is unethical and immoral. Censorship, or any infringement of people’s rights of free discussion, free expression and free inquiry, violates the most basic values of democracy and community, not to mention liberal arts education.

That students at Antioch College are denied free speech is shocking and absurd.

Censorship of the Record began with its September 22 issue. In a letter to the faculty dated September 20, college president Steve Lawry announced that the dean of faculty, Andrzej Bloch, had been empowered to censor the Record, and that a new board would soon be appointed to “take overall responsibility for the Record.�

In an attempt to justify its censorship of the Record, the administration has made false and inflammatory statements. A letter sent September 18 to faculty and staff, signed by three administrators (Lawry, Bloch, and Rick Jurasek), characterized a feature in the Record (“Question of the Week�) that was clearly satirical — and clearly protected by the First Amendment’s guarantee of freedom of speech — as “a crime� that put the Record in “high-risk legal territory.�

This is not true. As a newspaper editor and publisher for 33 years, I can assure the community there is no way that the Record, or any other newspaper in America, would be at legal risk for printing this material. (Record staff confirmed this in a consultation with the Student Press Law Center in Washington, D.C.)

Not true, also, is the charge made by Lawry, in his September 20 letter, that the Record’s “generally poor editorial judgments� and “the persistent presence of anti-social and aggressive speech and prolific use of obscenitites� in the Record “systematically degrade and dishonor� Antioch College.

It is not the Record, but the administration’s censorship of the Record — its denial of basic rights of freedom of speech to members of the Antioch community — that degrades and dishonors Antioch College.

The Record is an essential part of the Antioch community. It is rooted in the values of the community, and it speaks in the voice — or the many voices — of the community. It’s a good newspaper. Despite deep cuts in the Record’s funding, the editors have assembled a large staff of talented, enthusiastic, hard-working students. They have provided the community with a diverse mix of interesting, lively, well-written news and opinion.

Last week’s “retro� issue of the Record, full of articles and pictures the staff selected from Records published down through the years, brilliantly illuminated Antioch’s long and passionate commitment to the struggle for human rights, social justice, and freedom of expression. And fun — the Record brightly illuminated Antioch’s bold, free spirit.

The Record, far from dishonoring Antioch College, honors Antioch in the most essential, meaningful way — by expressing, and embodying, Antioch’s spirit. At the heart of Antioch is the free spirit of Antioch, and all attempts to suppress it must be opposed.


— Don Wallis

Letter from Daniel E. Solis ‘06

An Open Letter to President Steve Lawry
October 5, 2006

Dear President Lawry,

It is with the heaviest of hearts that I write this letter to you. As a proud alum of Antioch College, I am deeply disturbed by the emerging direction of your presidency. You have taken actions that not only violate the most cherished of Antiochian values and traditions; but also move against the fundamental mission of the College – education.

Given that your actions affect not only the on-campus community, but also everyone who has sweated, cried, and sacrificed for Antioch in its long history, I felt it appropriate to address this letter to you in a very public way. I understand that this will be taken by you as an act of confrontation, for indeed it is. When people in power commit gross violations of the power they have been entrusted with; ethical people have no choice but to be confrontational. That is why I write to you now in the form of an open letter.

In your rather short time as an Antiochian, you have single-handedly chosen to impose a top-down cultural shift at the College. You find a pessimistic “Culture of Confrontationâ€? to be undermining Antioch, and have decided – with minimal input from all sectors of the community- that this culture must be eradicated for the College to grow and be successful.

You have seriously attacked the intellectual freedom of faculty and staff through seemingly arbitrary dismissals or forced “voluntary retirements.�

You have attacked the community’s free press, The Record, by legalistic manipulations and the imposition of an Editorial Board controlled by you. This has very serious implications in an academic community that depends on open and unfettered deliberations.

You have unilaterally moved vast extents of decisions traditionally made collaboratively through the legitimated bodies of the Antioch community, into the hands of a small cadre of relatively new high administrators. Through these actions, you have eviscerated both Administrative Council (AdCil) and Community Council (ComCil).

Most tragically of all, you have birthed a culture of fear at Antioch. Through the strict enforcement of “the President’s Agenda,� the thoughtful deliberation that you claim to cherish has completely disappeared. Faculty and staff members fear for their jobs. Students fear that they will be summarily expelled or suspended for confronting you or your Agenda. The entire community fears honest discussion for how it might offend you.

Given the state of our nation at this present moment, when fear rules our lives, when fear is pessimistically manipulated for the gain of a small elite; it is not only tragic that you too have chosen to rule through fear – it is shameful. Our institutions of higher education have no greater responsibility in our society, than to educate our youth to be responsible members and advocates of democracy. It is reprehensible that your leadership has moved Antioch away from its long-standing role of educating the defenders of democracy.

To further illustrate your own hypocrisy, I quote at length from your welcoming speech to first year students and their families this past September. You said,

An authentically liberal learning environment should be one where complex ideas and problems can be studied, discussed and debated- -openly and freely. This is how we learn; this how we come closer to a truer understanding of ourselves and our world. We are a Community of Inquiry.

From time to time, we somehow convince ourselves that we have possession of the answers to complex problems, and further discussion or debate about them surely is not necessary. And those who express contrary views should be ostracized, and made to remember the error of their ways. This causes pain and anger, and is corrosive of the freedom to learn and inquire that so many have fought so hard to maintain in our society. It is corrosive of the Community of Inquiry that we are and that we must be diligent in protecting.

So, I invite you to an Antioch life, a life of sifting and winnowing, of doubt and discovery, of trying to do better by our families and communities and our planet. The Antioch community, for me, is grounded in a commitment to intellectual freedom and respect among all community members, students, professors and staff. These two qualities—intellectual freedom and mutual respect—must always be present if we are going to continue to succeed as an educational community. I have high expectations that you will embrace these values in your time at Antioch and beyond.

I respect these words for they truly represent what lies at the core of the Antioch Community: thoughtful and critical engagement, contentious deliberation, and respect for one another. While I will be the first to admit that this has often not been the case at Antioch, you cannot address this issue by doing the exact same thing. One does not end a disrespectful and closed-minded discourse through disrespectful and closed-minded actions.

President Lawry, your relentless belief in the supremacy of the executive is not only detrimental to the deliberative process that is the bedrock of a democracy; it is also inefficient and wasteful. Rather than focusing on how to strengthen Antioch College and secure lasting financial stability or ensuring the success of the new curriculum, you have decided to consolidate your power within the College on the backs of Intellectual Freedom, Deliberation, and Democracy.

President Lawry, I hope that you will take this letter as a chance for thoughtful reflection and will truly question your motivation and actions. However, I am not encouraged by your past reception of criticism or confrontation. While I do not expect a radical change of course, I do hope that the faculty, staff and students that agree with the views expressed in this letter will creatively and appropriately rise up to challenge the attach upon Antioch. Antioch is a community of critical thought and action. Only time will tell if the current caretakers of Antioch will accept their responsibility and protect our core values you seem so unfamiliar with. I, for one, remain committed to responsible actions and am willing to dialogue with you on this matter. I do believe that you have strengths that can greatly aid Antioch, but you must be educated first. I look forward to assisting your on-going education as a proud Antiochian. I leave you with a quote,

“If we desire respect for the law, we must first make the law respectable.”

~Louis D. Brandeis


Daniel E. Solis ‘06