The first Alumni Board meeting of the year opened morning of Friday the 6th with a presentation by Antioch Emeritus Professor Steve Schwerner, who was representing the delegation if educators who came to Nonstop and reported on their visit to the Board Pro Tempore. [link to Record article on visit] Schwerner said he expected that everyone had already read the eight-page report, [Link to the Report] and preferred to answer questions from the floor rather than reiterate the points made on paper. He specified that he would be unable to answer “questions of speculative nature,” since he was not in a position to answer them, and stipulated that he could only speak for himself.
Schwerner, however, stated that the Visiting Team was “impressed on every level; we were impressed by the seriousness of the faculty, by the excitement of the students, the innovations, the ability to make something out of nothing.” Yet he emphasized that despite the unquestionable value of Nonstop, it was too early to assess how it would be reintegrated into the new college; “to lose everything that Nonstop has done seems foolish, to incorporate everything is impossible.”
Several board members pressed Schwerner for a more definite assessment of the way Nonstop would or should be integrated back into Antioch College, but he found himself unable give any more details; “how to incorporate [Nonstop] verges on the area of speculation,” he said, “I do know what I’ve been told from people whom I trust who are on the ProTem Board, that that hasn’t even come up yet; that all of the attention is being focused on getting the college back.” Signing the Definitive Agreements was described as the ProTem Board’s priority, as well as securing accreditation, fixing the campus buildings and fundraising for the new college. The Visiting Team’s report, however, fulfilled its purpose with great success, according to Schwerner; “everybody on the ProTem Board now believes… that Nonstop is a really serious organization and needs to be looked at as something to help with the building of the new Antioch,” he said, “that’s probably the single, most important thing that came out of this visit, from my perspective.”
Matthew Derr Speaks to the Board
Chief Transition Officer and Consultant to the Board Pro Tempore, Matthew Derr started his address to the Alumni Board by commenting on the previous conversation on the reintegration of Nonstop; “the history of the college–recent and back to Horace Mann–is essential to what happens next and we are all stakeholders in that history,” he said, “the notion that somehow an institution starts in a new direction and loses that legacy is one of the most unattractive and certainly not a beguiling characteristic to the ProTem Board.”
Matthew Derr then announced that the Task Force was making “significant progress in coming to an agreement with Antioch University;” “we are in a dance together… until we come to an agreement,” he said, “the dance seems to be speeding up and the parties seem to be getting along.” He expressed confidence about the eventual separation of the college from the University “in a way that we described in the alumni resolutions from Reunion and in the charge for the Board Pro Tem.” While the room erupted in laughter at Derr’s statement that “much of what we’re doing now is actually in the hands of attorneys, and that’s a very good sign,” he assured the board that GLCA “neutral” lawyers were involved and that all parties involved in the task force were working in the same direction. The Task Force will meet in Boston on Monday March 16th for a midpoint report, and a GLCA press release will follow.
Derr dismissed the rumors according to which the date of the definitive agreement had been deferred. “It’s in everybody’s best interest to do this sooner rather than later,” he said.
Despite the economic crisis, the fundraising target for the 90 days period are not unattainable, Matthew Derr affirmed. “We’re making progress, funds are coming in, big gifts seem to be coming in daily, people are taking our appointments, they’re not turning us down.” As to his fundraising strategy, Derr said: “My essential case statement is: now is the only time when one gets to support Antioch. It’s now. I personally give to planned parenthood, but it will be there next year.” He further explained that “by necessity,” the focus was on major giving ($25,000 and up,) but that a broader, Obama-style fundraising campaign was to be expected for the upcoming years.
In regards to the college’s accreditation, “it is a very narrow band of work we’re doing,” said Derr, who emphasized that the task consisted of delineating a process for obtaining accreditation; “it’s process, not content,” he underlined. “It is our impression that there is a lot of goodwill and interest in facilitating this,” he assessed.
The issue of the concept paper was then discussed. Derr explained that the concept paper outlined a business plan but did not address curriculum, and was written for the primary purpose of showing a plan to the University, and was now being used solely for fundraising purposes. When further questioned by board Member Laura Fathauer ’95, Matt Derr acknowledged that “the concept paper should have been out there earlier,” and said that it will be circulated “as quickly as we possible can.”
Matthew Derr asserted that there was a “high degree of communication” between the ProTem Board and Nonstop. Corroborating examples include the ProTem Board’s decision to send the visiting team to report to them about Nonstop, their choice to meet in Yellow Springs in February and to let Nonstop give a presentation about their work, and Matthew Derr’s weekly meeting with Nonstop’s Executive Collective. He echoed Steve Schwerner’s statement according to which the Board ProTem was not yet in a position to be taking concrete decision about Nonstop; the spirit of the board follows the following logic: “We will make no assertions, we will make no commitments until we can make promises. I think it’s partly based on the history of unfunded mandates…and this board tries to behave differently,” he said, “you should not interpret their silence as meaning anything other than silence, and I encourage you to look at their actions and try to understand how they may look at the world.”
When several board members expressed concern about the fact that no Nonstop faculty member had been invited to join the Board Pro Tempore despite the alumni board’s recommendation, Matthew Derr answered that the bylaws included provisions for both a faculty member and a student to join the board. However, none of the Nonstop faculty is, as of now, officially a faculty member of the college: “there will be no employees of the future Antioch College until we have Antioch College,” he declared, “and the process by which we have employees hasn’t been defined.” Moreover, having a board member engaged in a lawsuit against the University would be problematic for the negotiations; the faculty lawsuit was thus cited as another reason for the current absence of faculty member on the board.
“The Board ProTem is aware of the challenges of the calendar, and the decisions that the Alumni Board and the CRF Board will need to make, and the fact that this vacuum is there,” Matthew Derr concluded, “but there isn’t a plan to make this vacuum go away until there is an Antioch College… our timing is off, to pretend otherwise is just not right.”
Nonstop presented Friday afternoon the “Nonstop Antioch Proposal to the Antioch College Alumni Board.” The proposal was written by a committee of ExCil, which included Beverly Rodgers, Hassan Rahmanian, and Chris Hill of ExCol, Community Manager Chelsea Martens, student Jeanne Kay, faculty Jean Gregorek, and staff Carole Braun.
Beverly Rodgers began the presentation with the Parable of Talents (Matthew 25:14) asserting that the investment that the Alumni Board had put into Nonstop, and the retention of the institutional wisdom of the faculty and staff, would fail to pay “dividends” if “Nonstop ceases to exist at the end of June”. Furthermore, “if Nonstop’s successful relationship building outreach lies foul for a year and a half, I think we will have the same consequences as the buried talent, only you may not have one talent left, it may be totally eroded.”
The proposal described how Nonstop could be integrated into the new independent Antioch College; students could be working in recruitment, fundraising and rehabilitation of the campus; staff working as staff and faculty taking on various administrative roles, writing grant proposals and mentoring students.
“What we’re asking this weekend is for you to help us fine-tune this proposal. It will take all of us to be able to come up with a proposal that makes sense to the governing bodies, to the responsibilities that all these governing bodies have,” said Chris Hill.
During the Question & Answer section, Alumni Board members asked for far more concrete projections than the committee was prepared to make. “Have you thought about what the budgeting would look like for the planning for the reopening and the long-term health of the college?” asked Alumni Board President and Board ProTem member Nancy Crow. Other questions regarding a time-line for bringing the proposal to the Board ProTem and curriculum were asked as well. In response Chris Hill said that conflicting messages made it unclear to what extent the ProTem wanted input on certain issues. Also, they felt, “it was much more important to look at the larger picture and say, ‘if this is something that you feel can go forward, then let’s work together and figure it out.’ I think it’s a larger question.”
The next day, in closed session, the Alumni Board passed the following resolution:
“In the spirit of building from the movement toward an independent Antioch College that the Alumni Board has been trying to advance;
In the hope of strengthening the united movement that has informed the Alumni Board’s creation of three separate entities, one for finance (CRF), one for academics (Nonstop), one for governance (Board Pro Tem);
The Alumni Board establishes a Taskforce to foster collaboration and build consensus with representatives of the key stakeholders who have played such an important role in our movement to develop an independent Antioch College: Nonstop, the Board Pro Tem, and the Alumni Board. The Taskforce is charged to develop the proposal presented by Nonstop to this Board yesterday for presentation to the Board Pro Tem. ”
College Revival Fund Discusses Nonstop Financing Issue
College Revival Fund (CRF) Treasurer Barrie Grenell said that the new bookkeeper was close to straightening up the budgeting mishap. “We had to go back and relook at all of the transactions that took place and make sure that we did have everything correctly, and we need to still do that with the pledges….but in terms of the cash part we feel confident that we’ve got that part down. Grenell announced that a CRF audit was upcoming that would focus on July 07 to December 31st ’08.
Grenell went on to address the issue of Nonstop’s funding. The last benchmark to guarantee Nonstop’s funding through June had not been met yet, and after previsions of incoming funds in the next two months, it was estimated that between $50,000 and $60,000 were still to be raised to fulfill the deficit, but it was suggested that the working figure should be set at $75,000 because of the uncertainty over incoming revenue.
Nonstop unrestricted funds coming every month were presented as one of the best ways to fulfill the gap; about 11,000 dollars have already been transferred from unrestricted funds to Nonstop, and any upcoming unrestricted funds not used for administrative overhead is set to go to Nonstop. Most outstanding pledges were said to have been made by Alumni Board members; Grenell said she had “some indication” that some of these pledges would not be fulfilled.
The floor was then left to the board’s questions. Nonstop IT Coordinator Tim Noble enquired: “I see no evidence of pledges being made [between Dcember ’08 and February ’09] which leads me to believe that nobody is pledging for Nonstop because perhaps they’re not being asked. At what point did we stop raising money for Nonstop?” Director of Alumni Relations, Aimee Maruyama, answered that only gifts in cash were asked to be given to Nonstop, because of the urgency of the situation. “It’s more a strategy for fundraising,” she explained, “because right now… what we need for Nonstop are cash gifts. We’re doing pledges, which is future money, for an independent Antioch College.”
Tim Eubanks ’00 suggested cutting spending in other areas in order to redirect money to Nonstop. Barrie Grenell asserted that Nonstop’s budget should not be micromanaged; and it was said that cuts in the CRF budget should be discussed in another venue.
Budget Committee member Wayne Snively suggested that each board member commit to collecting $2,500 from fundraising or personal funds; Barrie Grenell specified that this would be an average, since each board member’s circumstances vary.
Nonstop Executive Collective member Chris Hill reminded the board that Nonstop came under budget by $150,000, and was thus not responsible for the deficit. She asked whether the CRF would continue to fundraise for Nonstop. “I don’t make decisions on goals,” said CRF Executive Director Risa Grimes, “I put the mechanism into place; goals are set by the ProTem Board and by the CRF board…our primary job is to raise money for an independent Antioch College… We’re in an ambiguous situation; our salaries are being paid by the ProTem Board.” Nancy Crow intervened to specify that “we have one unified fundraising campaign…we are all working towards the same goal: the independent Antioch College… Everything has to happen under that umbrella,” she said. The board, according to Nancy Crow, hopes to see “much of the wonderful work that Nonstop is doing funded as part of the plan for the independent college going further.”
“What I’m saying is why can’t there be an assertion by this board that we’ve made major contributions to the revival of the college” said Chris Hill, “and if there’s a shortfall of 50 or 75 thousand dollars, why that money can’t come from the millions that are being raised to benefit the people who have put their professional lives on the line to stay here and keep the college open and to create a really good story for you all… We’re responsible for real concrete contributions to this revival.”
Several solutions were suggested to remedy the deficit through June, including sending Nonstop community members to chapter meetings, reducing the Nonstop budget–though some objected that Nonstop having come under budget and considering that a commitment had been made by the board to cover the approved budget– and board members individually fundraising among their friends and alumni from their area. “We are going to try our level best to make sure that we can fulfill our promises,” Nancy Crow concluded.
Pledge forms were distributed during the meeting, Barrie Grenell announced that $7410 had been raised in cash, $10,700 had been raised in pledges, there was 350 dollars pledge payment and a possible $5000 withholding, for a total of between $18,000 and $23,000 raised in the hour.
“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.”
Antioch’s campus was left a ghost town, last Saturday, as students filed in to a historical community meeting in McGregor 113. After impatiently waiting for a week, students, faculty, staff, and other community members anxiously gathered in the one room on campus had signs of life, to hear Antioch’s fate after a week long deliberation between College alumni and University trustees.
After a quiet build up of suspense with small interjections of applause, Andrzej Bloch, the newly-dubbed interim president, announced that the Alumni Board and the Board of Trustees had agreed upon a resolution in principle, and that the BOT “officially rescinds the suspension of operations of Antioch College.” The announcement of decision caused an immediate outburst of cheers, happy-tears, and applause that could be heard from outside the building. It was like popping a zit that had been festering on your forehead for a week.
Thanks to the historic Nov. 2 agreement between the Antioch College Alumni Board and the Antioch University Board of Trustees, the Alumni Board is now an official part of the college’s power structure. That’s a very good thing. The college has desperately needed someone with real authority in its corner these past years, as it has weathered neglect, autocratic mismanagement, and the bleeding of its resources, at the hands of the University administration and Board of Trustees. Now that the Alumni Board has bought its $18 million place at the table, the fox will no longer be guarding the henhouse. But the Alumni Board made some serious concessions to persuade the trustees to lift the suspension of operations.
“Lifting the suspension has bought us some time, but we have to fight hard or they will kill the college by slow suffocation. “