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Interview by Rose Pelzl
Why did you agree to be a Pro Tem board member?
[…] this opportunity to recreate what Antioch should always have been. […] An institution that encourages young people to think for themselves, to backup their ideas with actual rigor and, and to appreciate the conflicting ideas of others. […] We have this great combination of an institution with a great legacy and at the same time has a pause in which we can really catch our breath and do what’s right without having to keep it running day to day.
[…] I didn’t want to disappoint anybody with my being on the board. I didn’t want people to assume that I had great buckets of money that I could give the college. I didn’t want anybody to assume that I had great huge amounts of time that I could give on a day to day basis to the college. So I think those were the two biggest concerns. […] And they insisted. […] they basically reassured me that I wasn’t going to be disappointing anybody. […] So I agreed because I am very excited about the whole possibility of what we’re doing. And I resisted because I didn’t want to let anybody down.
What is your vision for the new Antioch?
An Antioch that has strong academics, full of people serious about learning. And intellectual rigor, I think the word rigor is very important to me. That I want people who don’t just believe things, but they can back up their belief in something with strong argument and strong evidence. And that while their passion may be driven from their emotions, their action is backed up by their knowledge. […] Antioch has always, Antiochians in general have always had an enormous amount of passion, have not always been very self-critical, they have not always been required to back up their ideas with intellectual rigor, and an explanation and evidence. […]
And so for me the vision of Antioch has to include a campus that’s full of conflicting ideas. People have to be getting practice in defending their point of view. Not from attack, not from ad homonym, or emotional hurtful statements, but from honest legitimate inquiry. […]
[A new Antioch will] strongly encourages people to be agents of change in the world. […] that makes the world a better place than what they’ve found.[…] I want us to turn out people with agendas.
[…] I’d like us to create an Antioch in which all of those time-lines of helping somebody right this moment, helping somebody over the course of the next few years, and helping the whole civilization over the next ten or fifteen years, all of those time-lines are valued. […]
And so I’m looking for diversity that will, in some sense, force everybody to reexamine their own ideas […] And I think that’s the great thing that the cauldron of the college campus can offer, is that opportunity to be in a relatively safe place, and yet really getting practice at defending your ideas, living your ideals, and being challenged.
How do you think Nonstop will be integrated into the new Antioch College?
I mean, mostly there isn’t much I can say, we don’t know, is what it really come down to. And there’s really not very much that’s known, um, I think one of the most important things that we need to do is to think about, … we need to figure out what the right thing for Antioch is, what should it be, what do we want it to be? And when we know what it is we are trying to create, then we’re in a much better position to look around at the resources available and try to make the best use of them to achieve that goal.
And we’re just beginning a process, that will take lots of people, not just the board, but lots of people a long time, to figure out what is it we’re trying to create here. Because I think that’s very important to kee-, the verb I like the use is ‘create’, not ‘restore’. We’re not trying to go back to some earlier state, we’re trying to create a new thing. And when we know what it is what we’re trying to create, we’ll know what resources we need and how best to bring them to bare.
What was your major?
[in ’77] I was a Drama major in New York City. […] And that was just not me, I mean, I loved all the studies, but everything seemed to be pointing at […] Broadway […] and I wasn’t at all interested in that. […] and so I ended up leaving the drama program […] and becoming a double major in Music and Computer Science and looking for another college to go to and ended up choosing Antioch, and thought I was going to continue my double major in Music and Computer Science, but Computer Science Department had disappeared between the summer when I had visited and the fall when I arrived, and so I ended up being a Music major, […] majoring in my avocation, […] and teaching and TAing computing on the side. And did all my co-op jobs in computing, sometimes in finding a job in computing [laughs]. And ended up getting a BA in Music, […]
What was your favorite co-op?
… This is 1980, I believe, it’s spring/summer co-op … So it’s a sixth month co-op and that means you can get a sort of longer job, and Al Denman, who I believe was a faculty member, and I think is still around, I don’t know, had a son, Don Denman, who was working as a programmer, I believe, at a then much, much smaller company called Apple. […]
So […] Apple was in like two different buildings, and Steve Jobs is walking around and it’s all very exciting, and Don informs me that they have a hiring freeze, and they won’t be able to hire me. […] trying to find jobs in computing, which was a lot harder than, then say, a few years ago. And uh, I remember one of the jobs that looked really good was being a Unix system administrator for the US Geological Survey […] and so I met with those guys, […] And this was gonna be great. And it turned out the position was actually outsourced to a company called EDF, […] we went into the office of this woman who was the representative of EDF, […] and we’re filling out all the paperwork and I remember, she said, […] “And of course you’ll need to shave your beard and cut your hair.” […] And this was just a complete shock to me and to the other two guys.
And they were just like “What’s going on here? Why is that the case?” […] and it turns out that because I would be working for EDF and not working for the government, I have to follow the EDF dress code, […] And Mr. Perot doesn’t approve of long hair or beards, […] and the USGS guys could tell that I was thinking it over, […], and they said “Don’t you dare. Don’t you dare, we’re really sorry not to get you, but you can’t do this to yourself. Don’t give in to this.” And so I didn’t. And I’m glad they, they did that. And uh, and I didn’t get that job, it wasn’t available to someone who looked like me.
[…] and so that’s my most memorable coop, I’m sure. I had a second co-op, um, before I left. I was only at Antioch for two years. […] but I don’t remember what the other co-op was. […]
What is your position on open-source software in the context of higher education?
[…] My position is that there’s a lot of great software that’s open source, there’s a lot of great software that’s commercial, I’m not a zealot in either direction. I think that there are a lot of sources of cost of software, one of them is the purchase price, but much more of it is what happens after that, support and deployment and maintenance and growth. And that you need many situations to think about what you’re requirements are, and uh, and then look at the various options that are available, and count the complete costs, […] And in some cases it will be open source and in some cases it will not be. And that’s the right way to choose software and not based on ideology.
And I think the key thing I think we need to do is to share the cost of software with other colleges, the obvious group would be the Great Lakes College Association, […] And so that we might be able to run personnel management and payroll through one system that one member of the associates pays for and maintains and we might be able to run, you know, content management for academics in a different way, and again, share these resources across various institutions […].We aren’t going to find a single piece of software that’s going to meet all of our needs across that huge breadth, and so I just think we just need to take a very clear-eyed non-ideological point of view about it and make the best decisions for each case, really considering what the requirements are.
What are you doing now?
[…] There’s a huge revolution in computers coming, very shortly, it’s nearly upon us, most of the general public is unaware of it. […] what it really comes down to is we can’t afford to make computers faster, we know how to make them faster, but we cant afford it. And the thing we cant afford is heat. […] And it turns out there’s really only one solution, and that’s to run slower, […] the nice thing is slower computers can be very, very small, we’re still good at making things smaller and smaller and smaller, we don’t seem to be close to the edge of that. So the only thing that we can do is instead of having faster computers, we can have lots more smaller slower computers, […]
[…] we’re moving towards a world where that little desktop computer that you’ve got, […] Your computer is going to get a lot more processors, […] And the crisis is that we don’t know how to use that many. […] We have to take, you know, the applications that you’re using and they have to be written in a different way, so they can take advantage of multiple processors. […]
[So I’m working] under a senior vice president at Microsoft, […] he reports directly to Steve Ballmer, the chairman or CEO of the company. And we’re this little group of about 75 people. […] basically trying to figure out how should we build computers that are vastly more secure, vastly more reliable, vastly more connected to the network. And able to deal with vast numbers of processors, because it’s not the way that any of the existing operating systems, whether it’s Windows or Linux or Mac OS, […] and they’re all based on ideas that were maybe right 30 years ago, maybe, but they’re certainly wrong now. … it’s an opportunity to do things right. […]
[…] really great jump from that to the Antioch experience, which is that we really aren’t trying to figure out not how to restore the Antioch of two years ago, or five years ago, or 50 years ago, we’re trying to figure out for today, the right Antioch and build that. And that’s what’s so incredibly exciting about this opportunity.
[…] I mean, the board’s job is to guide the overall process and in particular for these parts were you just can’t have a whole mob of people involved, getting these legal agreements and getting separated from the university. […] in order to really begin the process of figuring out what is the right Antioch for the 21st century. And that’s a process where we expect to get a lot more people involved and try to figure out what the right thing is and once we know what we’re trying to build, then we can look around at the resources that are available, and figure out how to best bring them to bare to achieve that.
Before the school closed down in April of ‘07, […] I was part of something called the Antioch Science Advisory Board, […] and we all came to campus in April, […] talked about how best we […] could help the sciences at Antioch, by bringing to bare all of these incredibly accomplished science alumni of the college […] help science education at Antioch and it was so exciting, […] the great things that we could do, starting seminar series and […] and like a month and a half later comes this stunning announcement, that the school is shutting down. […]
[…] that was the first time I’d been back to yellow spring in 25 years, which is a very, very trippy experience. Oh my god, I just had to get away from people and walk on campus. Its like all these ghosts are talking to me. […] things that I’d just completely forgotten. […] it was just an incredible experience for me to just sit there and regain all these memories, […] And then a month and a half later “No, no, no, we’re going to shut it all down.” […] So that’s one of the things we talked about a lot on the board, and you know, exactly what are the conditions of these buildings, exactly what can we afford to save, what can we not afford to save.