-Letters to the Editors & Op/Eds:
-Letters to the Editors & Op/Eds:
On Friday, April 3rd, ExCil appointed to the Alumni Board Taskforce Molly Thorton of Class of ’10, staff member Carole Braun and Chris Hill of the Executive collective. The Alumni Board representatives have not been appointed yet. The Taskforce is a result of the March 7th the Alumni Board resolution “to foster collaboration and build consensus with representatives of the key stakeholders… Nonstop, the Board Pro Tem, and the Alumni Board.” The Taskforce was charged to develop the proposal presented by Nonstop to the Alumni Board so it could be presented to the Board Pro Tem. The Pro Tem Board has subsequently declared that they will not be sending representatives to the Taskforce, because “part of the board should not be involved in making a proposal to themselves,” according to Matthew Derr.
Meanwhile, TAG (Transition Advisory Group) met for the first time Tuesday, April 7th. Appointed by Matthew Derr, TAG currently includes student Jeanne Kay, Community Manager Chelsea Martens, Faculty Jean Gregorek, Executive Collective member Hassan Rahmanian, staff person Joan Meadows, Head of Alumni Relations Aimee Maruyama, Alumni Board member Ellen Borgersen, and Yellow Springs Village Council President Judith Hempfling. At the Tuesday meeting TAG defined its charge: “The Transition Advisory Group will work to facilitate communication between stakeholders in Yellow Springs and in the larger Antiochian community during the transition towards an independent Antioch College. It will advise Chief Transition Officer Matthew Derr for the Pro Tem Board.”
“The next few months are going to be extremely difficult,” said Jeanne Kay the spokesperson for the group, “Nonstop’s faculty and staff’s livelihoods and lifeworks are endangered, there is a multiplicity of visions for the new Antioch, and rebuilding the college will take a lot of work. TAG, hopefully, will tend to the community’s concerns, open communication channels between the Pro Tem Board and the Yellow Springs community, and do creative problem-solving as a group of committed Antiochians that have been part of the struggle since the beginning.”
Also on the 3rd, in accordance with a proposal brought by the Executive Collective, ExCil created a ten-person Advisory Group to help coordinate the efforts of Nonstop community members working in the Alumni Board Taskforce, TAG and Nonstop Community Goverment. The following were appointed to the Group: students Jonny No and Shea Witzberger; staff Donna Evans and Nancy Wilburn; Faculty Dennie Eagleson, Bob Devine and Nevin Mercede; Executive Collective member Susan Eklund-Leen and Beverly Rodgers; and Community Manager Meghan Pergrem. At the ExCil meeting ExCol member Chris Hill explained the history and rationale behind the advisory group: “One of the first ideas that the Executive collective floated was a larger, perhaps between 5 and 7 members of the Taskforce coming from Nonstop [but] Nancy [Crow] seems to want to keep the group smaller. So, we decided what might work, effectively, would be to have an advisory committee… that would serve as an advisory committee not only to the Taskforce but also to the folks that are going to be part of TAG.”
Continue the discussion on the Record’s Forum
At first read of the concept paper I’m skeptical on 2 points. The rest is pretty okay:
1) Three years, 9 terms, 120 credits, 3 co-ops. I don’t think so.
Consider the curriculum I was under: 4 years, 8 terms, 160 credits, 6 co-ops for a BA. 10-35 additional credits for a BS. At that rate you would have to pass every course to graduate on time. First years could only take 15 credits their 1st quarter thus they would have to study over co-op to graduate on time. The result was a really a 5 year school. Which is fine. I did it in 5.5 years but switched majors.
For student under the new program to take essentially the same course load (I think they mean 4 credits per class instead of 5) they will have a course load 25% worse than mine. No thanks. The idea of taking classes online over co-op is a nice idea. We did independant studies over co-op. But I also co-oped in the remotest place in the lower 48. I lived 26 miles from a paved road and 9 miles from a phone.
Similarly quite a few students choose to co-op in places that are remote or lack the infrastructure to support rebust video conferncing or other web-based particiaption. With a focus on sustainibility, many students will be co-oping in places that are rural and lack the energy and information infrastructure to support that sort of thing.
Consider this: Right now, Ct Chen drives to Non-Stop to do some of his computer work because he lives where there is no broadband. He is 2 miles from town. He uses dialup at home.
I also think the number of co-ops is too small.
The program lacks the flexibility for students to change their major and learn and grow. I didnt have the same lifes goals in 1997 that I did in 1991. Antioch changed that. How many people will come to Antioch, discover things they have never heard of, have their lives changed, and be unable to pursue a study of these things due to a vicious schedule.
That and when exactly are you kids expected to engage in community, recreation and sleep with such a schedule? You need your sleep. And your community. I know the grown ups think you dont need your recreation… but hey… what do they know?
2) Depending on my math, $30 mill is either too high or too low. If they just take the number of sq ft of the buildings and multiply by 100 they will have $36.57 million. Are they really going to fully renovate every single inch of every building on campus? Birch has been renovated 3 times in the last 15 years. Does it really need another $4.6 million dollars worth of work? As a contractor I should be salivating…. But what needs the work? I need to look more at what they think they want to do and frankly, the Stanley report is a joke.
However, replacing the power plant could be costly… depending on how much excess capacity is built for sale as an additional revenue stream. Assuming campus only power generation, you are talking a 1MW plant. Assuming campus + village, 6 to 12 MW depending on if you are generating for base or peak power (YS doubles its january electricty consumption in July).
Replacing the power plant must happen no matter what.
I’ve looked over the Board Pro Tempore’s concept paper a couple times since its release a few days ago, and my feeling are, to say the least, mixed.
I have to admit that it all looks very smart and exciting. In fact, there’s a lot of that stuff that I think I could get on board with. They want to enact more diversity initiatives and make the college more international? Great. Require students to develop a working knowledge of at least one additional language? Sure. The Distinguished Faculty program, with classes taught by alumni and friends of the college? Why not?
The Board is committed to a tenured faculty. That’s good. And though it doesn’t say so in the concept paper, I understand they also want union staff. Also good.
They propose a restoration campaign, and want to make the campus more sustainable. I support them in this too, so long as we take said “restoration” measures to have maximum emphasis on utility and minimum emphasis on glamor. Concentrate on the necessities of running a healthy college in line with our values, not projecting a classy image. I think we can all agree that Antioch College is never going to be luxurious, so let’s not throw desperately needed money away trying to make it look luxurious.
I agree with the Board’s wish to lower tuition. In fact, I would like us to commit to a long-term vision that one day Antioch College will be entirely tuition-free, with grants available for travel for geographically challenged students.
I also support the proposal to have students and faculty contribute a certain amount of work while on-campus, which I’m sure would also be a feature of an eventual tuition-free program. This Spring term at Nonstop we mandated a 4 hour per week work policy for students which-though beset with glitches-has on the whole been a step in the right direction.
However, I feel some of the concept paper’s other ideas give cause for concern. Most importantly: the three-year plan.
Anybody who’s seen my comments on Listen Up Antioch and ACAN knows that I think essentially eliminating break time for all parties involved is a spectacularly bad idea. In an emotionally and intellectually charged atmosphere like Antioch’s, students, faculty and staff need frequent breaks for a little change of pace, not to mention rest and recuperation.
Faculty, in particular need time to perform their own research, so they can stay on top of the latest information in their field and so that they can produce their own innovations, as good Antiochians do. Somebody at that DC area chapter meeting also pointed out that staff need time for building maintenance, and there simply wasn’t enough of it last time we were on trimesters.
Reading over the outlines for the curriculum plan, I can’t help picturing students running a three year educational obstacle course at top speed, with no time to rest, and also no time to pause and reflect. The best learning requires that the student have the opportunity to stop and digest what they’ve learned, subjecting it to critical analysis on the way. That’s what Antioch has always stood for. For this, the student requires time; more than three years, possibly more than four. Heck, let’s go back to being a five-year college, if that’s how long it takes to get the job done properly.
And while utilizing new technology to keep students in touch with the community while out on co-op sounds like a good idea, I can all too easily picture the concept being used to cram more work and obligations onto already overburdened students.
The first time I heard mention of this three-year notion was after the “Visioning a College” weekend at Earlham last year. The way I heard it, the alumni were talking about a five-year program and the organizers basically said “There’s nothing eye-catching about a five-year institution, why not go for a three-year program?”
In other words, the idea first came up as a marketing gimmick. When an institution bearing the name “Antioch College” is reduced to throwing cheap glitter over its program to attract students, I’ll know the Antioch I went to, the Antioch I loved, is well and truly dead.
Wake up, people! This is Antioch. We don’t want the students who are attracted to pretty buildings, or to a curriculum which rushes them through their education without time for any actual learning. Let’s have a curriculum which actually reflects our values of introspection and critical engagement.
One argument for the three-year plan is that it will be helpful in lowering tuition. What if instead we utilized that Antiochian propensity for innovation the Board brags so much about in the concept paper and find another way to keep costs down? Something that does not require such a potentially disastrous setup?
Elsewhere, members of the Board Pro Tem have been quick avoid making any definitive statements about curriculum, because they don’t want to tie the faculty’s hands. I can’t imagine what they thought they were doing with this extremely detailed concept paper, but it can’t’ve been keeping a blank slate.
I would like to take this opportunity to encourage the Board to let the faculty-once (they admit) they have a faculty-develop a workable curriculum, with input from Board members of course, and also of past, present, and prospective students, to insure that the result is something which addresses the needs of all Antioch stakeholders. As I said in my Listen Up and ACAN comments: we don’t need a plan that’s “trendy” or slick. We need a plan that’s right. A plan that’s Antiochian.
Class of ’11
Continue the Discussion on the Record’s Forum
There’s a lot of irony in this document and its appearance, obviously professionally produced and presented in a fairly polished fashion but ambiguously signed, a collective ‘we’ of an untold number of heads and hands that, by all accounts, speaks a future of Antioch College without involving the trouble of an open discussion in the present with the people who over the last several decades have done the work of continuing the much lauded tradition of exceptional educational outcomes, often in conditions of institutional distress that would have predicted anything but the levels of success Antioch has enjoyed. This document makes its gesture to past successes but looks back much further to supposed greener fields before any of us personally remember, to Mann and Morgan. A substantial number of exceptional young people have gotten their start here much more recently, up, very nearly, to the present and that’s in large part connected to a committed faculty who have resolved to make things happen without remorse about resources lacking.
I’m calling signature of this document ambiguous and a little odd for what it excludes. It’s not the first time we have gotten this feeling reading about Antioch action and policy with surprise. This isn’t a matter of content, although I believe there are matters of content that need to be discussed. It is a question of process, and for the aggrieved faculty of Antioch College to read this report waxing optimistically in a vague future tense about a newly empowered faculty of the college as a future project is where it gets ironic, and it might even be a little funny except we’re all in a very serious and precarious position that doesn’t much lend itself to laughing.
A report about moving forward, if it is going to do justice to the present and especially if it is going to learn from mistakes of the past, benefits immensely from an open dialogue and constructive partnership with the faculty who most understand what has distinguished Antioch even in its hard times; an intellectual and professional partnership that can serve as a basis forward. In this past year in which for the broader American culture so many of the smug ‘wisdoms’ of the market status quo have proven to be puffed-up nonsense, pyramid schemes built only on personal acquisitive ambition rather than any sound sensibility for how we all might better move ahead, Antioch’s values have not been found bankrupt. There has not in recent decades been a time better suited for Antioch values to find a receptive ear, and again consultation and collaboration with the most recent Antioch faculty seems one of the simplest and surest ways to pursue a renewed vitality and an educational plan that arises from the educational offering this new Antioch community would embody.
Of course the document on the table is just a document on the table and not necessarily the last word on what is planned or what might be hoped for. I would though find my confidence better bolstered and much prefer to see a renewed inflection on the newness that gets talked about here brought to practice in the present by favoring fully inclusive process.
M.Arch. and Ph.D. in Educational Leadership and Cultural Studies