This is a time of major decisions with major consequences. On the global level, we have choices about how we live on the planet and with each other. On the national level, we are faced with with either choosing to make history or suck up more of the same. Locally, our village is facing changes and choices on major issues such as energy, a new village manager, how we grow and thrive economically and what happens to the historic college that was a cornerstone of our identity as a town. In the next weeks and months, I will talk with faculty, students, staff, alumni and villagers on a weekly basis about where we are and where we are going globally, nationally, locally and even personally.
It is mid September. A year ago in June, we got the word that the college would be closing in a year. For many this was a shock. For some it was a gut feeling that came to fruition. For a few it was an inevitability in a long decline. Whatever your analysis, the event had unforeseen responses and repercussions. We all know the litany of endeavors to save Antioch College: the Alumni Association, the AC3, the efforts within the Village of Yellow Springs to bring pressure on the University and show support on the local level, National academic entities such as the GLCA and the AAUP have gotten involved in a variety of ways that are ongoing. The Antioch College faculty brought a lawsuit, set it aside and revived it. They also worked to gather roughly a thousand signatures from academic luminaries and fellow professors in favor of their cause and most potent of all, created the Nonstop Institute for Liberal Arts. The Alumni mobilized in unprecedented ways, building over 40 chapters around the country and funding the Institutional Advancement office for the campus as well as the Nonstop Institute. Current, past and future students engaged with the effort on every level, from collaborating to launch Non-stop to enrolling and pledging to return after a term on Antioch Education Abroad or co-op. The list goes on. It is not for lack of trying that the college is still in limbo.
So where exactly are we? There is now a new round of discussions about separation of the college from Antioch University underway. The existence of Nonstop gives us an orientation towards getting on with the journey of revitalizing the college for real, a kind of action research that will yield valuable insights and information about how and who we can be in the future. In the coming month, a meeting will be convened at Earlham College, sponsored by the GLCA that is called “Invent a College”. It would be a crying shame if the organizers of this event do not pay very close attention to what is already being invented every day here in our village. Nonstop has great potential and its leaders and participants are already developing the understanding that will move this effort forward.
Going forward means working with Nonstop and the other efforts that we can impact on a daily basis within our scope of power and influence. The October 1st Committee is working with the village leadership, villagers, faculty and alumni to preserve the campus. This committee has recognized, as many of us have, that the University has done a shoddy job at best and an intentionally negligent job at worst, of putting the buildings to sleep until we figure all of this out. Whatever the intention, the result is the same: a major compromising of the physical and historical assets of the college. We need to look behind us, where we have come from to the historical aspects of the college that we are stewards of. Without that we will fly headlong into creating an entity that bears absolutely no resemblance to what was. And while this may be desirable to a small portion Antiochians, for many of us, our passion for the place is grounded in shared values, understandings and memories that cannot be separated from our roots on the campus. In the coming weeks and months, it will also become apparent how our village has built its identity around the college. The health of the village financially and socially is in great jeopardy.
All of us have had our own personal response to the major upheaval that we have collectively experienced. I took a bit of a left turn. Several years ago, when our numbers had fallen and grandiose plans were put in place to revive us, I realized that my personal journey was taking me elsewhere. I spent four years at University of Dayton earning a Masters of Science in Education in Community Counseling. Ironically, while being a student at another institution, I came to value Antioch all the more. I also found that I liked how therapy and teaching theater talked to each other in my brain. I worked for a year as an intern at Wilmington College counseling students there. (I hope to do this again with Nonstop.) However, I knew I needed to challenge myself and move forward on this new road. This summer I took a position as therapist on an ACT team at South Community Behavioral Health in Dayton.
ACT stands for Assertive Community Treatment and my job entails home visits to clients who have persistent and serious mental illness. The people I talk to are mostly diagnosed with schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder and the challenges they face are numerous : managing finances, medication compliance, skills of daily living and the acute isolation that comes with a lifetime of living with a severe mental disorder. I commute every day to Moraine where the agency is located and then spend a good portion of my nine hour day driving around parts of Dayton I have never seen before. I am challenged in complex and unexpected ways to respond to people who have great need. I work with a team of people in a “transdisciplinary” way. While I am a therapist, I am also doing case management and assessing med compliance. The nurse clearly does counseling and the case manager is surprisingly knowledgeable about medication side effects. There are more acronyms in mental health than Antioch ever had (ACT, IDDT, ODADAS, ODMH, CCOE, DID, PTSD, OCD, ODD etc.) and the politics involved in the health care system are far more screwed up than academia. So I feel right at home—wait—Why in heaven’s name did I do this anyway?
Sometimes I think that despite myself I am living out some kind of Antiochian ideal. For fifteen years I was a professional actor. The next fifteen I was a teacher and for the next fifteen years I plan on developing into a therapist and reinventing my art practices to reflect all of the learning I have been doing. Nonstop is part of this next phase of my life, one in which the walls of the hospital and the college fall away, where definitions of who I am become more expansive and fluid, and where I are humbled and inspired by situations that make me muster more than I knew I had to give.
Are you at the crossroads? Write me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I want to hear your story.