Kelsey’s Promise: One Small Voice

By: Linda Sattem

Kelsey was a first year student in the spring of 2004 when she left Antioch College following an emotional break. She was creative, artistic, and full of life when she arrived here earlier in the fall. And yet by the summer she died at her own hand. The puzzle of young people, mental health and illness, and suicide can be overwhelming. Kelsey’s life and death touched many, and now her parents are giving Antioch College students a chance to help pick up the pieces of the puzzle. Kelsey’s parents, Linda and Rock, approached the Counseling and Wellness Center early last spring, with one question, if they gave us back the money the college had refunded them when Kelsey withdrew, could we help to prevent this from happening with other students?

Through the past months, we have worked with these amazing people to develop several areas to help students both here and, eventually elsewhere.

The largest project is the development of a campus-based educational campaign by a student to address college students, mental health and illness, and suicide. The parents wanted an educational campaign that addressed students in their language, through their mediums, with their message.

From the initial submissions of concept papers and supporting attachments, three finalists will each be given $100 to more fully develop their educational campaign. The finalists will present to the Community, who will help select the campaign that will be implemented at Antioch College and offered to other colleges. There is a $700 award for the person who develops the selected campaign.

The deadline for initial submissions is fast approaching, Monday September 18 at noon in the Counseling Center (North Hall). Information and submission forms are available on First Class and at the Counseling and Wellness Center.

Her parents frequently talk about how much Kelsey loved Antioch. Let’s make Kelsey proud.

Linda Lee Sattem, Ph.D., PCC/
Director, Counseling and Wellness
Antioch College
(937) 769-1129 direct
(937) 769-1130 Center
(937) 769-1125 fax

No Man is a Swan Island.

A Biased Account of the First Official Party of the Year
By the Cooperative Council for a Non-Wack Social Scene
20060915-noman1.jpgPhotos by: Kari Thompson

In an age of automatically locking doors with 30 second alarms, campus wide crackdowns reminiscent of the war on drugs, and a segregation between entering and older students that feels all too intentional; sometimes it seems like a party is all we need to inspire some campus wide solidarity. Last Thursday night first years got their first taste of the ritual beast that is the Antioch party. It was a balmy full moon night, and the mood was calm at first, but Prince and Michael Jackson soon got people on the dance floor. First years came and went as they bounced between their dorm rooms to clandestinely pound alcohol, and the dance floor where they were seen cavorting and trying out new and exciting dance moves. First year student Walid was seen impressing hordes of ladies with his fancy footwork. First year student Mariel was quoted as saying “ I felt a little awkward at first, people always dance in circles and sometimes those are hard to infiltrate. But then I really feel like I hit my groove, I had a great time. I got to make out.?

Smoke hung heavy in the air, and the bar hung heavy with one-dollar drinks available only to those students bearing over 21 proof of age. Several students were seen lurking near by with empty drinks in hand ready for refills like truck drivers at an interstate truck stop. It is commonly regarded that this new “crackdown? on underage drinking on campus is creating a drinking culture that is dishonest and criminalized. Younger students are encouraged to hide out in their rooms, drinking fast and hard as opposed to having it be an open practice where they will be exposed to older students who might serve to encourage responsible and open drinking. First year Frank said “Usually when I go to a party people are dancing crazily. It seemed a little chiller here at Antioch. People were just swaying. I don’t really care either way. It was nice that Antioch cared enough to bring a band.? These reporters found it ironic that after trash talking weak American beer an unnamed international transfer student was twice seen falling on her face.

The new alcohol enforcement policy didn’t stop people from seeking channels for uninhibited fun, and student’s experiences varied throughout the night. First year student Eddie was quoted as saying; “It was fun, I didn’t go to listen to the music, I just kind of hung out with people, there was a happening little party on the stoop. Where… absolutely nothing was going on. Maybe a skunk died near by.? Another first year student Preston was drawn to the party for the music, he told us; “I didn’t dance… but I don’t really like to dance. I liked that they were form Oregon, and they came all the way here. It made me feel like I wanted to go listen to some Indie music or something. The night had a nice vibe. I liked that it was an indie band, and not some hippie band with ring makers and sitars.? Emma Emmerich says “(She) went for the social scene, not specifically for the music. But I enjoyed dancing with people. I really thought the energy of the party was very positive, and uplifting and it made me excited for parties to come. I liked seeing all the dresses. I’d like to see more dresses on guys, but I understand…? An anonymous partygoer was heard screaming “It’s my own life, let me live it!? In true Antioch fashion an after hours mud wrestling party topped off the evening, and many first and transfer students retreated to the safety of the Spalt second floor balcony to socialize and process the night’s events.

The evening peaked when Swan Island, the reason for the night’s merriment took the stage. They brought with them their Queer core energy, a DIY ethic, and rocking stage presence inspiring devoted fandom from the young hopefuls at Antioch looking to fuck their way to underground stardom. An anonymous older student was quoted as saying “I had to change my pants twice, it was like a Prince song all over my thighs.?

20060915-noman2.jpgSwan Island hails from Portland Oregon, also known for it’s dark beer, good coffee, and large population of street kids. Swan Island self describes as “End-of-the-world-music?. In an interview they described the night as “Mag=ic?. Their accessible sound is reminiscent of a friendlier, more attractive Black Sabbath with hints of Sleater-Kinney. Singer Brisa has a entrancing alto, which has a very thick and distinctive sound, as well as an inviting and charismatic stage presence. You can learn all about them by checking out their MySpace page at www.myspace. com/swanisland. If you didn’t pick their record up at Thursday night’s show, it is called The Centre will Hold and will be out on Holocene records on October 24th. The title comes from a W.B. Yeats quote that says “the center will not hold? but the band is more hopeful.

In summation we leave you with our mission statement: We are everywhere, we see all, and we aren’t scared to report on it. If you fall down, we will write about it, if you vomit on your pants we will write about it. We seek the truth, we are avengers of justice, we like good beer and good conversation. We are sex positive, we support the abolishment of social hierarchies, we want a good time for all. We are the cooperative council for a non-wack social scene.

20060915-noman3.jpg

Dispatches from Community Meeting

An Entering Student Shares Her Perspective
By Kathryn Leahey

On Tuesday, September 12, I attended my very first community meeting, along with many members of the 1st year class. However, I had an elevated purpose. Ice cream and fruit failed to distract me. My mission; cover this important event for the Record, despite the fact that I had little-to-no idea of what would take place and can still only attach about 17% of the faces around campus to a name. Having left class five minutes early to make sure that I would be there on time, not yet quite adjusted to the Antioch schedule of everyone arriving fifteen minutes late for everything, I fiddled with the tape recorder I had brought with me which, of course, ceased to function as soon as its use was required and I settled into a squeaky chair, watching the others slowly file in. Eventually, Levi B. called the meeting to order (or at least some version of it) and the community members applauded the commencement of first community meeting of the term. I had a feeling this would be a great learning experience.

Lesson One: The Antioch community apparently has a lot for which to be thankful. Firstly, Andrzej Bloch was named Community Member of the Week or CMOW, which is, I’m afraid, yet another acronym that I’ll need to memorize, for his help and advice to CG. Next, the official segment for the sharing of appreciation began. Among those thanked were all those who contributed/will contribute to the Record, Orientation, the trash removal effort after Sunday’s concert, the rugby team, the Queer Center, and the math assessment. Dennie Eagelson thanked the first-years, while a representative second-year, Bryan Utley, thanked those remaining in his class. Others thanked include Kelly O’Keefe for doing an excellent job with the C-shop, the library workers who are responsible for the new electronic reserves, Dave Chappelle for giving back to the community, and Katrina for paying the RA’s this term who, in turn, thanked Robin Heise.

Lesson Two: There are a surprisingly large number of things going on for such a small campus. Events that may not have been heard elsewhere include this weekend’s guest speaker, an Antioch alumna, who will be holding a Shabbat at the Queer Center on Friday and a workshop on Saturday, the availability of transportation to work sites for volunteers (write to mabrown@antioch-college.edu), and the imminent recruiting of prospective new Community Managers. Volunteers are needed at the bike shop, the Coretta Scott King Center, and the Alternative Library, while FWSP students are still needed at the gym and to work under Katrina and Melody for events. We are apparently all feeling sporty lately, and the formation of both a rugby cheerleading squad and a racquetball team were mentioned, while Brian, the gym co-op student, would like to organize even more athletic events. Caitlin would like to remind everyone not to pet or feed her seeing-eye dog. Anyone interested in sitting on a committee should speak to Hope; those interested in the Columbus protest against George W. Bush following an October 5th walk-out should talk to Jimmy, who also dispelled the rumor of the Antioch Dean of Students “bail fund?; those who would like to submit works to the art show should send an email to ewinter@antioch-college. edu. Upcoming events include Make-ADifference Day on October 28 and Constitution Day, observed on September 18 with a speech by Miguel Santiago. Three funds proposals were made: one for $100 to send the Record staff to a journalism fair at Bowling Green, one for $200 for the Pennell House art party, and one for $75 for the Queer Center for decorations.

Lesson Three: For a campus on which so little is found shocking or even far from ordinary, it’s amazing what we as a student body find controversial. Robin Heise’s email inbox being full led to a review of Pulse guidelines, and the meeting concluded with a discussion of the semantics of the work “unlearn? which lasted longer than the discourse on the recent campus vandalism. However, I think that Levi B. did a lovely job of summing up the campus-wide feelings toward the crimes by saying that “no victories for humanity were made from the vandalism last week? and imploring us all to “please don’t do stupid shit.? Look for further information on both the broken pathways around campus and a sum of $250 being deducted from FWSP awards at next week’s meeting.

The Past 50 Years of the Antioch Presidency, Part II (1985-1997)

By Marissa Geiger

[The first part of this articles was published last issue (Vol59/Issue18)-BS.]

The Man in White Came in Riding on a Horse

After a presidential search, the BOT chose Alan Guskin to replace William Birenbaum. Guskin’s presidency spanned from 1985 to 1997 and I split them up into two very distinctive periods: 1985-1990 were the calm years and 1990-1997 was when things started to get severely problematic. According to Guskin, when he arrived here, AC was an estimated 12 months from closing. According to The Chronicle of Higher Education, in the first two years Guskin was here, in order to reverse a downward spiral, he had to fire some people, begin phasing out the Law School in D.C. and balance a budget some $800,000 in the red.

While Birenbaum named the University, Guskin sustained it at a very high level of prosperity for most of his tenure as an administrator. It is not until the period of 1990-1997 that you can see why he may be so controversial. Things started going sour when the Record investigated an administrator whom Guskin appointed without approval of any pre-established legitimate processes (AdCil various committees of the time). Michael Bassis was unilaterally hired in 1989, and just happened to be one of Guskin’s old University of Wisconsin colleagues (where he held a position previous to Antioch) and also created a position for him, AU Executive Vice President to assist Guskin with the College. This was a developing trend for Guskin, as he appointed many people who shared his interest to high-level authority positions. The Record unearthed that Bassis lied about the concentration of his PhD: it wasn’t in Sociology as he and Guskin adamantly proclaimed time and time again, but in Education. This raised serious questions about his qualifications for the job and honesty relating to his academic record. But Guskin shot back, “Mike Bassis will be here as long as I am”.

The Snowball Effect

The problems snowballed. That little lie set the stage for the rest of Guskin’s tenure. Guskin had been rearranging positions and departments since he got to campus, but nothing was as epochal as the restructuring of 1992, which stretched until 1994. This was often referred to as “decentralization”, or Guskin implementing his “federal model”, in which there was is autonomy but within a negotiated policy framework. According to Devine, who was also the Dean of Faculty a short while during Guskin’s tenure, “The federal model allowed the College its autonomy to have the governance that we have, to have the program that we have and provided the safe harbor to say ‘We had a bad year’ and we had some subsidies to help cover what we’re doing.”

The subsidies Devine mentioned refer to the other units of AC. It was at this time the position of AU Chancellor was created, to link all the other executive directors (i.e. presidents) of the other campuses. This decentralization was said to promise the reduction of the responsibility and workload of the central administration. It was at this time there were only five units under the AU (six if you count the AU administration as a separate entity): Antioch College, McGregor School, Seattle, Southern California, and New England (last four are adult campuses).

Instead of AC pumping money into the adult campuses, Guskin reversed the flow of resources and they turned into, in effect, the College’s endowment. Money flowed toward the AC from all the centers it birthed years ago. It usually added up to about $1 million from each center (this number fluxes depending on the source). Devine added, “Guskin was good at working a board. That’s what a CEO of a non-profit has to do. Love him or hate him, he did rebuild the finances of the place.”

Under Guskin’s model, the affected offices were Personnel, Business, Financial Aid, the University Registrar, and (at the time) possibly the 1993 equivalent of Tech Resources. The campus was assured that the consolidation of these departments would save money.

Administration for each unit would be central, but would report to the BOT through the Chancellor of the University, which made the relationship between campus administration and the Board a little more ambiguous. Denman calls Guskin as a loving parent and all the units his children, “Guskin fell into the trap of getting too close in his sense of identity to the College and its future so when he began to receive criticism after the romantic period was over (1985-1990), he withdrew periodically, began to see faculty and students as aliens. At times he tried. When it didn’t pay off for him, it was a reason for anger, and he would move back into the authoritative role. He loved Yellow Springs; his love affair was too great; love in the romantic sense. Love of one who could maintain own independence, and offer independence of College to itself. Its like the love of a parent and letting the child become an independent person that bewilders, disappoints but also achieves its own visions.”

The Crowfoot Dismissal

Guskin took the chance to become Chancellor of AU, thereby ending his dual presidency. After a presidential search (which also caused an uproar in the way it was conducted), Jim Crowfoot was chosen as the 18th President of AC. He only lasted one year (1995-1996). This particular year in our history is the reason the AIF was born and part of why some alumni feel so severed from the AC community.

The Crowfoot controversy is a complicated one and depending on who your sources are, can be entirely hearsay. According to a faculty compiled chronology of events, a new College budget came out on July 1st, accompanied with restrictions on the budget. Crowfoot left for planned vacation on the 22nd. The 23rd, the University imposed a freeze on spending and College could not authorize any spending. A memo given to faculty read Severe disciplinary action if procedures are not followed. Crowfoot was contacted and said a freeze may be helpful and that it is essential to cooperate.

On August 6th, Crowfoot flew home to attend an AdCil budget meeting and found that $600,000-800,000 deficit is why the University took over. It was announced the 13th that Crowfoot “resigned”. Guskin replied with “Sometimes you have to act.” Now, I have heard from some that Crowfoot was a terrible President and the campus culture didn’t mesh well with him.

Denman said “These climatic events, turning points… In the minds of some of us, we felt these were moments where it was established, or should’ve been established, that certain kinds of processes are legitimate here and other processes are not. It stands as a precedent that the University can’t get rid of a College President without consultation, without real involvement of the AC process for hiring and firing. It all goes back to the notion that we make decisions collaboratively at the College. We have normative processes that we should follow for making decisions.”

The dismissal of Crowfoot, was out of line with the College practice of due process, up until that point, that is. There was a flood of articles posted in every newspaper in 25-mile radius, and one thing resounded, the actions of the Executive Committee of the BOT were necessary and the stability at the top of the College hierarchy was the key consideration. Less than a week later one of the Board members, Malte von Matthiessen resigned, citing a lack of confidence in the leadership of AU Chancellor Al Guskin. Malte’s concern lay in the fact that Crowfoot wasn’t given the resources or the support to deal with the College’s problems and was not informed as to how severe they really were. It was doomed from the start merely from miscommunication.

Do you need clarification at this point?

From 1972-2002, the College had 16 different leaders. In the first ten years, 1972-82, enrollment dropped from 2,470 to around five or six hundred, where it has remained. I asked Bob Devine his what he thought of the stagnate admissions rate in the past 20 years and he replied, “You gotta meet 100% of financial need to compete. We need consistent financial aid and more people on the road promoting Antioch College.” Money is always the issue with this question. When we spike the money to be able to bring people here, we spike in admissions. There is a direct correlation between the two. All distractions aside, I set out to determine the root cause in our current crisis, and I believe it lies within the Dixon Network. Superfluous educational imperialism of the early days of the University set the precedent. But I should probably describe what I mean by the “current crisis”. Not really knowing who is really in charge compounds the effects of living within, as Devine calls it, a manufactured crisis. The Board made the decision to charge depreciation to the College’s budget (and every other unit) two years ago. “Depreciation is the $1 million worth of physical plant and it’s going to wear out in 10 years so you must show expenses of $100,000 each year. It originally showed up on AU’s budget (started in 1993, since it was required to have it)- depreciation as an expense, and endowment growth and revenue and they wash each other out.” Numerous consultants advised AU financial executives not to charge each unit for depreciation, claiming the College can’t take the hit.

It is a good strategy, since the money can be used to revitalizing dorms, inadvertently addressing issues of retention. However, it is taking a huge chunk out of the school’s budget for depreciation. At the same time that it was a shock there was no reserve funds set aside to counteract dilapidated conditions of the grounds, $1.8 million dollars was also wrenched from the College’s pockets at the same time when all the other units decide to stop paying the overhead they have been sending our way for years. Instead, the subsidies are called (money from adult campuses, because remember, they were thought to be our endowment) “allowable deficit”, meaning they will go away sooner or later if we get our finances in order. Glenn Watt’s attitude and the rest of the University is destructive, as both think it is time for all other satellites to concentrate on themselves, to better themselves with all their revenue, instead of pumping money into a black hole of a college. Devine responds, “The College is a black hole cause we don’t know what people do, and we don’t necessarily share the values.” But the University seems to forget that the College is a vital part of AU. The central administration is located here and without some of the resources we have (library, cafeteria, etc.), the other schools could not be accredited.

Adult campuses are the most important source of revenue for the University. Not only do they bring in more money, but the other branches of the University are growing amazingly fast, in comparison to the College, which is currently struggling to maintain its existing attendance figures, as it waxes and wanes like it always does, or has for 20 years. A liberal arts model of education is expensive and there are two ways of remedying it: large endowments, which we don’t have, and/or high enrollment rate, which we don’t have.

Again, the structure is questioned

“But when the autonomy goes away [supplied under Guskin’s federal model] and the subsidies go away then I question whether the College does not need its own BOT, its own structure.” which is Devine’s response to how he feels about the current AU/AC dichotomy. AU administration is putting us in a very difficult situation, as all our money is tied up in projects that should have happened a long time ago. It is really easy to fall into the trap of not seeing the end in sight when it comes to campus projects, since we have adopted the “band-aid fix” for many years now. I asked Denman for his opinion on AC/AU and he said, “I have been convinced that it would be good for the College to regain its independence, but I have concluded in the last four months that this is an impossibility, that the AIF was the last good try, that now the future of the College lies within the University and that we better do everything we possibly can to have the entire University system thrive with the College as a part of it. The trustees will never really entertain the question, let alone answer it favorably.” (In a Record from 1993, it said the Board will no longer entertain questions about whether the University should exist or not.)

I asked Pelakoudas the same question and he mentioned that other places had Board of Visitors and depending on how the BOT defines the BOV, they can be delegated whatever powers the want. He suggested, “Total abolishment of current hierarchy. The University is a holding company with five separately incorporated units. It’s a business model. It doesn’t produce anything. Make the University a non-operating unit, contrary to what we have across the street. The superstructure can exist, but while not running programs. Each unit can make decisions about assets and leadership as long as they are consistent with the holding company (AU) and the BOT. As long as AU owns the resources we cannot be successful. We must manage our own resources to be successful, if we have any chance. (And here is where Al and Connie agree) It may be that we are beyond the stage where anything will work. I hope not… but I don’t think we can work under the present structure.”

I ran into an article in a Record from 1985 titled Is the University good for the College? Professor of Co-operative Education Dan Hotaling responds with, “Accountability and sense of responsibility are so spread around that no one can get a handle on how to run the place. No one is in a position to make a significant difference. No one can truly lead here since advocacy for this campus clashes with subservience to the University’s administration. Who is in charge of AC and what can s/he really do?” I want to challenge and prove Guskin wrong when he says, “It is an academic truism that trying to change a University is like trying to rearrange a cemetery.” It doesn’t sound like Connie’s suggestion would be that painful.

Reports of linkage problems

Even if our ideas are not heard or just completely ignored, the current system should not go to waste or make us go to waste. We have a communication problem with the University and it is to our benefit to remedy it. I read in the NCA report from the last time the accreditation team was here in 1993. A serious fault they see within our system is the problem of linkage, connecting different departments, especially between AC and across the street. Duffy explained to me that, for a long time, Glenn Watts didn’t know the air condition was broken in the library. He told Duffy that no one had told him, to which replied to me during the interview, “Kettering Building might as well be in Mexico.” Although, I do know information slips through the cracks over there and irresponsibility cannot be blamed on workload. If that is the argument, a review is in order of the consolidations that occurred more than a decade ago. So…what?

This summer, I was blaming Joan, and then I convinced others and myself that it was the BOT. Recently, I think that it is we as a community. Richard Lapides, a trustee of nine years, resigned June 8th, 1995. He was interviewed in the Record and he had this to say about the “blame game”, “Sometimes people like to talk overmuch about leadership because it’s a way to avoid dealing with them. It’s a lot easier to hold a leader responsible for what’s good or bad, more often what’s bad, instead of looking to oneself and one’s own role. It’s ridiculous. It happens all the time. It’s human nature.” I don’t fully agree with that statement, but I do think he makes a valid point by singling community members out and telling them to take responsibility for their surroundings. Times have changed since 1995, and I wonder if any Trustees would agree with his statement while still recognizing how many times students voices and efforts have been quashed on this campus.

Which leads me to four criteria I found in a commentary I found in the Record by student Matthew Rick. 1) The people who control the money call all the shots. 2) Important decisions are made from the top down. 3) The people in control don’t have to apologize. 4) Protest is tolerated as long as it doesn’t change anything.

These were written in 1992 and I remember discussing these same issues in the days following Joan’s meeting with us. We protested about DOS restructuring and the blatant weakening of the Office of Multicultural Affairs. If you have noticed other parallels through out this report to what is going on now, do not be surprised. It all goes back to the Guskin era, at the start of his difficult years. Notice that Guskin created a position specifically for Bassis. We ran into that issue this past summer with how obvious some of the positions were designed and written. Some purposely excluded while others were inclusive. It was as if some of the positions were being molded around individuals. Also notice in Guskin’s decentralization/federal model how there was decentralization of less centralized power in one area (AHEM DOS) and this command came from above, namely the BOT, but implemented by President <enter name here>. The College Community has yet to see the Restructuring Committee notes that were compiled at numerous social settings and via email. Again, whom are we supposed to go to for it? I gather there is some hesitancy from up above Joan to release them, or she would have put them out by now. Or maybe not. The students don’t have the money to be able to call the shots, but we certainly have every other constituency beat by majority. And without us, there is no reason for the College to continue operating. “If you don’t feel influential over your environment, then you loose the will to change.”

There are interesting parallels between the past and present. McGregor School merged with AU in 1995. Of course there was a lot of discussion on taking on such collaboration. At the same time, the Yellow Springs campus dwellers were in an uproar about the College renting out Units to McGregor. And here we are, in 2003, McGregor is threatening to leave, and we are negotiating with them to rent out Units (or maybe it was quashed by Housing). It was also the same time as racism/systematic oppression were active issues on campus. You would think the administration would have it down by now, right? We are moving in circles around a circle. It seems as if we keep asking the same questions over and over again, and they are the wrong ones every time because we don’t get the right answers. The question “Is AU good for AC” is becoming tedious and gets us nowhere close to achieving some sort of independence within the College.

We have been operating in the same cursed structure for 20-odd years. The fear that I mentioned before plays an important role in keeping us in this static position. Pelakoudas states, “An environment in which you feel squeezed by limited resources and constant economic constraints makes dealing with the other issues difficult (those of race, class, gender, etc.) It makes people angry and scared. It comes down to ownership of resources and the quality of life campus. If you don’t feel influential over your environment, then you loose the will to change, and not just financial, governance side. It is also the ownership of assets, issues surrounding governance. If you really feel that [influence] working with colleagues, you can make a difference. If you don’t have that possibility, what is the point?”

I personally, do not feel like I am, or have been, influencing my environment. The resistance against that this summer was suffocating and culminated at one particular community meeting where two executive administrators began to tear up. THEY WERE ACTUALLY LISTENING FOR ONCE. And its not like they had a choice. There is no room for power hungry individuals in administration. Guskin is a member of the Renewal Commission. Check out and click on “Project on the Future of Higher Education”. Notice who is on it: Guskin, BASSIS, and a few other of his friends he appointed to administrative positions while President/Chancellor.

Should this scare you that he is once again a part of a crucial decision making process? I will leave that for you to decide. I am not placing blame on any one individual for all our current woes. However, it seems odd to me that we are tackling issues that have root in the Guskin era, and he is on the Commission. People say the Commission and its members have the best interest of the College in mind. But what they mean is the members have their own interest for the College in mind and in turn, come to the table wielding their own agenda.

I am not a proponent of this, it is merely an observation- I already pointed out that we, as students, have the majority, population wise. Students in 1973 took advantage of that and look at the damage they did. We are still recovering from it. I say we escape this perpetual victim mentality that comes along with living in an environment where we have no control. We are at another crucial bend in our cycle, where we could possibly break off. The Renewal Commission, restructuring of the DOS, presidential search- its all happened before, and all at the same time and Antioch College reacted the way we always do, with fear and trembling submission. I am going to take Duffy’s advice and “adopt” a trustee, alumni, or a member on a commission and open my heart to them totally so I can feed them so they can make the judgments by they know from me. I cannot accept “Nothing will ever change here”, because the means lie within all of us.

The Past 50 Years of the Antioch Presidency, Part 1 (1950s – 1980s)

By Marissa Geiger

[History will help us see our present circumstances and the future more clearly. This two-part series is presented thanks to several months of work from Marissa, researched through dozens of interviews and lengthy searches through Antiochiana and back issues of the Record. –MH]

When an institution doesn’t have lax leadership, it becomes driven by law and finance and the result is it is a fear driven institution rather than a mission driven institution” -Bob Levin (as quoted by Bob Devine)

By now you have heard the horror stories from the summer, how the renegade administration took matters into their own hands to achieve efficiency, the unjust firings and demotions, and a stagnate air to campus starting the week our President Joan Straumanis gave us her the update on the Board of Trustees (BOT) meeting. Straumanis mentioned that the BOT is paying close attention to the College, even more so and has decided to create a Renewal Commission to revitalize every facet of the campus. She also told us there were plans for a restructuring of the Dean of Students (DOS) office. And then there was the Antioch Independence Fund (AIF), calling for the centralization of the College and moving it out of the University’s control while using $1.2 million (collected from like-minded alumni) to coax University administrators to comply with their demands.

It was at Joan’s meeting that I met some feisty alumni who worked closely with the AIF. That was the start of my mission to find out about the relationship between the University and the College, since Joan’s meeting had me near panicked tears. I was determined to eradicate this growing fear within me by discovering where the deepest root of our current crisis lies. I use the term crisis lightly, as we have been in much worse condition, as I hope to point out to you. I contended most of the summer that the cause to all our woes was merely a mismanagement issue. I began by asking the question, “Who is really in charge here?”

I think that question is integral to understanding the Antioch College (AC) and Antioch University (AU) relationship and I hope to show you where the line lies between the two. I apologize in advance for holes in my research/writing. As I am limited as a student for time and limited in terms of length, I have meticulously selected what I am discussing. I am hoping this will start a dialogue on campus about our history and I welcome any corrections/arguments against what I say here.

Summer wrap-up

If you haven’t heard about the summer’s course of events, allow me to clarify. The former DOS resigned in April. It was this and many other issues that led Joan to believe the position put too much responsibility and expected too much out of one individual. So goes the reasoning for the actual restructuring. People had issue, however, with how the new positions were being drafted in written form. Some people even believed certain positions were created for specific people. Joan called for a “DOS Restructuring Committee” who would pool together opinions and suggestions from the community. We held various forums and the Committee gladly accepted feedback from those off campus via email. The Committee was to report to join about their findings, and from there she was to make a decision.

The outcome is what we have in place today and it isn’t quite what the community at large suggested. But what you didn’t see, and what you don’t hear about today is that there was blood spilled along the way; people lost their jobs and others were demoted unfairly who were integral to the campus community and whom everyone loved. The AIF situation ended badly, and from the view of the community, was handled badly on all rungs of the Antioch hierarchy, starting with Joan and ending with the BOT. There were some stipulations to receiving the money collected by the AIF that seemed outright ridiculous and on the verge of blackmail, for example severing from the University, while others had been demanded since the birth of the University, for example College President would be ex-officio BOT member.

However, $1.2 million dollars is enough and a lot of community couldn’t get the bitter taste out of their mouth, thinking that more deliberation could have taken place (with the community involved) and that it appeared as if it was another situation were the Board was asserting its power. AIF gave a deadline to Antioch a few years ago that ended this past August, the money they raised being given to a bunch of secondary designations, mostly in Yellow Springs and other nonprofits.

The Dixon Years

James P. Dixon is credited with creating “the Network” (which eventually went on to become AU). Dixon’s presidency spanned 25+ years, starting in 1959 until 1975. In the early 1960’s, individual initiative caused many “centers” affiliated with Antioch to sprout up all over the country. The first established was the Putney school in Vermont (which is now a grad school known as Antioch School of New England). Less than four years later, Antioch had established 30-35 centers around the world (including a law school in DC and programs in Alaska). It was also during that time that those satellites created their own sub-satellites, as did they, and so on and so forth. There was inequity among the units, as it was difficult for Antioch College to manage an “empire” this enormous. Institutional control was virtually impossible, mainly because of geographical constraints. The College at the time had its own BOT, but when we started to expand to create the University, they had to divide their time. It was impossible to attend to all the centers, so they mainly focused on administration from centers and the College. Former Antioch Professor of Philosophy, Religion, and Law, Al Denman, says, “[Dixon] was willing to sacrifice the future of the College if we were to be true to our destiny as educational leaders. And if we were to be true to our destiny it didn’t matter if we survived cause we would be setting the pace, we’d be an example, we’d help others ride with the tides even though we might go under… the job of the administration was to enable those who were catching the visions of the future that were destined to be, not stand in the way.”

Establishing centers around the globe promoting all the values and ideals of Antioch was sound ideally, but not in practice, as it turned out. Connie Pelakoudas, who was Professor of Economics at the time stated, “There was interesting motivation [to establish the satellites]- take a program to less fortunate areas. It was not intended to be permanent. It was initially intended to empower the people in the community to take charge of their education that couldn’t otherwise attend a rural liberal arts college.”

Strike!

Meanwhile, back home in Yellow Springs, the campus was in the beginning stages of severe budget crisis. The bills eventually started to come in for the previous three years of expansion from all the satellites; we had overspent; all of our reserves were gone and we plummeted into great debt in a matter of months. As a historical note, the Vietnam War was raging as were campus uprisings all over the country speaking out against our involvement in Vietnam. Nixon took this personally and threatened to take away student grants.

Since most of the students here were supported by financial aid, and upon hearing the resounding threat from Nixon, the students demanded the administration promise that they would be financially supported through their four years here. Denman states, “The administration knew something they couldn’t actually tell everybody, namely they had already overspent everything (mainly on the Network), so there was no money for guarantee of student support and these messianic visionaries (the students/ faculty on strike) got together and shut down the school.” However, this was the second strike. As Stephen Duffy in the Library will tell you, the first strike was that of the newly established Union on campus. The totality of both strikes paralyzed the campus for weeks. The doors reopened, but with far fewer students than when they closed. Within a year, the enrollment plummeted from 2300 students to about 1600 students.

The BOT is AOK

Dixon was dismissed in 1974 mainly for mismanagement of the network and finances, and other controversies surrounding him and his associates. The BOT was urged to act the year before by many constituents, including students (via the Record) and faculty who claimed Dixon was incompetent as a leader, which, they concluded, clearly led to disintegration and degradation of the community (as reported in Dayton Daily News 09-23-73). The constituents also challenged the Board’s thoroughness when dealing with recent events, alluding to the possibility that they are completely ignorant about what goes on at the school. However, a commentary to the Record in 1974 by Prof. John Sparks, offers a retort and defends the position of the BOT.

He points out that, at the time, the College’s Charter states the president serves “at the pleasure of the Board”. Sparks continues by supplying evidence that Dixon did not comply with the Board and, in fact, filtered what he told them. Members of the Board mentioned in Sparks’ article stated that the President did not keep them sufficiently informed of developments for them to be able to do their job intelligently and responsibly and that they continually asked for information but were held off or ignored. Dixon acted on his own numerous times and even went to the extent of quashing AdCil’s rulings or avoiding AdCil all together.

The Wrestler Comes to Antioch

Insufficient attention was paid to the 35 units, and they were financially mismanaged and poorly run which is a violation of the financial management responsibility of the Board. Putting this into the context of our current situation, the Board does not want it to happen again to the College and according to Denman, “they do feel a grave responsibility for it.” (Maybe this explains the tightening of the financial reigns in recent years?) The Board sought out a replacement for Dixon and landed William Birenbaum from Long Island, NY.

Birenbaum’s presidency spanned from 1976 until 1984 (the period between his entrance and Dixon’s exit was covered by a joint interim president wife/husband team, Bob and Kay Levin). This period is the most crucial of all three examined here, as Birenbaum was the creator of what we know now as Antioch University (AU). He had the distinguished job to do whatever it took to keep the College alive. He was hired to cut down Dixon’s Network, to whittle away things that were hemorrhaging, entering with an axe to chop away anything that would drag the rest of the institution down. However, Birenbaum did not like Yellow Springs nor Antioch from the beginning (his wife reportedly despised Ohio), so he moved the offices to New York City. His logic was he had more financial connection and could raise more money in NYC (even when factoring the cost of his travel twice a week back to campus). As Duffy pointed in an interview, “Absence does not make the heart grow fonder. He couldn’t know the actual problems unless he was here. He only knew what he was being fed. Who does the feeding? Who’s ever ego is involved.”

It was a big mistake on Birenbaum’s part to live far away from campus. How could he grasp what Antioch was all about, both in principle and practice? His mission clearly was not to make friends, but to straighten out the mess of the previous decades. He was known as a bully and when challenged in public forum (meetings, AdCil, etc) he would ask if they wanted to step outside and wrestle, as he was a wrestler in his undergrad years. The campus, at large, generally felt hostile towards him and fought back by writing letters to the Record or attending his few and far between public appearances. When it came to him paring down what was suffering the most financially, that is where he ran into problems. According to Pelakoudas, “We had a lot of issues getting out of certain programs. Legal issues were involved in the process of closing them down”.

The Infamous Name Change

In a resolution dated Fall 1977, Birenbaum proposed an amendment to be taken to the Board of Regents of the State of Ohio to change the name Antioch College to Antioch University, and included in this “university” was the remnants of Dixon’s Network: Antioch College, Yellow Springs; Antioch School of Law, Washington, DC; Antioch-East, Maryland; Antioch-West, San Francisco; and Antioch International also located in Yellow Springs. The reasoning was “by nature of its degree offerings and organization Antioch conforms to the definition of a ‘University’”. We were no longer a small liberal arts college; we were a part of a whole. But it wasn’t (and shouldn’t be) the College that managed the Networks. According to Birenbaum, as stated in YS News, “It should clarify what Antioch is to the public”. “College” is used to describe an institution that is exclusively or primarily undergrad in nature. Administrators saw what was Antioch, at the time, operating on a university model. In the next three years, there would be three Provosts (our equivalent to AC president) under Birenbaum as he continued business in NYC.

Worst Financial Crisis in the Late 1900’s

In 1979 there was the worst financial crisis in years. Faculty and staff both worked for free, called “pay-less paydays” for weeks. AU issued I.O.U’s and most workers went on welfare programs, such as food stamps. Duffy calls it “a creative gamble to get out of fiscal exigency”. There was a huge administration created by the AU expansion, and the newly incorporated campuses were expensive, namely AC and the Law School. However, Bob Devine states, “AC actually caused it to default. AC caused the default, which caused a bank to seize part of our endowment. The drop in enrollment [is the issue], not the University that took our endowment.” The campus went into survival mode. According to stories from Duffy, students, faculty and staff teamed up during the summer and worked on the campus grounds for little to no pay. Already two years after the name change, the finances crashed and the AC community lost the little faith they had in their administrators. As Denman put it, “The entire institution was insolvent, by that we mean that there was literally no money flowing either in nor out. Nobody was being paid, no bills were being paid and nothing was being purchased. The campus was on the verge of bankruptcy. There was a great doubt as to whether we would open in the fall.”

It was during this time that Birenbaum suggested to sell off what is now Antioch Commons to the town as a form of capital; we ended up buying it back years down the road when in decent financial standing.

Al Denman answers questions with legal backing

The severe budget crisis took a toll on the campus as a whole and people started to really question the college’s current system. Denman took the summer off to research his guide to “Legal Means for Separating Antioch College from Antioch University”. It outlines many issues that are strangely echoed today: AC has fundamental cultural and general differences with AU and its administration; capital assets (endowment, alumni, property, etc) that belong to AU actually belong to AC and were stolen from AC.; an attempt may be made to close AC to save the rest of the University; and the AU administration is incapable of superintending itself, let alone the rest of the units (and their budgets). “Antioch College” cannot have standing to sue in order to separate because it is not a separate legal entity and is not a “person” in the eyes of the law.

There are correlations to today’s problems, but the most dramatic was that, according to Denman, “Birenbaum felt that the College stood in the way of the University and that the College needed to either die or be sufficiently metamorphosed so that it was no longer the Antioch College that we know but would be a different kind of creature cause it needed to give up its life so that the life of the University should continue.” (This striking historical repetitiveness bears contemplation.) Birenbaum was in close contact with the BOT, especially Leo Drey, who has given millions of dollars over the years. Without him, our College would not be alive today. But it is contended that BOT waited too long to dismiss Birenbaum, as he hostilely severed himself from the campus, and it was noted by several interviewees that during his tenure here that his judgment got progressively more clouded. But, without Birenbaum, there would be no precedence set for the entering president who would, in the long run, build a equal exchange among the units of AU, and would illustrate how all the parts of the whole funded each other through troubled times.