Cheap Glitter and Mixed Feelings, Reaction to the Concept Paper by Lincoln Alpern ’11

[From the Editor: On April 1st, 2009, the Concept Paper for an independent Antioch College was released on antiochians.org. Read the concept paper here.

[Click here to discuss the Concept paper on the Record’s Forum]

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.

Lincoln Alpern

Class of ’11

Toxic Talk: Steve Lawry’s Culture War

toxicheader1

By Jeanne-Kay

Research: Brian Springer, Kathryn Leahey, Jeanne Kay

Prelude: The Discourse of Toxicity

“Toxic Culture.” Steve Lawry’s infamous phrase is now part of the vocabulary of virtually all Antiochians. The year before the Antioch University Board of Trustees (UBoT) resolved to close the college, the key political issue on campus and the polemic that reached alumni revolved around the question of Toxic Culture–whether there was one, how it manifested itself, how to fix it or how to debunk its myth.

To alumni whose only contact with the community in years had been filtered through Media and University intermediaries, “toxic culture” meant a steady decline in academic excellence and increased political narrowness from their time at Antioch onwards; to conservative reporters, “toxic culture” came to be the perfect excuse to write diatribes against political correctness at liberal arts colleges; and to many observers “toxic culture” was a perfect shortcut to explaining how Antioch College had found itself in such an incomprehensibly dire situation: Antioch students were narrow-minded, unstable, out of control–they chased away new students, driving down retention and preventing Antioch from achieving financial stability. The toxic culture narrative made sense–and it was useful.

For many students on campus, however, accusations of toxicity and the clean-up crusades that followed translated into a daily struggle to uphold shared governance, preserve freedom of expression, and debunk a myth that had been imposed from top-down unto what was most experienced as a close-knit, supportive and safe community. “It became difficult to go anywhere on campus without hearing conversations within our community about this analysis of our home,” writes Community Manager Chelsea Martens ’08, a student on campus during the toxic years; “we were being told that no, it was not the structural instabilities of a poorly managed governance structure, or poor financial stewardship of Antioch College by the AUBoT that was suffocating our campus, but a damaging toxic culture that was making Antioch College ill.”

On Monday, March 2nd 2009, The Antioch Papers (www.theantiochpapers.org) published previously unreleased confidential documents that shed light on the workings behind the toxic culture narrative. Through them we learn that Antioch College President Steve Lawry (2005-2007) considered himself engaged in a full-fledged “culture war”–with the full mandate and support of the UBoT.

The attributes of a “failed culture” according to Steve Lawry

The centerpiece of the Antioch Papers’ release is Steve Lawry’s report to the University Board of Trustees on November 2nd, 2006. The seven-page long document was subsequently emailed to all board members and prefaced by Chancellor Toni Murdock’s warning that it should be “treated as a confidential document.” She expresses concern that “the proposals he raises will require far-reaching discussions with faculty and others at the College;” and asks for trustees to exercise their discretion since “it is important that [Lawry] lead and manage them carefully. We would not want some portions to reach members of the community without the careful preparations this kind of process deserves.”

The report begins by exposing what Lawry calls “the attributes of a failed culture.” Here, he describes student culture as intolerant and confrontational; “persons who might not fit the narrow mold of an acceptable Antioch student are subject to severe scrutiny on arrival. Their social values and political credentials are tested through a process of ‘calling out.'” Lawry explains such a phenomenon as students feeling “resentment” from past alienating experiences; “many Antioch students bring with them grievances for how they have been treated in the so-called ‘real world,’ for some by virtue of non-normative lifetyles, not fitting in mainstream culture, etc. As one student rather starkly put it, ‘the Antioch student is the person who did not have any friends in high school.'”

The college president goes on to pinpoint “substance abuse and a tolerance within the student community for it” as yet another cultural problem needing to be remedied. Lawry’s decision to expel three students from the entering class of 2006 a few days after orientation is an example of his attempt to remedy to what he perceived as a major issue for the campus.

Lawry further advances his argument by arguing that “the intellectual and learning environment has over the last two decades been diminished, in my view, through admission of large numbers of students with weak academic backgrounds.” To the college president, this trend in decline makes the Antioch’s self-managed education system as inadapted. The system of narrative evaluations, moreover, “can fail to hold accountable others for unsatisfactory progress,” Lawry writes.

Finally, “a deeply confused ‘shared governance’ model,” according to Lawry, had “…become [a] vessel[…] for vociferous opposition to the administration and strangely misdirected power struggles.” Community governance, he assessed, “has doubtful educational benefit.”

The Mental Health Issue

Steve Lawry’s depiction of Antioch’s “failed culture” then diverges to the issue of students’ mental health. Citing director of the Wright State clinic Dr. Cynthia Olson, Lawry claims that “the [Antioch] student body displays an exceptionally high proportion, for the age group, of persons with bipolar disorders, schizophrenia and eating disorders, exacerbated by high co-morbidity with substance abuse.” To Lawry, “campus social life and the health of entire learning environment are affected negatively” by this “issue.”

On October 31st, 2006, a week before his report to the UBoT, President Lawry informed the college faculty of his concerns about students’ mental health compromising the success of the college. In a document subsequently circulated among the community, former Antioch College President Bob Devine ’67 states: “When a President of a respectable institution tells the faculty, on the basis of a single conversation with a mental health professional, that the students they are teaching have too many gender disorders, bi-polar disorders, eating disorders and other psychological problems, and that is why the College is unable to recruit and retain students, and is the source of the institutions budgetary problems, I have reservations.”

In Fall 2007, an admissions counselor who requested to remain anonymous reported to the Record that Lawry had communicated instructions in 2005/2006 for students to be screened for mental health problems during the admissions process. The question as to whether this constitutes an act of discrimination naturally arises, since the American with Disabilities Act of 1990 “recognizes and protects the civil rights of people with disabilities and is modeled after earlier landmark laws prohibiting discrimination on the basis of race and gender. The ADA covers a wide range of disability, from physical conditions … to conditions such as emotional illness and learning disorders,” and applies to “a nursery, elementary, secondary, undergraduate, or postgraduate private school, or other place of education.”

On November 2nd, 2006, Dr Linda Sattem, director of the Antioch College Counseling and Wellness center, published a letter on a community forum that stated that as early as March 2004 she “sent out a campus-wide announcements concerning rumors that indicated thinking along the lines of ‘If Antioch did not admit such messed up students, the college would not be having such problems'” Sattem clearly states that “Antioch students are not different than other college students. Our students do not have more problems, more severe problems or a higher incidence of mental illness.” She ends her letter by emphasizing to students: “there is nothing wrong with you. You are not the reason the college is having difficulties.”

Lawry Gets “Culture War” Mandate From UBoT

Steve Lawry’s report concludes with a statement of confidence as to his ability to “shift” the culture to “one founded on intellectual freedom, open inquiry and respect among all community members.” He further recognizes the task as “very hard” because “large numbers of those who see the College as a fit socially and politically continue to bring with the values and attitudes anathema to the culture that we are trying to build.”

Lawry thus set out to renew the culture by changing the way in which was portrayed to prospective students. The Board contracted an independent agency in 2005 to make new recruitment materials that would present a picture of the college that a different population of college students would identify with. Notably, the college’s tradition of shared governance was increasingly downplayed. Professor Jean Gregorek recalls changes on the college’s website in particular; “the portion of the website describing community engagement –under the caption ‘you have a voice,’ ironically enough–was dramatically revised at Steve’s direction to eliminate references to student participation in college governance,” she says.

Lawry presents the “culture shift” operation as crucial to the college’s survival. He plans to adopt “bold and very ambitious” leadership in “addressing the problems identified above.” Moreover, he appears to be advocating for a shock therapy based strategy; “incremental change will not be timely or effective.”

The closed session minutes from the UBoT meeting of November 2-4 2006 state that Lawry told the board that “building a new Antioch entails revamping the structure and operations and a realignment of the faculty to meet new needs.” The minutes report that “Steve was commended by several trustees on the frankness of his report.” Trustee Larry Stone, in particular, stated that he was “pleased to see the support for Steve around the table,” since he feared that “some will see Steve as the problem.” “Lack of community and toxicity are real problems,” he said, “which were identified by the NCA well before Steve arrived.”

Antioch University Tullisse “Toni” Murdock “recognized the courage it takes to fight a Culture War … and underscored the support Steve is receiving from the ULC [University Leadership Council.]” Trustee Sherwood Guernsey “proposed a motion to support the president of the college and his vision,” the resolution was “revisited and passed the following day,” as follows:

RESOLUTION 11.4.06:13 (S. Guernsey/D.Fallon)

RESOLVED, that the Board of Trustees of Antioch University supports president Steven Lawry’s vision for Antioch College based on mutual respect, intellectual freedom and open inquiry [as envisioned by the Renewal Plan] within the University system with the same shared values.

The “mutual respect, intellectual freedom and open inquiry” tryptych is used consistently through several documents–from Lawry’s report to the February 2007 UBoT board meeting.

Divergent Agendas

In a private letter sent to Steve Lawry on October 7th 2006, Professor Bob Devine provides an interpretation of the grounds for the UBoT’s support for Lawry’s culture war: “The origins of the mandate to “clean up the culture” of the College are fairly clear,” he writes; “Between those on the Board who are still angry about the ’60s and ’70s (not just as they played out at Antioch, but in a much broader cultural sense), those younger Board members who experienced the symptoms, among students, of several years of autocratic, insensitive and ineffective leadership, and those who have critically limited experience with 18-year olds (like yourself) and consequently experience the generation gap as a constant affront, it’s no mystery how such perspectives might coalesce to forge a mandate. In my view it’s a misguided mandate, for the very reason that it conflates symptoms with causes.

Chelsea Martens ’08 advances the thesis that the UBoT culture war was nothing less than a red herring: “You have to ask yourself then, why was so much attention focused on an analysis of our campus culture, and not on more significant factors of governance or finances? What interests did this narrative serve? Simply, it was a cosmetic analysis that removed our focus away from the real issue at hand – the mismanagement of Antioch College by Antioch University – and placed the blame squarely on the victims -Antioch College itself. By faulting Antioch for its troubles, and not highlighting any institutional short comings, it paved the way for our very closure, while simultaneously ignoring the responsibility of the University to the College.”

Levi B. Cowperthwaite was Community Manager in ’06/’07; after reading Lawry’ “failed culture” report, he commented in an email to the Record: “Steve cites no evidence for his claims (something my Antioch education taught me was essential when making an argument, especially in a formal document). He was always fond of retelling one or two inflamatory anecdotes as if that constituted a thorough and inarguable statistical analysis of campus culture. In this document, he can’t even seem to produce his favorite flimsy stories as an attempt to back up his claims. This makes me wonder if he wasn’t so much as proposing an analysis to the board as he was confirming a characterization they had already provided for him.”

Indeed, it appears that Lawry made an unrealistically prompt assessment of the state of Antioch college’s culture upon arrival.”After being on campus for approximately 7 days, President Steve Lawry addressed the entire campus for the first time during our regularly scheduled Community Meeting,” recalls Chelsea Martens, 2007-2009 Community Manager; “He shared with us his excitement for the experience and challenges of being Antioch College’s newest world-class President. After a few minutes into his speech, he began to address the issue of a “toxic culture” on campus … I raised my hand and asked Steve, ‘How, after being on campus for only 7 days, do you know us well enough to know our biggest faults?’ It became quite apparent … that this was not an astute observation made by our newest President, but a narrative that had been told to him, strategically, for the purpose of waging a culture war at Antioch College.”

Another instrumentalization of the toxic culture narrative regards the rationale for firing tenured professors. Lawry claimed that dealing with the culture problem would require a “realignment of the faculty,” and his concerns about the lowering of academic standards and out-of-control state of the student body reflected directly on the faculty’s reputation and legitimacy. Media Arts Professor Chris Hill believes that Steve Lawry was preparing the grounds for cutting faculty positions; she recalls a faculty meeting in Spring 2007 in which Lawry spoke; “it seemed that he might be trying to convince the BOT to combine the College with McGregor,” she said, “he offered few details. I asked him at that faculty meeting–if his plan were ratified did that mean that some of the tenured faculty sitting in the room at that time would lose their jobs, and he said yes. I believe that someone else, either at that meeting or the next one, asked how many would lose their jobs, and he didn’t respond. He was probably expecting that exigency would be declared, and that would allow him to cut back on tenured faculty positions, but that level of detail was not provided to the faculty (or Adcil) at that time.”

Patriarchy, Responsibility, Agency

“It was always ironic that Steve was so fond of the term ‘intellectual freedom,’ since the culture he proposed was one that favored limiting campus discourse to only those topics he deemed ‘appropriate,'” further writes Cowperthwaite, referring to Lawry’s attempt to censor the Antioch Record in Fall ’06 and make it unacessible to alumni by demanding that it be taken offline. “Sex was not appropriate. Speaking truth to power about the lived experiences of queer people of color, survivors of sexual assault, people dissatisfied with the expectations given them by society – that was not appropriate,” he continues, “and stepping out of line, the line predetermined by him, meant punishment. He even told staff members that ‘dissent = termination.’ One administrative staff member privately criticized Steve to me and then asked me not to repeat it, adding, ‘Please, I have a family to feed.'”

After the UBoT voted to close down Antioch College, a New York Times article quoted Steve Lawry perpetuating the Toxic Culture narrative at Reunion 2007:

“In its glory days, it attracted students who wanted to change the world, through war protests or work in communities. But Steven Lawry, Antioch’s president, said in an interview that more recently, the college became a magnet for students who felt marginalized, and so bred a political narrowness and culture of resentment. By way of example, he cited students getting “called out” for wearing Nikes, seen as an emblem of globalization.”It became less about intellectual rigor, than a political and social experience,” he said. “The boot camp of the revolution became the model.””We were offering a political re-education” instead of a liberal education.And that model, he added, is sharply at odds with what most students are looking for these days.”

Several faculty and students wrote open and personal letters to Steve Lawry, characterizing the president’s public blaming of the community as “yet another hit in the stomach” during already traumatic times.

To Martens, the cultural war years are the occasion to “learn a lesson: what power do we give a President, and it what ways do we give up our own agency and voice? By hiring Steve Lawry –a man who had no prior experience dealing with youth– to come in and ‘clean up our act’, we invited him to participate in a savior complex,” she says, “we gave up our own power by thinking that what we needed was someone to save us from ourselves. It’s a common patriarchal narrative – a Father Knows Best narrative, if you will – that empowers someone with little knowledge about our community, our struggles, our dreams, and the reality of being young in a chaotic world, with the task of making top-down decisions that do nothing to make our community a more engaging and compassionate place to be. Really, what we needed was for a President who understood the task at hand and who joined us in our commitment to making this world a better place, and who could have gently and compassionately, charged us with the responsibility to do this work with as much dignity, passion, and love as possible.”

Intox vs Detox

Chelsea Martens is now Community Manager at the Nonstop Liberal Arts Institute. She still has to deal with the consequences of the toxic culture narrative on a regular basis, as it continues to influence the Antiochian collective unconscious. She is weary of the reductive, oversimplistic analyses that come with the standard toxic culture debate, and tries to provide a more complex discourse; “Antioch College is a demanding educational experience. And we wouldn’t have it any other way,””she explains, “where else can you go to learn about the problems that the world is currently facing, while also being charged with the responsibility to do something about it? Coming to terms with the numbers of victories needed to win for humanity, rattles you to your core. And sometimes, during this process – a process that I would call a detoxing process – you experience sadness, anger, disbelief, and urgency. Everyone goes through the process of learning about this world – and unlearning the stories we have told ourselves to be complacent with it – in their own way. This process has become, wrongly so, deemed part of Antioch’s “toxic culture”. That is a misjudgment. In my opinion, it is a process of cultural detox – one that all Antiochians engage in so that they can become effective change agents, equipped with an understanding of this world and their responsibility to it.”

Archeology of Toxicity: From The Record’s Archives

I/Culture War is Waged

Fall 2006: Luke Brennan and Foster Neill are editors of the Antioch Record.

September:

Three first year students are expelled from campus. Read Record’s report: Part 1 Part 2

-Read letter from father of expelled student

-Record’s Question of the Week starts issue of Record censorship

October:

-Several alumni write open letters in Protest Part 1 Part 2

-Steve Lawry’s ambition to clean campus becomes clear to students

– Andrzej Bloch cease and desist letter to record editors (Satire issue version of Andrzej’s letter here!)

-Alumnus Matthew Baya receives cease and desist letter from Steve Lawry for hosting Record online (read Matt Baya’s answer here)

Part II/ Dealing with the Toxic Brand

December 2006

“Not My Antioch,” Debate with Ralph Keyes, author of “End Toxic Culture in Yellow Springs”In YS News: Part 1, Part 2

-Summer 2007, Antioch College to Close down

Alumnus Michael Goldfarb’s Op/Ed in NY Times: “When the arts were too liberal

Golfarb’s Interview with Record: “When the arts were liberal enough.”

Ralph Keyes: Present at the Demise

Letter from Jean Gregorek in response to Ralph Keyes August 23, 2007

Who Killed Antioch? Womyn (LA Times) and Antioch Student Paige Clifton-Steele’s Response

To the Antioch University Board of Trustees: What about me seems toxic to you? by Julian Sharp, August 31, 2007

From the Antioch Papers:

Culture War – Vision – Nov. 06

Culture War – Open & Closed Minutes – Nov 06

Interview with Lee Morgan and Matthew Derr

– Transcript by John Hempfling

The Record interviewed ProTem Board Chair Lee Morgan and Consultant to the ProTem Board Matthew Derr on Monday, February 16th

Stream this audio interview below, or click on the link to download or listen in your preferred audio application:

Download or Listen to full, unedited interview

The Record: Could you both define your role in the process leading to the definitive agreement? Lee what is your role?

Lee Morgan: Technically I’m the chair of the board ProTem, that’s my role, but I was nominated by the Alumni Association Board of Directors to represent alumni on the Task Force to negotiate the LOI.

What are you doing during the 90 day period, what does your schedule look like?

Lee: I’m trying to raise fifteen million dollars and we have to hammer out the definitive agreement and there are problems with the definitive agreements. I made some mistakes in the LOI one of which is mine, so I’ll fess up… which is the reversion clause in the LOI.

You said at the Seattle meeting that this was a deal breaker?

Lee: It is, for me it is, now Matthew might talk me out it but right now to me it’s a deal breaker.

Is this being worked out, has the university agreed to withdraw it?

Lee: It’s not exactly an all or nothing situation it appears that there are grades of possibilities. So, the question was if we try to save and revive the college and fail what happens. So, it’s trying to guess hat the outcome would be if we failed. The university definitely wants the name back, I don’t think they’ll bend on that, and I don’t fault for that. The question really is the physical assets and the issue that we have is (I’m talking too much this is very dangerous) we have to have clear title to the land, so we can borrow against it, so we can buy other land, we can sell land, we can be creative about joint ventures with the village and not have issues where we have to go to the university every time we want to do something. I don’t think we can finance the institution if we can’t get clear title and the way that reversion clause was written, it was almost as though the university had a lean on the real estate and the assets and I don’t think that was the intent, but it kinda came out that way and they don’t seem to be taking a very hard line.

You’ve already talked to the university about this?

Lee: Before we signed the LOI we already had realized that that would be a problem area. So they know about it and I think we can work it out; it’s just that i screwed up. My recollection is that I was the one who suggested the reversion clause in the first place and then I’m the one who figured out OOPSY! thats a mistake.

Matt Derr: With a reversion clause, I think, is something that the [University] lawyers would’ve inserted at some point.

Lee: And our lawyers would’ve objected

Matt: The reality is with the credit markets shut down, it’s not that much of an issue for us tomorrow, as it is for the people that will come after us years from now in the next five years because it’s actually linked to the accreditation of the college. But the University’s pledge that their interest is in making the college viable and anything that doesn’t make the college viable or threatens that viability is a problem. At least right now, they have expressed a willingness so that in the end their interests are protected but we can do what we need to do to rebuild the college.

What work needs to be accomplished during the 90- now 60-day period of, mostly fundraising, but what else how are you working on the definitive agreement?

Matt: I think their are two levels here, we’ve been focused on the University for a very long time, and now we have a board ProTem that has its own standards and its own agenda. So the fundraising really is not about meeting what the university wants but meeting our own standard for what we think is a healthy goal and allows the college to come back in the way that we want it to, so fundraising! Fundraising! Fundraising! Absolutely. The definitive agreement process is defined by the taskforce working together and the lawyers working together and that’s moving along its a sort of boxed in process that has to happen. We’re ambitious in wanting to finish it in 90-days but one of the things that we do know is that at the 45-day mark, half way through, we’re gonna give a report to the community about how far we’ve gotten and where we see any challenges that may exist. The 21st of April is the 90th day, so you can figure out where the 45th day is, I think it’s the 13th.

Lee: It was march 13th, which is Friday the 13th, and we decided not to do it on Friday the 13th. [laughter] We’re not superstitious but just didn’t seemed to be a good omen.

Matt: So I think its Monday the 16th of March.

Lee: Yeah, thats what we were looking at, I think, tentatively.

Matt: Jeanne Kay, can you do that math to make sure we got that date right?

Not at this second but I will. [laughs] So, can you give the record an exclusive fundraising update?

Matt: Ya know, we can’t, other than to say we think things are moving forward. That’s information we should essentially keep privileged because its part of a whole process of separating the college and the university.

Lee: Mathew, I did blurt out a number in Chicago.

Matt: That’s a bad thing

Lee: And it’s not fair for them to know and not tell Jeanne. The number that I threw out was approximately 8 million. Risa [Grimes] corrected me that it was 7.9 some decimal places but its approximately 8 million.
Matt: I can speak to why we wouldn’t share because i think that would be interesting. We want people to be motivated to give because its not about getting to 15 million, its about getting well beyond that. We want to have operational moneys in place so that we can support the college for a few years. So our fear is that because we have this figure that we’ve been talking about in the LOI or related to the LOI that people will feel, “Well thats as much as we need to do”. Well its not, we’ve got a long way to go. Its really gonna require the whole community to support this to make it successful.

Two weeks ago Risa [Grimes] said that there was a donor that said that when the 10 million would be reached, he would match it with 5 million. So basically, does that mean that we only have 2 million to fundraise to get to the 15?

Matt: Well the donors never agreed to that; we have proposed that.

So is it likely that it will happen that way?

Lee: We certainly hope so.

Matt: We hope so.

Lee: And your right, according to that formula we have roughly 2 million to go, that we will then go to that anonymous donor and say okay… are you good for the 5 or not? Thats going to be a big deal. But I want to just emphasize that i agree with Matt one-hundred percent. I think the toughest decision that the board ProTem is gonna have to make, is at the end of the 90 days, do we have enough money to responsibly restart the college? We’ve got a lot of things were doing to make that an intelligent decision. But the University doesn’t drive it, we expect to drive that, cause the ProTem board has no interest in doing something that poorly or failing so the pressure on the fundraising is tense.

Can you give an update on the state of accreditation for the college?

Matt: Well Francis Horowitz is chairing the group that’s looking at accreditation. It’s important that we get some outside expertise from the North Central Association and from the Ohio Board of Regents, of course. One of the things we’ve done in the last few weeks is we’ve hired Len Clark who’s the former provost Earlham College he comes to us recommended by the GLCA (Great Lakes College Association) to help us create the plan for accreditation. As part of the LOI we have to produce a plan about how we’ll seek accreditation and thats where we are as of today and we’ll start setting up meetings in Chicago and Columbus in the coming month.

The plan for accreditation will prob have to include a curriculum plan, right?

Matt: We’re not actually building the plan that will be accredited, we’re building a plan to get the accreditation.

Oh, OK.

Matt: So, its an important distinction. The board to a person believes that curriculum comes from faculty. We’re not confused about that, and we have a history here, but there has to be ahead of that a plan which particularly looking at some of financial issues that Antioch has faced recently and its history for accreditation around those issues.

Lee: I’ve been shocked at how much of accreditation is about money. It’s kinda sad in a way.

What are the next steps of the presidential search?

Lee: Good Questions.

Matt: Go ahead.

Lee: Go ahead, Matt.

Matt: Well-

Lee: You first Alphonse. [laughter] This is a very very tough question. The board is struggling with that question; we don’t have a good answer. There’s a couple things we don’t know. We don’t know how long it will take. Heres the dream. The dream is that we would have enough money in five year pledges, so that we could hire a world-class president who wouldn’t have to worry about money from the first day. If we can get the money to do the deal and give a cushion to whoever becomes the leader of the campus, then frankly we’re in good shape. We’ll be able to get a world-class leader. If we cant get the money, then it’s going to be much tougher, cause we’ll be looking for someone who can walk in and somehow find millions of dollars. We’ve been beating the bushes already; its going to be very difficult. The board ProTem is struggling with this exact question, we don’t have agreement about it.

Matt: There are two paths. One path would be, we go slow, we hire a president and then everything happens. Or you ramp up and you reach some stability and then you do a search for a president. There are good arguments for either of those strategically, I think that it’s just the fact that we haven’t had enough time together to really think about the strategy of that. Certainly, I know I’ve said this many times, endowing the presidency, or funding the presidency, is something that I hope is attractive to someone among the alums, so that’s making sure that that president knows that he or she is coming into a job that they can do, is really a critical piece.

What is a world-class president, any names?

Matt: There really isn’t.

Lee: You’re talking to a bureaucrat here, I have no idea.

Matt: I know that there is a lot of curiosity about this — no names, not one name has been discussed related to this.

Lee: We can’t even agree on — Do we want a scholar? Do we want a manger? Do we want a brilliant fundraiser? The board ProTem is struggling on what that person should look like.
The board ProTem is meeting in Yellow Springs next week, what’s on the agenda?

Matt: We’re actually going to make the agenda public today, I just have been traveling all day and I haven’t had the chance to do that, so rather than go through it that there are a lot of different items, i think everyone can just look for it on Antiochians.org. The majority of the sessions are closed because they relate to the definitive agreements. This is an unusual meeting, in that so much of what we’re doing right now relates directly to negotiations with the University and that cant be public but there are sections that are open and in particular the Nonstop Liberal Arts Institute session, which is at the end of the day on Saturday, is open. We’re in the Glen Building, so we hope you can come to that.

Will anything be decided in terms of the college reopening year or term?

Lee: Decided? Not, now.

Matt: [It’s] not on the agenda to be decided because it’s linked with fundraising. If someone walked up to the college tomorrow and said, “heres a hundred billion dollars….”

Lee: Were in business! [laughs]

Matt: We would start much more quickly than if the fundraising takes longer. It’s a really pragmatic equation.

What is your estimate for the reopening date of an accredited Antioch College?

Lee: I’m the optimist and I’m being beaten up. My original date was ’09 – that’s gone. ‘010 was the latest one and people are telling me that that’s unrealistic and that realistically it’s probably 2011. I don’t know – Matt might disagree.

Matt: I’m sticking with 2010 because it helps us do the fundraising.

Lee: 2010 is what we assumed but I’m hearing pretty respectable voices that say the hiring, the recruiting and rehabbing the buildings is going to take more time than that. Once we get  the money, we’ll be ready to rock ‘n roll. By the way, Jeanne, are you the one that called Barbara  and Atis and did interviews?

[It was] one of the staff members Rose Pelzl

Lee: She did a nice job. They were very pleased with the interviews and they thought they  were very well done.

Rose Pelzl did that, she’s a first year nonstop student and fifth-generation Antiochian.

Lee: Fifth!?

Yes.

Lee: Gee!

Matt: I was thinking of something of a variation on the question of when the college opens. We’ve had almost two years of struggling, with the University controlling our fate (and yes we  still have to get to the end of the definitive agreements) but right now is talking about the future, as far as the president goes, opening the college. Our fate is more and more in our hands around raising funds and if the alumni body wants the college to open in 2010 it has the capacity to make that happen, we just have to do the fundraising as well as we can and not be distracted by all the things that we can be distracted by in the coming months. These are open-ended questions for new reasons.

Nonstop, according to Ellen Borgersen, the refunding decision will be taken by the Alumni Board in March. Is that still true or will the ProTem board have a say in it?

Matt: That’s news to me.

Well, the funding of nonstop is through CRF.

Matt: Right, I didn’t know that they were considering something specific at their board meeting. I don’t think that the board ProTem would have much to say about it.

So the jurisdiction of Nonstop is still the Alumni Board?

Lee: Oh Yes

Matt: Absolutely.

So the ProTem Board delegation came to Yellow Springs last week to learn about Nonstop. What are the next steps after the report?

Matt: The report will be public it will be up on Antiochians.org this week.

[…]

Matt: Out of respect we’ll probably give it to the Executive Collective first and then get it out on the web soon thereafter. And then on Saturday Nonstop has a big chunk of time on the boards agenda to come and present whatever they’d like to present. And then (assuming that it’s structured this way) there will be questions and answers after that. But there’s no intention of making any decisions around the future of Nontop that’s an Alumni Board issue. This is an opportunity for the Board ProTem to get to know more about what’s going on in Yellow Springs on a face-to-face basis.

In the article by Charlotte Allen you [Lee Morgan] talked about a possible collision course between Nonstop and Antioch can you expand on that?

Lee: Charlotte Allen, she’s the right-wing newspaper-lady who called me. Well, I just think that it’s clear that it’s going to be a difficult thing to sort out, the relationship between the two. How’s it going to play out I don’t know. There are timing issues. There are curriculum design issues. There are personnel issues. These are all tough issues and any of those things will be difficult but I don’t have any particular agenda, I just know its going to be tough. That’s my prediction, if I’m wrong that’ll be great.

Do you consider that the Nonstop faculty and staff and students of nonstop are Antioch at this point?

Lee: Are Antioch? I don’t know that anybody is Antioch at this point. I claim to be Antioch. the university claims to be Antioch. Nonstop, I think, claims to be Antioch. The emeritus faculty would claim their Antioch. So i don’t think anybody has an exclusive on Antioch. That’s just my personal view on it. In fact, we have a meeting this week with the emeritus faculty to talk to them about what role they would have going forward. Everyone has their own view of what Antioch is and who they are in relation to Antioch. I think Nonstop has a slightly more intimate involvement because of their recent history. But the recent history’s been such a mess frankly, with the university everyone’s been acting kinda weird. It’s not what you’d call a healthy educational environment. But then to some degree, that’s Antioch. So I don’t know. I think it’s going to be interesting. I don’t know how it’s going to sort itself out. It’s an unfortunate fortunes (?) of what I’d call a fair game. That means i don’t know the answer.

Matt, can you talk about Trancil (which has now become the Transition Advisory Group[TAG]) can you talk about their role, how the membership will be decided?

Matt: Sure, the membership is intended to be broad-based but the original intention of Trancil, the Transition Advisory Group is that it be Yellow Springs-based. I know there were a few people who were at a greater distance who expressed some interest in serving, but my concept of it is that it would start with a small group advising me about events and issues here in Yellow Springs that it would involve a few members of the Nonstop community, some emeritus faculty and representatives, potentially, even of the village who have an interest in what’s going on. It would be a two-way advisory and communications body. The events last week with main building made it difficult, I actually intended to move that forward but it seemed under the situation of the flooding that it would probably be better to wait so it’ll happen this week. One of this things that’s not necessarily known by everyone is that I meet with Executive Collective weekly and try to come to community meeting bi-weekly and Lee does when he’s in town. So, the level of communication between the board ProTem and the Nonstop community, Yellow Springs Alums, and emeritus faculty is pretty significant at this point – Yellow springs has got a big voice.

The transition advisory group will be a liaison between the ProTem board and Nonstop?

Matt: Not Nonstop, no, that actually I think is reserved for the Executive Collective. It’s a group of people who have a vested interest in the future of the college here in Yellow Springs. That’s partly why I changed the name, because Trancil means the college, that’s our history and it’s sort of a silly legacy to convert it Tracil.

Lee: One of the difficult things is we’ve got to focus on the future and everybody wants us to focus on the past. The past, whether it’s Nonstop or the flooding of the building or some legal issue the university wants to argue about that’s ancient history. I think the challenge for Matthew and I is to focus on the future and designing it so that if we’re successful we’ll be happy about it. We’d hate to do the deal and then find out “oh god, what a mess.”

You’re talking about being focused on the future. Are you sometimes afraid that the argument will turn into a sort of blank slate argument, for which now we can start from scratch and rebuild Antioch in a way that will be very different from its past and that’s not recognizable to its alumni anymore?

Lee: If the alumni don’t support it we won’t survive. We have to have the support of the bulk of the alumni. Now, we can’t make everyone happy, I love the Bill Cosby quote, “I don’t about success but I do know about failure; the key is trying to make everybody happy.” We can’t make everybody happy. But the alumni as a group have to support it, otherwise we will not survive. It’s predicated on the alumni support, so if we get so radical that the alumni can’t recognize it, we’re dead, we’re not going anyplace. Everything’s alumni right now. Everything, the ProTem board all the key players everybody’s alumni. All the money, everything has come from the alumni.

Matt: You know I think there are two areas where there has been a sort of consistent theme of concern and this is one of them. That somehow the college will not be recognizable to the next generation of Antiochians that are looking for the kind of education that the college was providing the alumni. I think there are some really basic elements to what it means to offer Anitoch education. Experience and work are critical to it, community governance is critical to it. So you look at the bones and the question is what does the flesh on the bones look like? I do think that there’s room for radical reinvention of the college, there has to be. This is a different economic time, this is a different social time and there are opportunities embedded in that. But at the end of the process of defining the concept of the college, it has to be recognizable to all of us as Antioch College. If it doesn’t have that identity then, as Lee’s describing, people won’t support it. Everyone right now involved in this, principally, we are all Antiochians, which you could argue is a strength or a weakness, because we’re blinded by our passion and our love for the college but at the same time we’re really motivated by it. I think at the end people will be pleased by what the college evolves to become because they participated in it and that’s a really big piece of the puzzle for the ProTem board. The reason we’re going out to the chapters meetings and talking about the college is that we really need that feedback in order to understand what we do next. And [that’s] also why the Board ProTem appointed the visiting team to come and talk to nonstop, to try to collect as much conversational input as we can.

Thank you, can you talk about the issues of the Main Building damage and… who will pay? [laughs]

Lee: We think the insurance company is going to pay.

Matt: We hope the insurance company is paying.

Lee: Yeah

Has their been a confirmation of this?

Lee: I have not had it, no.

Matt: We’ve been very judicious about commenting, this is the university’s business.

Lee: They’ve been very explicit that we have no standing on the physical plant at this point. We have been arguing that we do and they have been arguing that we don’t. But I think they’re moving more in our direction. They’ve agreed at least to try and keep us informed about things. We find out about this stuff the same way you do.

Matt: In the end the ProTem Board has to make a decision about the condition of the campus and whether they’re willing to accept it. Our expectation is that the campus is in the condition it was in when the suspension happened.

Lee: With the possible exception if the insurance company settlement is appropriate we might be able to rehab Main Building and make it better than it was. For example, we could improve the technology in that building, wire it up to things that had never been thought of before. We have to be creative about this, what worries me is that the University is not really talking to us about that. And it would grieve me if they went back in their and restored it-

Matt: I wouldn’t worry about that.

Lee: -and everything’s okay but we missed an opportunity to something that would be better.

Or they turn it into McGregor [laughs]

Lee: They won’t do that.

Matt: All pastels. [slight chuckle]

Can you try to give an estimation of a time-line as to the main crucial events in which we will know things such as: What will happen to Nonstop? When do we get accreditation? When does the college reopen? When will the curriculum be set? When will we start recruiting students? Can you give an estimation of a time-line?

Matt: Which one of those do you want — [laughs] — you’re gonna have to go through them again.

Chronologically.

Matt: So at the end of 90 days we hope to end up having a definitive agreement with the University for the separation of the college. Shortly thereafter, we’re imagining that we’ll actually take possession of the campus, the keys come out. I don’t know exactly what the legal process piece will take. And there’s obviously the issue of the endowment, which we’ve talked about a lot with the Ohio Attorney General, so there are shades of gray here. So, essentially at the end of that period of time (if the board ProTem is willing to accept the college) then we would have had level of success at fundraising. And the amount of, and the degree of success we’d have fundraising would fuel those other things that you’re outlining. So, if we’re very successful with fundraising then we’re making decisions about reopening in 2010 [and] that means that the curriculum piece needs to be planned sooner than if it’s 2011. Decisions about who’s hired – faculty, staff, administration, president — all those different  pieces speed up or slow down depending on what happens with our ability to afford what we want to do. We’ve had this really weighty history of making promises that weren’t backed up by funding; whether it’s curriculum or otherwise, and we just don’t want to do that. So, it’s very difficult I think for Antiochians to hear that the finances are essentially controlling the trajectory of decision making, but responsibly and ethically it has to be that way this time.

Lee: There’s one of those calender things that I think may be a problem it’s getting our 501c3 status. It turns out that educational 501c3’s take more time than other types of 501c3’s. They tell me there’s a queue and you just have to wait. And we will try to exercise political clout to see if we can jump the queue but that’s the kind of thing that could cost us 30 days or something, we don’t know. And that’s a condition to close. […]The nonstop piece I’m gonna let Mathew take care of that.

Matt: I’m happier doing these interviews in part because there’s been an impression I think for a long time because Lee is the spokesperson and I’m out there talking too, that we’re just working out all of this stuff on our own. […]But as you go through and conduct these interviews and Francis [Horowitz] is overseeing the process for the plan for accreditation she’s looking at variety of things related to accreditation . Allen Feinberg is working on facilities along with Terry Herndon. We have people working on fundraising , we have people working on communications, so it’s a very sophisticated and talented board that’s been assembled and as we move forward with all these little baby steps other people will step forward and we’ll see more people involved. We have good a strategy and a good plan in place to work through all of those steps but some of it is still unknown, because of the finances basically. A lot of it is still unknown.

Thank you, I think that’s all but if you’d live to finish by answering what does Antioch mean to you?

[They decide who will go first]

Matt: Right now, it really is a privilege to do this. I think of Antioch as an incubator and I loved the experience that I had as a student. It was an empowering personal and certainly intellectual experience. But being involved with Antioch now again in my 40’s means being involved in something that could create opportunity for reinvention in higher education. We really have this long tradition of values-oriented secular education that has so much to say about our current situation culturally and economically and otherwise and i think that the college could be a wonderful incubator. This is one of the greatest opportunities in higher education and I’m involved in it. It feels terrific.

Lee: It depends on whether you look back or forward; it’s true I was struggling with that. If you look backward I was an advocate for the University for all these centers and stuff, so I thought that was exciting. But I agree with Matthew, right now, if you look forward this is one of the great opportunities in American higher education in the United States and Antioch historically has not engaged in denial about reality, and I appreciate that. Whether it’s evolution or abortion issues or political issues or gender issues we’ve generally been pretty open about reality and now the reality is we have a huge opportunity. But it’s not about reinventing the past it’s about some combination of Antioch values going forward and being a disruptive element in American education (disruptive means a major change). And I love one of the members of the ProTem Board, I say “Now what other schools imitate the stuff that we do?” and she said “Not in our lifetimes.” I love that comment. Another comment made by a board member that I love said, “The students that we want are students that want to learn and want to change the world. If they don’t want to do both of those things they should go to some local school, we don’t want them.”

Nonstop students all apply to that category.

Lee: Now this is very ambitious learn and change the world. This is not about vocational training, this is not about becoming a cog in a big machine. This is about managing the future. It’s a huge opportunity and I just hope that we can pull it off. […]

Matt: I think that if walked around the Alumni Board and asked them and asked the ProTem Board too, “You got involved initially because of what your heart told you to do. You love’d Antioch and you grieved because this place was so important to your development may not be there for other people. But then once I became engaged in it you started to see that you could do something really important for higher education with Antioch as the vehicle to make that happen.” And I think that that’s why a lot of the ProTem members and a lot of the donors were able to make that additional step, which is to become a member of a board of a college that’s going to struggle for some time and it’s gonna this fair share of difficulties, you don’t do that just out of nostalgia and reminiscence you really have to do it because you think it’s really important for bigger, more broader reasons.

Lee: And we’re getting actually broader alumni constituency, people who had not been involved before because they were not interested in perpetuating the past but they are interested in the potential for the future. The other thing that I can mention that Mathew can’t is that Mathew’s been the one who synthesized all the ideas and integrated them into a  coherent but pretty radical education program. He’s not allowed to blow his own horn but I can blow it for him. I don’t know that they’re all original thoughts but he has integrated all the ideas from all these strange quarters into what I think is a marvelously compelling vision for the future.

So you would say that their is already an articulated plan?

Matt: No, I’d say there is an articulated concept.

OK, how would you sum up that concept?

Matt: Well, it has lots of different pieces to it. the important thing is separate this conversation from conversation about curriculum.

Mmhmm.

Matt: So, a concept that I know has been talked about in some of the chapters and otherwise is the idea that you could complete a undergraduate degree in 3, rather than 4, years. So, it’s that sort of basic understanding of the formation of an education, than it is the curriculum and what’s offered. The sum total of what’s in the plan is about how Antioch reemerges as a place that takes on new ways of looking at the delivery of a liberal arts education. We’re committed to small size, we’re committed to liberal arts, we’re committed to tenure, we’re committed to all those pieces but shouldn’t we be the first liberal arts college that acknowledges, that in fact, a majority of students going into American higher education in the next generation are likely to be African American and Latino non-white communities. And how do you create a college that addressees that seismic shift in American education population? How do you look at cost of education? The 3-years is one way of doing that, by going year-round students would cut down on the number of years they would be enrolled. But also looking at the way financial aid is structured and the way tuition discounting is structured and thinking about ways you actually pull down the whole cost of the education from the very beginning, rather than discounting. So, there are a number of things in this concept-paper that I think would help guide the development of curriculum but it’s not a curriculum in and of itself. I mentioned diversity but also mention that in vast majority of countries an undergraduate degree is 3 years. The United States is out of step with the rest of the world, and I’m starting to see this as a way of Antioch embracing the metric system in joining the rest of the world in thinking “actually it’s a 3 year experience.” Ours includes summer and ours includes work and international work assuming that students would not only work in the united states but work overseas, things along those lines. To really make it not just an American school that’s international but a truly global college.

[…]

Matt: One of the plans is to take the concept paper as it exists now and reduce it into a pointer set of standings and then share that more broadly and everybody wants to do that. There’s some people on the board ProTem who feel that it has some value to sort of as a key statement for fundraisng or that it has some value and we don’t want them stealing our ideas, that’s another element of it. But mostly, I think, if I go right to the base of some of the concern, it was concern that people would think that this was a plan and it’s not. A plan takes process and a plan takes participation and it’s much broader in scope. This is a really great set of concepts.

Who wrote that concept-paper?

Matt: I did.

Who did you consult with?

Matt: Well, a wide variety people but it is my concept and the reason we produced it, is that we wanted to have a document to present to the University as the plans and process for the development of the college. It was only written for one audience, and that was the University Board of Trustees. Now it has more utility because people like it. So that’s great but it’s not fully developed and one of the very first paragraphs says “this was designed for the University board of trustees to facilitate the separation.”

But you have been using it for fundraising?

Matt: Yes. Yeah, we have. Because there have been (and I know Risa has been saying this for a very long time) many, many people, potential donors who would say, “Come back when you have a plan, come back when you have a business plan.” And we’ve been unable to address that because of good process that we wanted to have within our community and also the sort of Catch-22 we were in with the University. That’s done now, so we have a concept, we have a basic business plan. Those are not likely to end up being the final concept or strategic plan and it’s not likely end up being the final budget but we have an understanding of how we could rebuild the college financially and that there are good ideas that are innovative and radical, that fit within the context of a college that’s identifiable as Antioch College.

Has the ProTem Board vetted the business plan and the concept-paper?

Matt: Only for it’s original use which was to separate the college from the university so the only original mailing went to all the University Board members, through the chancellor’s office. And then once the agreement was signed (the LOI) there were a lot of board members who were very excited about it and others, obviously this was endorsed not only by the board ProTem but the Great Lakes College Association. So with the GLCA stamp of approval we were able to show it to some donors as well.

OK, well thank you very much for your time.

Lee: You were well prepared, you did a good job.

See you in Exile

On a night in January, I was looking at myself in the mirror of my bathroom at 4 a.m. I couldn’t sleep. Everything was theoretically okay though: I was safely escaping the winding down of Antioch, I was being reasonable and attentive to my feelings and health. I had taken a sound decision considering the circumstances, the little hope, the dimming down, the bruises, and I was supported in it by virtually everyone I knew. Until then, this rational discourse had satisfied and comforted me.

But at 4 a.m. in that cold empty bathroom, it was suddenly different. Maybe because of the insomnia that had turned my nights into atrociously agitated marathons for the past three weeks. Or maybe it came from the thought that classes would be starting soon at Antioch, and that I wouldn’t be there. Continue reading See you in Exile

Students Pack Up, Donors Push Forward

By Eva Erickson and Kim-Jenna Jurriaans

Today the University Board of trustees is voting on a proposal put forward by the deeppocket donors in support of an autonomous Antioch College. As the community awaits the outcome of the vote that is likely to determine the level of operations at the college in future months, community members try hard to adapt to campus life under continuing insecurity.

A group of major donors, over the course of the last month, has taken a collective stance against the outcome of the October 25 summit between the University Trustees and the College Alumni Board, that outlines the future relations between the college and the university. After a preliminary meeting in New York City, last week Monday, donors and representatives of the Trustees met again on Sunday at a session of the Board’s governance committee in Dallas to discuss the donors’ demands. Now the Trustees are voting as a full Board.

Continue reading Students Pack Up, Donors Push Forward