“Oh, my beautiful dreams for the college!!” – Horace Mann

A mental core dump of my feelings about Antioch College announcing it’s closing it’s doors on 07/01/08

I’ve been trying to find a way to put into words what I’ve been thinking since I heard Antioch College was closing. I’ve e-mailed and chatted with a number of friends since I heard about this and that’s helped me frame this a bit but I’m still mostly in shock. I am on a family vacation in WV right now and only can get online once kids are in bed and I can sneak off to the main lodge, so I didn’t hear about this until 10:30 PM on Tuesday 6/12 when I got hundreds of e-mails from various friends, chat lists etc. A good friend from Antioch, Adam Schwartz, said ‘I feel like I just found out a close friend has terminal cancer’ and that pretty much summed up how I felt that night. I went to bed that night and had dreams of going to reunion and chatting with Bob Devine and others about possible ways to revive Antioch. My sub-concious was still optimistic in my dreams, just like how I still have chats with Michael Groteke, a friend from Antioch who died in a car accident while we were still students back in the early 90’s. Gee dreams about Antioch not living up to it’s potential… “Oh, my beautiful dreams for the college!!” – Horace Mann on his deathbed.

“The personal is the political”

As An Antioch Student

Other folks have summarized Antioch’s 150+ year history much better than I ever could so I’m not going to try here. Instead I’m just going to speak to my own dance with Antioch beginning back in the fall of 1986 when at a college fair in Yonkers, NY a fellow Hastings High School student, Kerry Donnegan I think, asked me if I had seen the booth for Antioch College and suggested that I look at it. For some reason this recommendation stuck and I requested literature from Antioch. It arrived and immediately caught my eye with it’s all lowercase logo and font over crayon scribbles. Totally non-pretentious, non-standard, humble and eye catching. The fact that it had a co-op program, which a friend of the family had sung the praises of regarding his alma-mater Drexel University won more points in my book. I applied to Antioch and like 8 other schools via the ‘common application’ and got accepted to most. A few months later when chatting with a friend at a YRUU conference in Vermont he said he had just come back from visiting this really cool college in Ohio and he was going to apply. When he said it was Antioch I pulled out my acceptance letter and said ‘You mean this Antioch’. He said there were lots of other YRUU folks out there and that sold me on it. I showed up in Fall ‘87 sight unseen and while I had a love/hate relationship during my time there, I considered it home and, the faculty, students, campus environment, made me who I am today.

Antioch Staff

In 1992 when I graduated I ended staying as the CG Budget Manager / Community Manager as part of ‘The Collective’ and then after that I was hired as the ‘Assistant to the Dean of Students’ from June 1993 to June 1996. I was the ‘Assistant Director of Technology Resources’ from June 1996 through October 1997 when I finally escaped the Yellow Springs gravity well and moved to Ellsworth, ME. This was a fascinating time for me, to see the college from another point of view. It was fun being the ‘He used to be a student here, he’s ok’ guy in the administration, until entering students in Fall 1997 started calling me Mr. Baya. Ugh.

Antioch Alumnus

However I didn’t fully escape, I was on the Alumni board from 1997 through 2000 and returned a number of times during that period for Alumni Board meetings. Since then I’ve been in touch with a number of CMs trying to offer some ‘institutional memory’ on some matters CG, ComCil related and most recently finally found some Record editors willing to accept my offer to help them get the Record back online. Since they apparently couldn’t figure out how to get online on the campus server I got them set up with their own website on my server and spent dozens of hours setting it up and posting articles up only to be served with ‘cease and decist’ type letter from the college president as soon as the site began to get any traction. For the past 8 months I’ve been corresponding with Record editors & CMs trying to find out what hurdles needed to achieved before the Record could get back online and what a coincidence that the college president finally put things in writing last week enabling this again. Prior to the closing announcement Christian Feuerstein, a fellow Antiochian friend with publishing experience, and I had sent a number of letters back and forth with this falls Record editor planning on getting her new software, saving her money on printing, getting the Record online and really showing what some alumni volunteer time partnering with a campus office could do. We may yet do this but certainly spending the time setting up a site that will no doubt get ripped down on July 1, 2008 when the college officially closes.

The ‘new Antioch’ in 2012

First off, a reality check. I don’t believe it’s going to reopen in 2012, or at least not in any manner that resembles the Antioch I know and love. A watered down mainstream college with the same name perhaps, but with all new faculty and no ‘institutional memory’ from the Antioch I know and love. If the Board of Trustees think alumni are going to blindly support this ‘new Antioch’ I think they are sorely mistaken. They’ve just killed the Antioch I know and love and now they want me to trust that they can rebuild it bigger, stronger, faster than before?

“Fool me once …”

Here’s the thing that gets me. Even if Antioch College returns with a ’state of the art campus’ (which means what exactly? fresh paint, new furniture and high speed wireless campus wide and a new PR campaign now with serif’d fonts?) in 4 years, and for the sake of argument lets say they find a fleet or really good faculty that are somehow not tenured elsewhere and are willing to trust and work for a place that closed it’s doors 4 years earlier, and again, for the sake of argument, lets assume that by some stroke of luck & dedication by Alumni and current faculty that some ‘institutional memory’ is passed on.. oh and that they can find a bunch of students willing to pay lots to attend a ’startup’ college with no upperclass students and existing community or track record of quality, who’s to say that if in 4 years there’s a downturn in enrollment or a ’stumble’ for some other reason, the Board has already made it clear they believe that closing the doors is an option on the table.

“But I’m not dead yet…”

Maybe if the college is separated from the University and it’s board is filled with activists and visionaries with a sense of responsibility and mission then maybe… maybe. But will Antioch University let the college, and it’s endowment, separate? What would be their motivation to let those assets go besides lots of really angry alumni writing them? Surely the Yellow Springs real estate prices alone are worth a pretty penny, and if the penny pinchers on the BOT only look at things as ‘bottom dollar’ then I don’t see them letting the college spin off, least without ’selling’ it at fair market value which means we’d have to raise 10’s of millions just to do that, let alone enough money to operate the college etc. Guestimates for all this total over $50 million. I doubt the ‘committee of 17000′ alumni can muster that unless a few sugar daddies of granting institutions step in.. and why would they? Antioch’s already pronounced itself dead, surely there are more worthy places that didn’t throw in the towel. Anyways, I don’t see them letting this go willingly, and is it really worth raising money to ‘buy’ it from them? Could we form a new college easier? Or should we create the Antioch Scholarship program to assist and encourage activists & truth speakers at other colleges? I have no idea. I guess my optimistic subconscious still has a need to keep some part of Antioch alive.


The Board of Trustees closing Antioch College just disgusts me on many levels. Losing money or not, the only reason the satellite campuses exist is because Antioch College spent it’s money opening them instead of building an endowment. Antioch University itself is solvent, it can afford to have the college run at a loss, at least for long enough for them to follow through with their recent 5 year commitment to help the new curriculum gain traction etc. Bob Devine has explained in far better detail than I could ever summarize how the BOT basically screwed the college over the past decade through policy changes and requirements. Even if this wasn’t the case, the fact that they even considered closing it proves that they just don’t feel the same way about the college that I do. I know I’d consider and attempt every other option before closing the place. It’s bigger than just a part of a business, it’s an organization with a mission that I signed up to be part of back in fall 1987 when I started attending and I know I’d do just about anything to keep it open if I were entrusted with it’s care. It’s clear to me the Board doesn’t feel this way, or at least all board members who didn’t resign as soon as this decision was made (I heard at least one did, so it’s good to know there was at least one person in that room in Seattle that made it clear this was NOT a reasonable option). Frankly I’m still shocked that this option was on the table, I certainly never heard that things were dire. I thought we were in an expected downturn in enrollment because we just switched our curriculum and while things weren’t perfect we were progressing and moving forward.


This is another example of how more mainstream generic businesses eventually kill off the small specialized unique places. Home Depot & Lowes kill off small hardware & building supply stores. Borders, Amazon, B. Dalton, Waldenbooks kill off small bookstores. Super Wal-Marts kill… well just about everything including supermarkets. In this case the weekend campuses have become the bread and butter of Antioch University and the unique little small college with students who speak out and attend protests and make the news have become a liability. Those on board just consider the university a business, they clearly have no sense of mission for the college itself, if it ain’t profitable, kill it. Sure this is the way to treat a business, and if that is all Antioch College is then fine, treat it as such. In my book it’s much much more. Guess this is why I’m not on the BOT, I care for Antioch in a non-logical irrational manner, it means too much too me.

“The Medium Is The Message” or “…and the horse you rode in on”

Also this “4 year break” sends other messages. That the board feels all the current faculty were ‘part of the problem’ and aren’t competent or worthy of the roles they currently hold. They just ripped dozens of tenure contracts to shreds. How can they expect to get any decent new faculty after doing this? Any wise person would be pretty leary to trust going to work for place that just pissed on those it had made promises to only 4 years prior. I’m sure they’ll find some folks, and maybe some of them will be good, but it seems like a really shakey assumption that they can just restaff the place. As if quality faculty are an easily replacable commodity. Just cogs, throw out the old and get some new ones. It also does the same for any current students, you’re not worthy, you’re disposable, we have no respect for you or our commitment to your education, please leave so we can bring in new students in 4 years that wont be infected by your bad influence. I haven’t heard officially if this ‘closing the doors’ kills the UE 767 contract but I can only imagine that it does. Another ‘cost saving measure’ by releasing the college from the “oppressive” hold that a workers union has on it. The Antioch 2.0 will no doubt be Union free… just like the McGregor School & University offices… and Wal-Mart.


On the night I heard about this one friend said this was like hearing a close friend had terminal cancer. But the more I think about it, it’s worse than that. As much as it hurts, we all know that other people we know are going to die someday.. hopefully a long time from now, but we know we’re mortal.. But organizations like Antioch you expect to outlive you, and that the time you spent studying, volunteering, and working there were part of something bigger, something eternal, something immortal. This is what makes this announcement even more shocking, I just truly believed Antioch would go on beyond me and that maybe my money & time spent to help there would count for something bigger. For the record that ’something bigger’ is NOT Antioch University, I feel no allegiance to the University or those other campuses even if they ‘carry the DNA’ of Antioch College, as one trustee insists. I am glad they exist and I’m sure they are doing good work, but my heart belongs to Antioch College.

What I need to hear

I need someone I trust and respect that knows Antioch… not Steve Lawry, not Art Zucker (BOT Chair), not anyone in the Antioch PR or ‘advancement’ offices.. someone like Bob Devine, Susan Eklund-Leen, Jimmy Williams, or John Feinberg to convince me that the ‘new antioch’, or that whatever alternative organization/plan/movement/granfalloon comes along, is worth supporting. Until that is achieved the $200 I just spent to attend reunion this year is the last donation I’ll ever make. As far as I’m concerned Antioch University have proven to be poor stewards of the college and until someone I trust convinces me they are worthy of trust again, I’m out.

Postscript from Owen, my 4 year old son

Upon hearing that we are going to visit the ‘big school’ that daddy used to attend, it was clear that Owen had heard some other conversations about Antioch earlier in the week when he said ‘Is that the school that is broken?’.. Yes, son… yes it is

The next chapter

I am attending the Antioch College Reunion on 6/21 – 6/24 and have e-mailed all friends I could think of encouraging them to join me. If nothing else it’s a chance to say goodbye before faculty & staff we knew as students disperse, and maybe, just maybe there will arise a plan to move forward with. Join me.

4 thoughts on ““Oh, my beautiful dreams for the college!!” – Horace Mann”

  1. Hi Matt –

    I like what you wrote.

    I’m glad you’re going to the reunion & hope you’ll post your thoughts on the web as things develop over the weekend. You’ll be speaking and acting for lots of us alums who can’t be there, and you have my support.

    Thanos Fatouros ’88

  2. Oh My GOSH!! I live in Elkins, WV (Randolph County). Where are you vacationing Matt? There is no way I can make it to Reunion (we have 3 kids and a farm). But, I have been following several blogs/ and am on saveantioch list. Am glad you, Hope, and others will be there as representation for all of us who cannot be. -Karin Looney ’93

  3. Thanks for writing about this.
    This is a letter that a group of 70s and 80s alumni wrote to the chancellor and the chair of the board of trustees of Antioch. It provides an analysis/summary, as well as a positive plan for the future. If anyone would like to sign this letter, please contact me directly (chen@speakeasy.net).
    Phaye Poliakoff-Chen, ’80

    June 22, 2007

    Dear Mr. Zucker and Ms. Murdock,

    As graduates of Antioch College in the late 1970s and early 1980s, we can identify with the tragic uncertainty now facing the campus community after the Board of Trustees suddenly announced it is closing the College in Yellow Springs.

    We, too, were told that the College would likely be closing at some time during our tenure there because enrollments had dropped and the endowment was too small. As it turned out, that didn’t happen. But the internal debate over the relationship between the main College campus and Antioch’s satellite campuses (it was never a true university no matter what the college PR department said) was high on the agenda in those years.
    Many of us remember refusing to shake hands with then College President, William Birenbaum at graduation ceremonies in 1980 as a public protest. It wasn’t merely that we disliked his ideas about education, his arrogance in dealing with students, faculty and staff, or his misguided attempts to funnel resources away from Yellow Springs. An even greater transgression was his total disdain for a cornerstone principle of Antioch College: community governance.

    We are outraged and saddened to see that the current Board of Trustees has exhibited a similar lack of regard in the way it has sprung news of the College’s closing on the campus body politic. It has compounded the wrongdoing by not outlining a clear role for that community in key decision making about what kind of institution will supposedly reopen its doors in Yellow Springs in four years.

    As this year’s alumni reunion goes forward, we want to deliver a clear message to you and the current College administration: We will not support any future educational institution bearing Antioch’s name that fails to return control and academic focus to the main College in Yellow Springs.

    The Board of Trustees needs to be comprised of members who support that mission and who have demonstrated their commitment by contributing to the College campaign. The assets of the College need to be returned to the College—including Antioch University McGregor, which should be merged with the College and come under the control of the College President.

    College leaders should launch a democratic process of renewal on campus that will result in a plan for a future educational institution in Yellow Springs that respects the best traditions of Antioch. The current Board of Trustees has betrayed those traditions, both in the way it announced the College closing and in actions it has taken—or failed to take—that have brought us to this pass.

    Specifically, the current Board of Trustees reneged on a commitment to raise the needed funds to implement the Renewal Commission Plan that it imposed on the College. In fact, most individual trustees did not even contribute to the campaign. When the fundraising campaign foundered, trustees failed to address the obvious implications for the College. In addition, the board only recently discovered problems with University bookkeeping that disguised previous losses. The University Board of Trustees has failed miserably in its legal and ethical responsibilities and has lost all moral right to the Antioch name and mission. The time has come to return control of Antioch College and its assets to the College community, including its alumni.

    We stand ready to pledge money and fundraising energy to a reopening of Antioch. But we will not support any plan created without the involvement and leadership of members of the College community. Nor will we back a future institution that fails to uphold the school’s long established standards of shared decision-making, innovation and the notion that even the privileged realm of higher education can be a proving ground for social justice.


    Barbara Solow, Class of 1980, Highland Park, NJ
    Christopher Adams, ’87, Landsdowne, PA
    Jeanne Badman, ’80, St. Paul, MN
    E. Ann Baldwin, 80, Higganum, CT
    Helen Bloch, ’78 Forest Hills, NY
    Douglas Brodoff, ’77, Paris, France
    Marianne Connolly, ‘80, Amherst, MA
    Peter Crosman, ’77, Flintridge, CA
    Laura Drey, ’80, Durham, NC
    David Feinstein, ’79, San Francisco, CA
    Cora Hook, ’79, Bethlehem, PA
    Rob Kenter, ’80, Toronto, ON Canada
    Laura Markham, ‘80, New York, NY
    Marc J. Masurovsky, ’77, Falls Church, VA
    Barbara McCann, ‘83, Washington, DC
    Lizzie Olesker, ’79, Brooklyn, NY
    Leslie A. Pownall Barh, ’83, Buffalo, MN
    Glenn Paris, ’80, San Diego, CA
    Lydia Dean Pilcher, ’80, New York, NY
    Phaye Poliakoff-Chen, ‘80, Baltimore, MD
    Scott Pollock, ’80, Evanston, IL
    David Pratt, ’80, Brooklyn, NY
    Sandina Robbins, ‘80, Oakland, CA
    Jodi Solomon, ’80, Boston, MA

    cc: Steven Lawry, President, Antioch College
    Risa Grimes, Director of Alumni Relations

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