For those following the Antioch College story, this update. Frankly, one could devote a whole website to it. Indeed, several have. A Boston area Antioch Alumni Association (alumni site here) meeting last Sunday prompts this post.
Brief recap: In June '07, the Antioch University Board of Trustees, of which Antioch College is the home of the brand and the original progenitor of its far-flung tentacles (there were once nearly 40 mini-Antiochs around the country), voted to suspend operations at the college for lack of funds. Enrollment had plummeted in the past few years (down from 2000 when I graduated in 1970 to less than a tenth of that this year). I've done a bunch of posts about this (The little college that might, among others), about the finger-pointing, about the outcry from the college alumni who revere their memories of their time there (as do I), about the immature reaction of some who chose to scapegoat others, some of those scapegoaters also having served in positions where they were responsible for creating the conditions that led to the college shutting down.
Comes then the outcry and the pledge by alums to fill the coffers. Good news, lots of energy to save the place, alums meeting everywhere to figure out how to turn demise into delight. Thrilling to see what my fellow alums were capable of - and how great the affection for this national educational treasure. Antioch's storied history is recorded in many places but in short it was the first college in the US to offer work/study, a unique form of experiential education that taught us how to work and learn at the same time. I've written elsewhere here about my co-op jobs. Horace Mann, the great educator who lived here in Newton, Mass., was the first president of Antioch College (1852); Arthur Morgan, Antioch's president for decades, instituted the co-op program. Then Antioch pioneered a massive junior-year-abroad program (Antioch Education Abroad) and I benefited from that too as the first woman from the college to go to Oxford as an undergrad.
Enough about how great it was.
Following their surprise announcement to suspend college operations, the university trustees seemed to hear what the alums were saying and, working with the Alumni Board, agreed in November to reverse the suspension. Then the unexpected yet again. The Alumni Board rejected the Board's suspension because the big-dollar donors were unwilling to fork over their funds (some had only made pledges) unless the college had complete autonomy from the University. Complete autonomy, meaning its own Board of Directors bearing no formal ties to the University. And at about the same time, a new nonprofit formed, Antioch College Continuation Corporation (link will take you to its most recent communication).
What struck me again at Sunday's alumni meeting was the fervor with which nearly everyone spoke, their love for the college and their desire to revive it. Most had a "hot button" issue, whether the way the original decision was communicated or the location of a new building for one of the Antioch graduate campuses located in the same town as the college, or why the other adult campuses (there are five around the country) couldn't just make up the college's deficit (they don't have the funds). But all agreed that Antioch College is a national treasure and that it must be preserved.
Me too. Among the most eloquent was Everett Mendelsohn, another of our esteemed alums and professor of the History of Science at Harvard, who has recommended that we convene the very the best minds in education - and among the alums - to plot the college's future. Funds are critical, yes, but a vision for an Antioch for the 21st-century is fundamental to attracting the brightest students and retaining the best faculty.