Bruce Parker

Antioch College Closing

Filed By Bruce Parker | June 18, 2007 9:11 AM | comments

Filed in: Living, Living
Tags: Antioch College, education policy

Antioch CollegeIn the past week or so my phone and email have been exploding with conversations about the imminent closing of Antioch College and what if anything current students, alumni, faculty, staff and administration can do to cause the board of trustees to reverse their decision. The press release from the college can be found here. They state that they are closing the doors with the intention of reopening in 2012. The college community obviously has concerns with the closing and not too many folks seem to be buying into the idea that the college may reopen in a few years. The belief that if Antioch closes it will not reopen seems widespread.

When I first heard the news my inclination was to blog about it here but wasn't sure that folks would consider the news to be nationally relevant or interesting. Later in the week when I read this alumni account of the closing on the Huffington Post, I realized that it was nationally relevant and that I felt like I had something compelling to share with the other queer folk regarding Antioch and the possibility of it closing in 2008.

Horace Mann, who was known as the father of public education, founded Antioch College in 1852. Horace also bears a lot of the responsibility for me attending Antioch many years after his death. During what would be Mann's last public speech, which happened to be given at an Antioch commencement ceremony, he told the graduating class to "be ashamed to die until you have won some victory for humanity." Well add a hate crime (specifically the murder of Matthew Shepherd) that was over covered by the media that scared me into realizing that sometimes the penalty for difference is death to a media campaign designed around Mann's quote and you got a college that I couldn't resist.

So despite my mother's objections and my best friend Rhonda's family's utter contempt for the idea the two of us enrolled and began studying as undergraduate students at Antioch. She was drawn to the innovative media arts program and the cooperative education program. The coop program required students to do five four-month long internships in order to graduate. I was drawn to the history of a commitment to social justice evidenced by activism against war, anti-racism and notable alumni such as Coretta Scott King as well as the campus community government system. Antioch was committed to being a self-governing institution. Decisions as small as what the theme for the weekend's party would be or as big as a new faculty hire were made by committees that consisted of students, staff and faculty members. Students and staff were treated as equals in governing the college. This was all to create effective citizens out of students and to produce students who knew more than the theory of social change but understood the daily workings of collaboration, civil debate and compromise.

The college also had an intense commitment to interdisciplinary approaches, the liberal arts and diversity. One of the most important features in my mind was the refusal to give traditional grades instead giving students narrative evaluations. These often page long evaluations of student performance in a given class gave more detailed information about student learning and the quality and focus of the students coursework in the class.

All of this aside Antioch has also been very important in my own development as college often is to most folks. I went there with one of my best friends and met the other one there. It was the first place I met adult queer folks who were happy and successful. It was where I fell in love with Logan, my first male transgender partner. It was this relationship that led to me becoming an activist around transgender issues. So it is fair to say that like many alumni I had a very complicated relationship with the college and wouldn't want to go back. However, I don't doubt that it has a very important place to play in the landscape of higher education in America and that losing Antioch is not just a loss for the Antioch Community but is also a loss for radical activists everywhere.

In the coming weeks I will continue to update readers about the College and will probably share some personal reflections about my time there.

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This is strange -- how often do colleges, especially those that have been around for over 150 years, suddenly close?

Bruce Parker II | June 21, 2007 2:10 AM

More often than is good at this point. Corporate Universitys and state schools are slowly driving smaller progressive liberal arts college's out of business. Sad sad sad....

This is an extremely relevant issue from a national standpoint. I am a student of Shimer College which may find itself in a similar position if our enrollment does not increase in the next decade. The closing of Antioch is an extremely sad state of affairs, it being one of the best Liberal Arts schools offering a flexible curriculum. The question I would be asking myself if Shimer closed would be "Where do I go next?" What school can possibly offer me a small class size and a relaxed environment with our facilitators (professors)? What other school will allow me to address my teachers by their first name, stressing an important ideal of equality? The same goes for Antioch students, and this is indeed a hard issue to deal with. I don't know how well I would fair.

Good Luck to all those Antioch Students losing their home,


Good riddance to this lefty hatching ground of pointy headed weirdos who never figured out that it's not 1969 anymore! Good riddance to the fascist dykes, bizarre sex rules and convicted murderers addressing graduating classes! Now maybe "Pinko Springs" can join the 21st century!

I've been to Antioch (teaching an off-campus personal development workshop there that the students took to an alarmingly unworkable extreme--mostly because they didn't have any personal was everybody else that needed "fixing"). Well-meaning people one and all, their personal ideologies tended to reduce social and criminal misbehavior to external forces (the racist, sexist system), blame others for the failures of minority men and women and white women, and villainize white men (note: white women got a pass), corporations and the government. Listening to them talk about the "plight of the American Black," I couldn't help but feel offended that they saw our doom as so complete that without "special consideration" (and a heap of pity) we didn't stand a chance. We, they explained, were to be excused for everything. Before my time at Yellow Springs, I thought I was liberal. On the drive back home, I realized that I sho nuff wasn't.

No matter what our personal or political ideology, we need to be certain that the real world models of our ideologies will work. Having long been called the purveyors of spendthrift social experimentation, we (progressives) would be well-served to carefully examine what went right and wrong at Antioch and not make those mistakes again. A piece of George Will's Antioch Obit:

Farewell, Antioch By George Will Sunday, July 15, 2007 WASHINGTON -- During the campus convulsions of the late 1960s, when rebellion against any authority was considered obedience to every virtue, the film "To Die in Madrid," a documentary about the Spanish Civil War, was shown at a small liberal arts college famous for, and vain about, its dedication to all things progressive. When the film's narrator intoned, "The rebels advanced on Madrid," the students, who adored rebels and were innocent of information, cheered. Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio, had been so busy turning undergraduates into vessels of liberalism and apostles of social improvement that it had not found time for the tiresome task of teaching them tedious facts, such as that the rebels in Spain were Franco's fascists.

That illustrates why it is heartening that Antioch will close after the 2007-08 academic year. Its board of trustees says the decision is to "suspend operations" and it talks dottily about reviving the institution in 2012. There is, however, a minuscule market for what Antioch sells for a tuition, room and board of $35,221 -- repressive liberalism unleavened by learning.

Read the rest of the article and let me know what you think...

Lalita Amos,

Cross-posted at American Values Alliance dot org