Antioch College
November 3, 2007 8:55 PM   Subscribe

Antioch College has been slowly dying for decades, and last summer the trustees decided to close it at the end of this school year. Or maybe not; they just changed their minds.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste (18 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
In other news, I have decided against going to bed, and I will have another beer after all; since, you see, it's Daylight Savings Time!

posted by yhbc at 9:02 PM on November 3, 2007 [2 favorites]

posted by RogerB at 9:03 PM on November 3, 2007

Antioch! I live 15 minutes away from there.

Yeah, there's been "SAVE ANTIOCH" signs all over Yellow Springs for a while now. I hadn't heard they'd reversed the decision - good for them, it's a cool little campus. Thanks for posting this.
posted by Quidam at 9:09 PM on November 3, 2007

Those of us any older than 20 have all been dying for decades. But we're all still alive!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 9:24 PM on November 3, 2007 [1 favorite]

Viva Antioch!

I was able to take a class there as part of a cooperative agreement between my school and Antioch. Most challenging class, taught by the most brilliant teacher, of my undergrad years.
posted by Rykey at 9:25 PM on November 3, 2007

psst, yhbc, it's the other way around. Only an act of seppuku can atone for your mistake.
posted by 517 at 10:01 PM on November 3, 2007

Sounds like it died from adopting childish emo sloganism, which is toxic to the intellectual development found in liberal arts, which was the hard way.
posted by Brian B. at 10:39 PM on November 3, 2007

Aye, 517, get out thine own knife.
posted by scottymac at 10:39 PM on November 3, 2007

The only NPR station between cbus and cinci just got a reprieve as well, I imagine.
posted by litfit at 11:56 PM on November 3, 2007

This is sad. Antioch used to be a very cool place. The saddest part is that the Weekly Standard might actually be correct about the reasons for the demise.
posted by caddis at 12:16 AM on November 4, 2007

Wow, down to 230 students. Ouch.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 3:13 AM on November 4, 2007

It's funny that the Weekly Standard article tries attribute the collapse to "political correctness" when in fact it seems that some rather poor financial decisions and the general social upheaval of the early '70s are what did it in.

As far as some of the more recent excesses described by the Standard are concerned, many of those can be found on the campuses of a number of quite robust liberal arts colleges today (*cough*Reed*cough*) and even among certain elements of the student body in places like the University of Chicago.

It seems like the Weekly Standard has been waiting since 1963 to write this article.

posted by TheWhiteSkull at 7:37 AM on November 4, 2007

Oh, sweet.

I'm not too sure how it's been since I graduated in '02, but in the four years I was there the place went from a proudly open campus to a spot where visiting alumni got arrested for trespassing.

The students can change the Legislative Code, not in terms of real things like budgets and administration, but plenty of power to enact stifling legislation on themselves.

Since students tend to be on campus for a term, then off campus for a term, with a couple of terms in a row away or not, the mix of students is entirely different every few months. And for some reason, you could set your clock by the 'eighth week crisis'.

Around the eighth week, some shit would go down and everyone would get in a tizzy, and there would be community meetings, and people would cry, and the first years would be all idealistic and enthusiastically work to effect change (which is why every first year comes to Antioch) and all the fourth years would be too sick of it all playing out the same damn way (no institutional memory) to really try to argue that the inevitable reaction to these things would be a net loss for everyone. Some new rule or legislation would be enacted, and life on campus would turn out to suck a bit more, and a few more students would get sick of it and leave.

Antioch almost closed the second year it existed, and has been close to it many many times since. Horace Mann didn't believe in endowments, there have been plenty of embezzlement type opportunities over the years, admission standards more or less commensurate with the need for money, and all the freedom in the world for the students to learn as much or as little as they want. Something like half the first-year class tend to leave before the second semester due to it being bonkers on campus, with slower but continual attrition thenceforth.

When I showed up there in 98, the word from the 4th-6th year crowd was that the place had most recently almost closed in 92 or 93, came back strong, and then had slowly declined. By the time I showed up I was assured it was all going downhill and I should have been there in the good old days. And then, like I said, it got incrementally worse in some way, most every term.

My feeling at this point is the lack of institutional memory, and the freedoms of self governance, probably leads to this as a longer cycle of Antioch's biorhythm. The place almost closes, the slate gets wiped clean, a new group of weirdos show up, and begin the hard work of legislating themselves into a corner.

So anyway, thanks to my Antioch education I was not at all surprised to hear it was shutting down, and not surprised to see it about to still shamble along some more. The place is honestly a mess, but a beautiful mess, and it has this far out Adversity Builds Character side to it. The core idea of Antioch through all its incarnations, is to understand and effect social change, and it turns out that anyone who actually graduates from there gets a tremendous amount of quite practical education on the difficulties, pitfalls and possibilities of actually changing society for the better, whether they like it or not.

One side note, the place that is so famous for the SOPP and being absurdly politically correct, is (was) also home to a bike race called Camelot, which is possible the most sickening, horrible, vile, un-PC, worse-than-any-possible-college-hazing thing I have ever had the privilege of witnessing (but of course, entirely voluntary). If the media had ever gotten a hold of that I'm pretty people would have a more balanced idea of the spot, which would of course also have been really shut the hell down in a national outpouring of outrage. In fact forget I even brought it up, I may have already said too much.
posted by 31d1 at 10:06 AM on November 4, 2007 [2 favorites]

"As far as some of the more recent excesses described by the Standard are concerned, many of those can be found on the campuses of a number of quite robust liberal arts colleges today (*cough*Reed*cough*)"

Indeed. I found the article's hand-wringing about Antioch's lack of sports, grades, fraternities, and sororities a little mystifying, since Reed seems to be so successful. Those standards were the reason I chose Reed over more traditional and famous alternatives.

(Although they did send me a student sports-themed calendar a few years ago. What the fuck?)
posted by liet at 11:16 AM on November 4, 2007

TheWhiteSkull, that's exactly what I thought. They mention the new dorms and peak enrollment of the 60s and 70s, but a lot of colleges were in a growth mode then funded by the federal government and wider student loan programs, and I know of two small colleges that ran into deep trouble because they overexpanded in that era only to be unable to service the debt with the student body that never quite reached projected levels. One closed for good, and another has migrated campuses twice since then. And if you discount the loss of the historic campus, it's thriving with fewer than 150 students, so Antioch being down to 230 is really not that scary.

Anyway, I really would like to hear another perspective on this than the Weakly Standard. I practically got metal chips in my eyes from the axe-grinding.
posted by dhartung at 12:47 PM on November 4, 2007

>So anyway, thanks to my Antioch education I was not at all surprised to hear it was shutting down, and not surprised to see it about to still shamble along some more.


It's rather as if the school's financial officer went out on Co-Op for awhile... drifted... possibly worked at a printmaking internship in Duluth... then moseyed back to the Yellow Springs mothership.
posted by darth_tedious at 1:06 PM on November 4, 2007 [1 favorite]

There is more going on behind the scenes of this.

As I understand it there's a sharp division between the college (with liberal arts college educational priorities) and the university (which is a university of phoenix adult-ed for-profit mill, staffed by adjunct faculty rather than tenured, with the attendant priorities). And they're run by a single board. And there's some good reason to think that the board or other administrators has been getting away with nasty $$$ shenanigans (moving money from the college's endowment to make up for shortfalls from the university, and it's not clear where the university money went except into someone's pocket) that have led to the financial picture being quite so dire for the college. The college also sits on valuable land which could be sold for condos etc if the college were closed. Further, if they close the college for 4 years they can re-open it without having to give the tenured faculty their jobs back -- which would mean they could re-open it staffed by adjuncts who are much cheaper and have no say in the governance of the school (which is how the current Antioch University is run).

As I say, these are all just things I've heard from people who are following the case closely. I haven't looked into these claims myself -- if you're interested in the case you should definitely look into them for yourself. My point in mentioning them here is: don't buy the simplified "hippies can't manage a school" line without investigating the particulars of this case.
posted by LobsterMitten at 6:49 AM on November 5, 2007

Yeah, between the university and the college there is naught but $???. Depending on who you would talk to, you'd hear that the college was a cash cow for the University, which is why your high tuition didn't seem to translate to a high standard of living. Or you'd hear that quite to the contrary, the University was the only thing keeping the College going. Bottom line was that all the money that came in went to the University administration, and was disbursed from there, and no one ever seemed to be able to say much more then 'trust me I know' w/r/t to who was getting screwed.
posted by 31d1 at 3:06 PM on November 5, 2007

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