Antioch College Alumni Fight to Keep the College Open

Antioch College alumni have come up with a plan to keep the college open by having it sever ties with the Antioch University system and stand on its own.

Separating the Yellow Springs, Ohio, college from the larger system would free the college from the authority of the system’s board of trustees, says Rick Daily, the alumni board treasurer. The trustees recently decided to suspend the private liberal arts school until 2012.

Instead, the college would form a separate board, overseen by current president Steven Lawry. While the idea has been promoted before, Daily says he hopes this time they will reach an agreement, given the pending closure of the college. The Antioch University system consists of six colleges and universities, located in California, New Hampshire, Ohio and Washington.

Trustees issued a “declaration of financial exigency” and cited declining student enrollment and subsequent loss of tuition revenue as the primary factor behind its decision to suspend the college.

Lynda Sirk, director of public relations and communications for the system, says the college relies on income from the other five institutions.

“From the very moment [Antioch College] was founded on the principle that it would be able to succeed based on tuition and not endowment, it has struggled financially,” she says. “At the current state of education today, [this principle] doesn’t work.”

The four-year suspension is necessary, Sirk says, to ensure that Antioch College is able to reopen as a stronger and improved institution.

More than 700 Antioch College alumni attended a reunion last month, which turned into “Operation Save Antioch.” Daily says he challenged his fellow alumni to raise $40,000 at the event. Within 18 hours, they had raised 10 times that amount; $424,000. The alumni also launched the College Revival Fund and created a Web site, www.antiochians.org. As of Tuesday, the group had raised $525,000 to help save the school.

According to Sirk, the college needs $50 million by this fall to overturn the suspension

Since the reunion meeting, alumni have also been hosting meetings in their home towns.

Karen Mulhauser, the former president of the alumni board and a former trustee, hosted one such meeting last Sunday in her Washington, D.C., home. More than 80 alumni attended, including Lawry. The attendees reflected the sentiments of Antioch alumni around the country, expressing frustration about the late notification to alumni about the school’s financial troubles.

The suspension is to start June 1, 2008 and it will be the fourth time that the college has closed.

Antioch College was found by the Christian Connexion in 1852. It was the first college within the Antioch university system, built under the sentiment of equality for all.

Some of the college’s noteworthy alumni include the late civil rights activist Coretta Scott King, women’s right activist Olympia Brown, Star Trek actor Leonard Nimoy and Washington, D.C.’s Congressional delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton.

– Margaret Kamara

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