YELLOW SPRINGS Ohio
Antioch College board members postponed a decision Saturday on whether to reverse their decision to temporarily close the college, telling about 200 alumni, faculty and students that they’ll continue debating for several more days.
“We are dealing with very complex, long-standing matters of critical importance and we simply need more time to deliberate” said Art Zucker, the chairman of the board of trustees.
The private liberal arts college announced in June that because of declining enrollments, heavy dependence on tuition and a small endowment, the college would close after the spring term, reorganize and reopen in 2012.
On Thursday, alumni formally asked the trustees to reverse the decision, saying they had raised $18 million primarily in pledges to keep the school going.
Since then, the two groups have been meeting behind closed doors hashing out and debating the alumni proposal.
A decision was expected Saturday, but instead Zucker and Nancy Crow, a board member and alumni board president, told those gathered at a community center that discussions among trustees could continue into next week, with some board members possibly voting by telephone.
Most reacted quietly to Zucker and Crow’s announcement, although some audible sighs could be heard.
“I was disappointed because we’ve been waiting for a clear answer,” said Jeanne Kay, 22, a second-year student from Cadenet, France. “This is homecoming weekend and there are alumni who are here to either celebrate together or to be together to figure out how we can continue this struggle. I feel it was disrespectful.”
The alumni plan calls for raising $25 million in donations to assist the college in the 2008 school year and then a five-year, $100 million fundraising drive beginning in 2009. The school’s current annual operating budget is $18 million.
Antioch supporters this week planted black and gold “Save Antioch College” signs along a forest path that leads to the building where officials held their deliberations.
Supporters wanted to make sure the decision-makers knew how they feel about the college a 155-year-old school with a pioneering academic program that produces students with a passion for freethinking and social activism.
“Four months ago, the board of trustees said it was important to realize that their decision was made and we have to accept it. Now it’s clear that they are negotiating,” said Jerry Bellow, a 1997 graduate from Austin, Texas. “If they are going to drag their feet for a couple of days, well, it’s mean, but we’re going to get what we want,”
A small $30 million endowment and heavy dependence on tuition revenue amid declining enrollment has hurt the 230-student, southwest Ohio school about 15 miles east of Dayton.
Alumni fear that temporarily closing the college will scare off badly needed donors and make it difficult to recruit faculty and attract new students when the school reopens.
“The costs of going dark are substantial,” said Rick Daily, executive director and treasurer of the Antioch alumni association.
The college, founded in 1852, is the flagship for Antioch University, which has five other campuses in Ohio and on the East and West coasts.
The alma mater of Coretta Scott King, “Twilight Zone” creator Rod Serling and two Nobel Prize winners, Antioch College doesn’t grade classes, encourages students to develop their own study plans and combines academic learning with experience through a co-op program in which students leave campus to work in various fields.
The school has been a fertile ground for social activism. Civil disobedience has been part of that, with anti-Vietnam war protests in the 1960s and ’70s through demonstrations against the Iraq war in recent years. In 1994, students took over a campus building for 32 days to protest the school’s plans to turn it into an admissions office instead of a student-activity center.
Antioch’s style fits with the village of Yellow Springs, where ’60s-type attitudes and laid-back attire are still common.
On the Net: http://www.antioch-college.edu/
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