Jul 1 ’08

They murdered our college, Mann

Category: Antioch

Antioch College, Yellow Springs, Ohio

(A picture of “Hassle Castle.”)

By way of my title, I am referring of course to Antioch College, and Horace Mann, the abolitionist, visionary educator, and social reformer; Antioch’s first President.

Mann was a champion of public education. He believed that in a democratic society, education should be tuition free and universal, nonsectarian, democratic in method, accessible to both men and womyn. He argued that all citizens, regardless of race of economic status must have equal access to a quality education provided for by a tax-supported public school system, only then did he believe could true democracy be achieved. He viewed such as a crucial tool to ‘break down the troubling hierarchy of class in American society’.

(Lest you go thinking the man was some kind of ‘pure saint’ think again, his Temperance and anti-tobacco moralizing sermons alone should give present day Antiochians more than merely a pause.)

Mann was perhaps most known for his simple challenge presented to Antioch College students in the conclusion to his final commencement address at Antioch College not long before his death:

“I beseech you to treasure up in your hearts these my parting words: Be ashamed to die until you have won some victory for humanity.”

Yesterday, June 30th was the date slated by Antioch University Chancellor Toni Murdock and the Antioch University Board of Trustees to turn Antioch College off. It is no understatement to say that losing Antioch College can only be counted as a loss for humanity.

Horace Mann’s dream does not die with the murder of Antioch College, but with it, his greatest legacy falls silent, the campus shuttered. While Antioch College has long been in the clutches of those adamantly opposed to what he stood for, it was not until yesterday, when the last vestiges of life that still inhabited the College were finally crushed and efforts to save the existing Antioch College came to an end.

The College has been closed before, but never so viciously at the hands of those who actively wanted it dead.

Non-stop (Antioch), see below, is gearing up for next Autumn, but whatever comes next, it will be under an entirely different set of circumstances. Apparently everything from the ADA grandfathering of the College facilities, on through to institutional accreditation now changes. Whatever comes next, with or without the horribly abused and neglected campus, by its own University (mis)management, will face a very different climate in which to work.

Further, very crucial pieces of the college have been essentially looted, as the University, (originally spawned out of Antioch College now cannibalizing it), has made off with both our history, and our good name.

We Alumni only half jokingly point out how the University has trended towards an economy of ‘McEducation’, based more on the University of Phoenix model (highly pay for play) than anything Horace Mann ever envisioned. We have also watched (despite the best efforts of many) the likelihood of a salvaged Antioch College go down the drain with the ‘in bad faith’ pseudo negotiations designed to keep Alumni busy while the work continued to kill the College.

With our recognizable name, once synonymous with innovative educational methodologies, Community based governance, the Antioch co-operative education program, and a core commitment to social justice , now reduced to a marketable brand more closely associated with graduating those working within the various systems to reform not working for structural change, we are left with little more than the charred remains of what was once a noble institution.

(But that ‘in every crisis an opportunity’ Chinese wisdom? My .02 comes down to ‘we had the name “Antioch” due to the particular history of our institution. Rather than fighting like mad over something the University has intentionally devalued, maybe now is finally the right moment to actually evaluate it in the light of day. “Antioch” is not a linguistic piece of terminology that represents what the college had evolved into. It is a thoroughly corrupted linguistic accident of history that in modern times has not related to the modern Antioch College nor many of its students. So perhaps rather than clinging vainly to a brand the University has shat upon, AND will defend to their dying breath as their stolen legacy and name is really all they’ve got going for them, let it go. Walk away. Evolve into terminology that better represents the reality of who and what we are. )

We can only hope for a future with some reworked version of a Phoenix Arising in Yellow Springs, as opposed to yet another clone of the University of Phoenix dropped down into a reworked Yellow Springs with the Antioch brand name stamped on it. (And to think, currently, the nearest University of Phoenix to Yellow Springs is a full 24 miles away in Dayton.)

The students, alumni, (often previously tenured) faculty, and (union busted) staff of Antioch College, along with other ’stakeholders’ and last but not least the town of Yellow Springs, Ohio never wanted this fight. The battle came to us- in the form of the neocon, ‘Succubus from Seattle’, Chancellor Toni Murdock and the traitorous University Board of Trustees.

Chancellor Murdock’s fawning praise of batshit Thomas Friedman’s notions of destroying everything that got you where you are today, “The hallmark of a truly successful organization is the willingness to abandon what made it successful and start fresh” back in Feb 2006, certainly foreshadowed everything that came thereafter.

(Those looking into breadcrumbs along the trail may also want to look more deeply into some of the details provided in this Free Press article and this piece in the Blaze.)

Perhaps eventually, I will write about what my Antioch College education meant to me. I am not an Antioch graduate, but I do hold the distinction of being an Alum, having dropped out not once, but twice. My time spent at Antioch, both good and bad has had everything to do with the person I have grown to become.

There I continued my journey of learning about both the crucial importance of living in accord with one’s conscience, and a healthy cynicism of how power actually tends to play out in practice. Most of all, it reinforced my already strong tendency towards questioning, and trying to get to the ‘why’, along with understanding how systems are at play, not only what is readily seen, but what often lies beneath the surface.

The intentional murder of Antioch is entwined with my own biography in ways difficult to express on a day like this. How can I possibly find the words to describe what it meant to be part of non-violent civil disobedience trainings at Antioch in the lead up to 1991 ‘first gulf war’, talking with Steve Schwerner (who is a legend in his own right, but is also brother to Michael, ‘Mickey’, Schwerner, one of three murdered civil rights workers killed near Philadelphia, Mississippi back in ‘64. Here’s an older 2005 Yellow Springs News piece that embodied how Steve also, always understood that systems of power and powerlessness laid at the core of his brother’s murder.)

Something as simple yet profound as someone of my generation connecting with someone of his and learning from one another is larger than I can relate today. That was the kind of place Antioch College was, it had roots, and despite the ongoing contortions and gyrations, even back in my day, I came away with more than I can put words around, despite my time at Antioch being shorter than most students’.

The destruction of Antioch is both profound and ultimately just one of the drops in the deluge of what has been and continues to be done both to our country and throughout the world at this very moment. The murder of Antioch College is but one of MANY microcosms in the current macrocosm.

For all the flowery language and high ideals, though, the consequences of the loss of Antioch College are ultimately more personal and more immediate for those directly affected. Be it the administration’s crass union busting, or calling into question the very idea of tenure for all professors, not ‘merely’ Antioch’s, people are losing their jobs, their ability to continue to live in Yellow Springs, and thus the very unique character of Yellow Springs itself is being eroded. The loss of the college is going to have an immediate and dramatic effect on Yellow Springs itself. (A place that if you’ve never been, you can’t possibly understand.)

Individual students have been left to live out the current American paradigm of “you’re on your own” or ‘yoyo’. They have been forced to make hard choices about their own educational futures while simultaneously trying to fight to win that ‘victory for humanity’ by making every effort to keep Antioch College open.

AP Photo by Skip Peterson

(This banner sits upon the theater building, which I once spent a long hot day sweeping pigeon shit out of as part of the effort to bring the theater back to life.)

I’ll leave you with the tormented words of Jeanne Kay, an Antioch College student, anguishing over what it feels like when ‘that victory that needs winning for humanity’ (with apologies to old Horace) lands on your head, prior to your own graduation.

The most important battles sometimes come to you when it’s inconvenient, when you don’t think you can possibly handle it, and when you simply flat out don’t feel like it. Sux that. This final round in the epic battle for the soul of Antioch College came to us, a fight we never wanted.

The problem is it’s not only Antioch that we’re losing. The same ideology of hollowing out existing structures, mining them for assets, then selling off the chaff all to the corporation’s benefit and the individual people’s loss is fractal like, from the (important) speck that was Antioch College on up to American foreign policy globally.

Ultimately, though, Antioch was killed off because the very College itself, like so many of us who once haunted its halls, are counted among Hunter S. Thompson’s “doomed”:

“Let me ask you a question sir, what is this country doing for the doomed? There are two kinds of people in this country, the doomed and the screwheads.”

- Hunter S. Thompson, from “Where the Buffalo Roam.”

It was for us, and we were for it, and neither of the two could be counted among the screwheads.

Those populating Antioch University, on the other hand, they are another matter altogether.

R.I.P. Antioch College 1852-2008 *”Buy the ticket, take the ride. Mahalo.”

May the University choke on your bones.


In closing, I include a set of links where you can read the writings of people who are the genuine voices of what was Antioch College, and places where documentation about what is really going on can be found (unlike the propaganda spouted by ‘legitimate and authorized’ University spokesleeches.)

Non-stop (Antioch) is aiming to fire up this fall, with classes and professors who remain true to the authentic Antioch College 3 “c” ideals of Community, Classroom, and Co-op.

The Antioch Papers

The Blaze


Antiochians Community Wiki

The College Faculty

Listen Up Antioch

Antioch College Action Network

The Record



And more broadly, a few links from Yellow Springs itself;

The Yellow Springs News (lots of Antioch College related coverage here as well)

The Village homepage

And a typical promotional site or two (be sure to check out businesses, they’re going to need support from other sources now that the College has been killed off.)

Explore Yellow Springs

Yellow Springs.com


5 Comments so far

  1. Art Dole July 2nd, 2008 8:24 am

    Out of failure can come the seeds of accomplishment. Let’s learn from the murder of Antioch. It took 40 years for Antioch to die. Now salvage the best and move on.

  2. dawn, Antioch Class of '83 July 3rd, 2008 1:10 am

    I liked much of what you had to say but, I do take issue with the notion that the college is dead. Antioch is a community which lives in our hearts and minds, our deeds and actions. A bunch of corporate a**holes cannot kill the community our activism, the non-stop planning and the students who won’t leave YSO. It lives in the staff people who stayed on that falling down campus because they too were part of our community. Antioch lives because we do. Stay tuned for the part where we take our college back…these people didn’t realize what we were made of! “Be Ashamed to Let it Die!”

  3. stormcoming July 3rd, 2008 2:32 am

    Thanks Art and Dawn, glad to see both your comments.

    Just a quick point or two;

    Art- actually, it took roughly 156 years for Antioch to “die” (yeah I know, not counting the previous periods it was out of commission, I’d have to dig out the dates.)

    Folks can date the seeds of destruction to various crucial points along the way, but ultimately, varying forms of Antioch College stood firm for more than 100 years.

    I take issue with the term “die” though, as this was not a natural death. This was intentionally put down- by people. And before moving on, I think it’s important to do the autopsy- it’s important to learn the lessons of how this was done, why, and by whom. ‘Salvaging’ without pausing to learn from this would be a crucial error in my view. Sounds like on that, we might agree.

    Dawn- on taking issue with the notion that the College is dead,

    I can only say Antioch College as it existed before June 30th is no longer with us, it was murdered.

    The University may someday open a new college, but it will not be the Antioch College we knew.

    As for those keeping the flame so to speak- non-stop (Antioch,) as I said in the paragraph I’ll quote below- whatever comes next (re- bourne of that spirit of the genuine Antioch College like a ‘Phoenix Arising’) will have certain core differences- the loss of our name and Antiochiana to name but two.

    As I said in the piece-

    “Non-stop (Antioch), see below, is gearing up for next Autumn, but whatever comes next, it will be under an entirely different set of circumstances. Apparently everything from the ADA grandfathering of the College facilities, on through to institutional accreditation now changes. Whatever comes next, with or without the horribly abused and neglected campus, by its own University (mis)management, will face a very different climate in which to work.”

    But yes, that which lives on in us is by no means dead or murdered- no matter how hard some would try to kill it.

    After I walked out of the meeting with Murdock and the Board of Trustees (those who could be bothered to show up) at reunion a year ago, I got cornered by a Dayton local news crew. They interviewed me and I said plainly that Antioch lives on through us. We are Antioch now.

    That said, I think these people DO know what we’re made of- and that’s precisely WHY they did everything they could to make Antioch College as small and weak and broken as possible, so that they could (to turn Neocon Grover Norquist’s words back against them) drown Antioch and Yellow Springs in a proverbial bathtub.

    They want Antioch College and Yellow Springs, dismantled, overrun, and changed out from under us precisely BECAUSE they understand it as a point of genuine resistance- thus to their minds it must be co-opted, dismantled, or defunded into oblivion.

    To go forward, we need to not let them set the terms and the agenda, but instead to do the end run- if they want Antioch for their own purposes because it was a ‘hard point’, then it’s time to go build the REALLY hard point. If the ‘bootcamp for the revolution’ was what they feared, then let’s start getting serious about what we lost in the previously existing Antioch College.

    Time to build our way forward on the real values of what Antioch College was to its core.

    Being free of the (corporate neocon) University has certain advantages- provided we can understand that and act accordingly going forward.

    But as I said above, it takes understanding what happened here, and learning from it, to genuinely carry that community in our ‘hearts, minds, deeds, and actions’ going forward.

    It’s also as I alluded to above, an opportunity, to re-evaluate things like terminology. “Be Ashamed to Let it Die” for some in the narrow view means “Antioch College” under that title those buildings, etc.

    But “Be ashamed to let it die” also carries the broader meaning- the heart and soul of what Antioch meant, the challenge to community (with all that entailed, participatory democracy, etc), and it’s radical (to the root) core of social justice. Horace Mann’s parting words,and how we live that out.

    THAT is what we must be ashamed to let die.

    Not words like “Antioch”, nor structures that have been co-opted to the point of meaninglessness.

    Now being an architecture buff, it breaks my heart what these fuckers have ALREADY done to our campus. The historic and unique architecture deserves so much more. Gross, (perhaps even criminal?) mismanagement. Not at all in accord with promises made in order to secure the support for the new McGregor across town.

    That said, it’s critically important not to lose sight of what matters most here.

    Keeping that which lies at the core of the community is the fierce dedication that yes, keeps students on in Yellow Springs, and people working towards ‘non-stop’.

    Antioch University can slogan up “Because the world needs you now” but for those of us who ARE Antioch College we never needed a slogan to tell us such, we felt a deep and abiding personal responsibility to do what we could to make the world a better place. We were willing to tackle Horace Mann’s challenge winning a “victory for humanity” because we were ALREADY involved in that work in various forms and fields.

    A “Victory for Humanity” is and continues to be a lofty goal. But for many of us our day to day is already occupied by the ’struggles’ on so many fronts, from Queer viability in societies, to fighting for science education, from housing for people with AIDS to media reform.

    That is what they can’t kill unless we let them, and that is what we must be ashamed to let die- our commitment and ongoing work.

    And that is what must lie at the core of any non-stop going forward, far more than fighting over mere words like “antioch college”, what we must be afriad to let die is the very ’soul’ of what Antioch is- a daily resistance in our lives to the world so many would create.

  4. Barrie Grenell July 13th, 2008 12:21 am

    Who wrote this? I see the names of others referred to but don’t know who this author is, or when he/she was at Antioch.

  5. stormcoming July 13th, 2008 12:44 am

    Barrie, I’ll eventually get around to talking more about who I am. For now you’ll just have to be content with my “about” page.

    As I said in the piece above-

    “Perhaps eventually, I will write about what my Antioch College education meant to me. I am not an Antioch graduate, but I do hold the distinction of being an Alum, having dropped out not once, but twice.”

    I will say that I was an Antioch student in 1987-88, and again for a second round in 1991. Most of my friends from that period would probably remember me as “Mouse”.

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