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The Antioch Fight -- Refought

September 1, 2009

Following years of turmoil, Antioch College may be about to be revived, independent of Antioch University, which many of the college's advocates blame for its problems.

The American Association of University Professors is today releasing an analysis of the conflict, arguing that it is a "cautionary tale" about what happens when a board ignores the faculty role in governance. Antioch University leaders in turn are releasing their version of events, accusing the AAUP of being unfair.

The university's board decided in 2007 to suspend operations of the college -- the historic liberal arts institution that once was the entirety of Antioch. The college, known for its "co-op" programs, progressive politics and strong commitment to student and faculty roles in governance, was by that time part of a larger university system, with branch campuses around the country. Those campuses focused on graduate education and featured non-tenured faculties. The university's board insisted that it had no choice but to close the college for a reorganization, but many students, faculty and alumni of the college said that the board lacked commitment to the college, and accused it of favoring the branch campuses.

The AAUP report specifically charges that the university's board and administration, among other things:

  • "Usurped the faculty’s responsibilities" by imposing curricular changes "that the faculty neither initiated nor approved."
  • Failed to consult with the faculty regarding the college’s financial condition prior to declaring financial exigency.
  • Violated "essential standards for continuing faculty appointments" by declaring financial exigency without having considered alternatives.
  • "Systematically reduced the flow of budgetary information" to the college's faculty.
  • "Failed to protect the autonomy of Antioch College and, in fact, significantly undermined it by approving a shift of administrative functions from Antioch College to the university administration without ensuring means for communication or sharing of governance."

Antioch University will today release its own report, calling the AAUP study "biased and flawed."

The university's chancellor, Toni Murdock, denied that faculty had been shut out of governance, and said that the AAUP appeared to suggest that "the rights and privileges of the faculty on the other campuses should have given way to the faculty of the college." Murdock said that she provided numerous corrections to the AAUP report, and she said that those corrections appeared to have been ignored.

Amid the acrimony over what happened to Antioch College, there were also signs Monday that it might soon be revived, independent of the university. Alumni leaders and the university made a tentative deal in June to do just that, with the goal of having the deal completed by August 31. The Great Lakes Colleges Association, which has been mediating the negotiations, released a statement on Monday noting that the August 31 date was passing, but adding that a final deal is expected soon.

 

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