Antioch Eliminates Jobs of 5 Presidents

University eliminates jobs of presidents and duties of boards of its five regional campuses.

July 5, 2016
Antioch's Los Angeles campus

Antioch University has eliminated the president positions and the boards of trustees of all five of its campuses.

The Board of Governors -- a fiduciary body -- will now oversee the entire Antioch system, wrote Chancellor Bill Groves in a letter to the Antioch community obtained by Inside Higher Ed. Several members of the now-defunct boards of trustees will be asked to join the Board of Governors, Groves wrote.

Groves was named interim chancellor for two years in April. He succeeded Felice Nudelman, who held the post for four years and will now serve as chief global officer for innovation and partnerships.

The decisions were meant to simplify a university governance structure that had become too complex, said a university leader who agreed to provide background information without being identified or quoted directly.

The boards of trustees were established in 2009 as advisory bodies, the university leader said. But it had become apparent that the boards were a failed experiment and ultimately unnecessary, the source said.

It was also unnecessary to have both a president and a provost on each campus, the university leader said. This created a top-heavy governance structure on campuses with enrollments generally under 500 students, the source said.

Antioch University has five campuses across the country that serve around 4,500 graduate and nontraditional students in total. Three campuses are located in the cities of Seattle, Los Angeles and Santa Barbara, Calif. The campus in Yellow Springs, Ohio, serves the Midwest, and the campus in Keene, N.H., is the largest branch, with more than 1,200 students.

The decisions also stemmed from a desire to remain competitive in the adult higher education market, the university leader said. In the face of competition, Antioch University has seen flat or falling enrollments in recent years, the source said.

Total Antioch University enrollment dropped from 3,600 in 2007 to 3,177 in 2012, according to the 2013 accreditation report. Most of the drop could be attributed to a steep decline at Antioch University Midwest, The Yellow Springs News reported at the time.

The five presidents were notified that their contracts -- which expired June 30 -- would not be renewed, the university leader said. Only two presidents may have been adversely affected, the source said.

Dan Hocoy, president of Antioch University Seattle, will be retained as associate vice chancellor of institutional advancement, the university leader said. In his new role, Hocoy will assist with a capital campaign to finance construction on the Seattle campus.

Tex Boggs, president of Antioch University Los Angeles, was a temporary employee, the university leader said. Boggs obtained his role through the Registry for College and University Presidents, an organization that provides interim leadership for institutions.

Nancy Leffert, president of Antioch University Santa Barbara, had already announced her intention to retire when her contract expired.

This leaves two presidents -- Steve Jones of Antioch University New England and Karen Schuster Webb of Antioch University Midwest -- whose employment may have been terminated unexpectedly.

During his tenure, Jones oversaw a highly successful graduate program in environmental science and sustainability that accounted for one-third of all degrees at Antioch University New England. By July 1, Jones had noted the conclusion of his employment at Antioch on LinkedIn.

"The Antioch University system announced that it is deeply consolidating operations and eliminating all five campus presidents … and the campus boards of trustees," Jones wrote on his LinkedIn profile. "I have never experienced a more passion-fueled and purpose-driven institution of higher education."

Jones declined to comment for this story. The other university presidents did not respond to requests for comment by press time.

“The Board of Governors took several actions at its recent meeting to address the current budget issues, including significant changes in the university budget process and its business model, as well as an administrative organization,” Charlotte Roberts, vice chair of the Board of Governors at Antioch University, wrote in a June 27 letter. “We also recognized the pressing need to simplify and reshape a complex governance structure and to allow the chancellor and his administration to focus on programs and enrollment.”

Antioch University has a long and often controversial past dating back to the 19th century. Antioch College was founded in the 1850s, and the education innovator and abolitionist Horace Mann served as its first president. The Antioch University system -- of which Antioch College was a part -- was founded in the 1860s.

In 2007, Antioch University’s Board of Trustees announced that it was shutting down Antioch College due to declining enrollment and a lack of funds. In 2009, alumni banded together to purchase the college’s assets for $6 million and reopen the college as independent from Antioch University.

“Antioch College has no legal, financial or administrative ties to Antioch University, and so we are completely unaffected by Antioch University's recently announced changes,” said Kateri Kosta, associate director of communications for Antioch College. “We don’t have any reason to know about them.”

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