September 26, 2002

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Patricia Whitlow-

New dean of students at Antioch College

Pat WhitlowIt's a Thursday night at Antioch College and one of the lecture halls is filled to the brim with angry and confused students. The student body and the college's new dean of students, Patricia Whitlow, have called a meeting to discuss Antioch's alcohol policy, which Whitlow started enforcing when she came to campus earlier this term.

Many students are not happy that after a number of years of nonenforcement, the administration is upholding the rules governing keg parties and underage drinking. Students shoot questions off to the new dean at a dizzying pace.

Whitlow handles the situation with unexpected poise. Even the party-throwing contingent admits that when you talk to Whitlow, she sincerely listens.

In an interview this month Whitlow, who replaced former Dean of Students Scott Warren this fall, said she prefers to discuss issues and problems with students instead of being defensive, and she can show this approach works.

By the end of that Thursday meeting, everyone seems to come to the conclusion that no one thinks the 10-year-old alcohol rules are perfect. Whitlow and the students agree that the policy should be rewritten.

While she cannot offer her ethical approval of the policy, Whitlow said she respects the process of student-based democracy at Antioch. When she first visited the campus last spring, she said, "I discovered and became enamored with the concept of self-governance and the concept of community here."

But being the new administrator on campus can be difficult. "People seem open to new ideas here, but when a new person comes in [the administration] there are inevitably changes. That process can be disconcerting, upsetting. The new person sometimes gets associated with those feelings," Whitlow said a few days before the meeting on the alcohol policy.

Whitlow has spent a large part of her life in academia, starting when she received her bachelor's degree in anthropology from Welser College. She later earned her MBA from the University of Arizona, where she also worked in the school's housing department. Currently, she is preparing to defend her dissertation, a qualitative study of women who choose not to have children, from the University of Kentucky on Sept. 30. She has also worked for the University of Illinois, Champagne/Urbana, in the campus housing division.

Originally from the small town of Mayfield, Ky., Whitlow said her decision to come to Antioch was a natural one. "I'm still intrigued by the creativity and the passion of the students. It's a commitment I think I'll enjoy," she said.

Whitlow also said the college has its challenges. For instance, her first tour of the campus included a walk through the deteriorating residence halls, some of which she described as "startling."

Whitlow thinks it is important to keep Yellow Springs informed of and involved in activities at the college. "In a small community like this, with a small college like this, we're so inextricably tied," she said. "People that live here also work here. You want to see good things for both. But the health of the community and the health of the college are tied together."

When asked about what she sees as the future of the college, Whitlow said it was important to put Antioch in a more stable financial position. This could help increase the number of staff members at Antioch, which would allow the college to provide better support for students, she said.

"I'd like to see us provide a first-class system of student support. Having a housing background, I'd like to get the halls in good condition," she said.

There have long been problems at the college that have affected the number of qualified professors as well as student housing, but Whitlow also envisions more important goals for the school beyond money. "Clearly there's room for the college to grow, but mostly I want our college to be proud of where we are again," she said.

-Michael Hogan Jr.