August 21, 2003


McGregor considers move away from Yellow Springs

Recent growth at Antioch University McGregor is forcing the adult college to consider its options for expansion, including possibly moving its campus outside of Yellow Springs.

The decision-making process is being met with mixed feelings from McGregor students and employees, some of whom said they favor proceeding thoughtfully to grow the school in an intentional manner, and giving strong consideration to staying in Yellow Springs.

The president of McGregor, Barbara Gellman-Danley, said last week that the university’s education program, which comprises half of the school’s enrollment, is turning away as many students as it admits.

“It’s tough when you have to turn people away,” Dan Kaplan, chairman of the Antioch University Board of Trustees, said in a phone interview from his home in New Hampshire on Sunday. “The demand outstrips the supply.”

From the board’s perspective, McGregor is soaring and Gellman-Danley is leading the school toward dynamic success, Kaplan said. McGregor grew 11 percent last year, with a budget that was up 15 percent. Enrollment increased from 636 to 700 students, and an additional 100 students enrolled in McGregor’s summer program.

The school is also adding new programs in education and expanding existing ones in conflict resolution and civic leadership, Gellman-Danley said.

But the facilities McGregor has in Yellow Springs are cramped and provide little room for growth, she said. McGregor uses Antioch College buildings for most of its classes and shares its Sontag-Fels administrative building with the college’s radio station, WYSO, and the college development office. McGregor occupies a total space of 20,000 square feet, with six classrooms in the old Sontag-Fels building to itself.

The kind of campus Gellman-Danley is looking for would increase the campus to 40,000 square feet with lots of green space and enough academic and administrative space to accommodate future as well as current needs, she said.

The school is considering building new facilities or moving into existing space either in Yellow Springs or outside the village somewhere in the Dayton area, Gellman-Danley said.

New facilities could cost as much as $7 million, according to the Aug. 15 issue of the Dayton Business Journal, and Gellman-Danley said the school could need a state bond to fund construction.

If McGregor remains at its current location, there is the possibility of building on land the college already owns, such as the parking lot behind the Sontag-Fels building and the four residential lots on East Center College, Glenn Watts, the Antioch University vice chancellor of finance, said. But having enough close, convenient parking would be a concern, he said.

If McGregor left its current facilities, the university would have to negotiate a lease or a sale of the Sontag-Fels building, leaving WYSO to negotiate a lease with the building’s new owner or find space elsewhere on campus, Watts said.

University leaders have said they are collecting input from faculty, staff and students on where McGregor should be headed.

When asked to comment for this article, several faculty and staff members said all questions should be directed to Gellman-Danley’s office.

Jon Saari, associate professor of English and one of McGregor’s founding faculty members, supported the college’s growth and potential for change.

“I think it’s a great moment in McGregor’s history to be in a position where we can have our own new facilities,” he said. “It could be a magnet for new students.”

Other school employees said they would like to explore all the options to stay in Yellow Springs before looking at moving out of town. Gina Paget, director of the Individualized Liberal and Professional Studies program at McGregor, acknowledged that space is a problem, but she supported very careful growth planning driven by academic vision.

“Our students that come from a distance really enjoy being in Yellow Springs and being on the Antioch campus. It’s a big draw and it’s part of the appeal,” Paget said. “We really need to explore all options before we go much further toward moving outside Yellow Springs.”

Paget suggested collaborating with the college to get the maximum use out of the space for both schools. She also supported seriously considering adding on to the existing space in town.

“I know that a great many of the other faculty members feel this way,” she said.

One student from the weekend college, Patt Poston, was against moving McGregor out of Yellow Springs. Poston, a Spring Valley resident, came to Antioch McGregor because of the school’s commitment to a humanitarian philosophy, and said she feels that might be lost at a campus outside of the village.

“I took the entrepreneurship class located in downtown Dayton that had all the bells and whistles in the room,” she said of McGregor’s new teacher education program, which uses sophisticated technology as a teaching tool. “But it was a different environment, and if I had wanted technology I would have gone to another campus.”

As the decision-making process continues, university leaders are also taking into consideration McGregor’s student demographics and areas of economic growth in the region.

Only 3 percent of McGregor’s students come from Yellow Springs, while the school draws 22 percent of its students from Dayton and 12 percent from Springfield, according to Gellman-Danley. Another 26 percent come from the Cincinnati-Columbus corridor, and the remainder include mostly distance learners.

Population growth in the area is being led by Warren County to the south, Gellman-Danley stressed.

“You’ve got to look at that,” she said.

The college has also received offers from development groups and city managers in Fairborn, Troy and Dayton, and has looked at land on Dayton-Yellow Springs Road behind Kroger and across the street behind Elder Beerman’s warehouse, she said.

Whether McGregor stays in Yellow Springs or not, Gellman-Danley said, the school has “no intention of disenfranchising current students.”

“Even if we have to move 5 to 10 minutes from Yellow Springs, that doesn’t mean we won’t keep a presence in Yellow Springs,” she said.

McGregor’s pattern of success has only made the possibility of enlarging the campus a viable option in the last year and a half, according to Gellman-Danley.

Expansion is still in the conceptual phase, and the school does not expect to act on any decisions before the end of the academic year in June 2004.

“We’re taking our time to do this right,” Gellman-Danley said. “But we can’t wait too long on figuring out space issues.”

—Lauren Heaton