June 26, 2003


Over $1.2 million at stake as Antioch negotiations stall
It appears that Antioch University and a group of Antioch alumni and supporters will not be able to reach an agreement that would have secured more than $1 million for Antioch College.

Officials at Antioch and the director of AIF, or the Antioch Independence Fund, said that recent proposals made by both sides are unacceptable, and with a June 30 deadline, which was set by AIF, just days away, people involved in the situation say that the negotiations are essentially over. Even if the two sides continued to negotiate, they have a ways to go to close the gap between their positions.

Katy Jako, the director of AIF, said that the group is still open to “substantive negotiations” and would extend its deadline, if the Antioch University Board of Trustees asked. But, in a phone interview from Richmond, Calif., where she lives, Jako said, what is on the table “is not particularly encouraging.”

Joan Straumanis, the Antioch College president, who negotiated with Jako, said, “It looks as if no agreement is possible with the AIF. That is something I regret.”

“The board certainly doesn’t seem to have an appetite for more negotiations,” Straumanis said later of the university Board of Trustees.

“We’re not going to go out to California, we’re not going to negotiate with Katy anymore,” said Dan Kaplan, chair of the university Board of Trustees.

What’s at stake is $1,217,000, which AIF has raised through pledges. Formed to “fund the transition of Antioch College from its status as a dependent unit of AU to that of an independent liberal arts college in Yellow Springs,” AIF would give the college its money if the group reached an agreement with the Board of Trustees that made the college “more independent,” Jako said in a letter to AIF supporters, who, according to Jako, include 539 people who have either endorsed the fund or donated money to it.

If AIF can’t reach an agreement with Antioch, the group plans to disperse its money to other tax-deductible organizations chosen by donors.

In an interview Sunday, Straumanis stressed that she hopes the donors and supporters of AIF will support the college. “I hope the AIF donors and members who say they are so devoted to the college will come through for us and help us financially and in other ways well into the future,” she said.

At least one AIF advisor plans to do that. Barry Hollister, who held various positions at Antioch for more than 30 years and has advised AIF, said this week that he and his wife, Kay, would give their donation to the college.

Hollister supports both AIF and Antioch College. For instance, he said, the university needs to consult the college more about finances and operations, which he called a “culture of truly consultation and governance.” He also said, “I think the present president and leadership of the college is very favorable.”

“At the end of the day, most people in AIF will see a bright future for Antioch College and will want to support it,” Kaplan said in a phone interview last Friday from his home office in Westmoreland, N.H.

Straumanis also said that she regretted the “short time” between AIF’s deadline and the final proposal from the Board of Trustees, which Jako described as “restatements of the status quo.”

Negotiations between Straumanis and Jako started last year, and at least twice, they issued optimistic statements. After Straumanis and Jako met on Aug. 23, 2002, a statement was released saying, “In our continuing discussions we will endeavor to further narrow our differences and reach agreement on specific ways that the centrality of the college can be assured over the long term by the Board of Trustees.”

In April 2003, AIF submitted what appears to be its final proposal, which defined “the centrality of Antioch College within Antioch University.” The points included creating an Antioch College Foundation, controlled by the college president, to manage money and assets raised by the college, and including the college’s Administrative Council (AdCil) in the selection and removal of the college’s president as well as the responsibility, with the president, to manage the college and its academic programs. To implement the points, Antioch University would have to amend its bylaws.

The college foundation would be a corporation that would receive and manage the college’s monetary assets, Jako said. It would serve AIF’s goal to create what Jako called a “firewall between the finances of the college and the university.”

Antioch administrators and Kaplan countered with a proposal that said endowment and annual funds donated to the college shall be “restricted for exclusive use by Antioch College,” and that alumni and others will be able to inspect endowment records and the budgets of the college and university. The proposal also said that AdCil would play an advisory role in the selection or dismissal of the college president, as well as advise the president in the management and policy-making at the college.

The two points would “provide the necessary reassurance to AIF regarding two primary concerns,” Straumanis and Jim Craiglow, the university chancellor, said in a letter to Jako.

Straumanis said that the Board of Trustees regarded the proposed points as “non-issues,” since, for instance, the college controls its assets “with board oversight.” It would be illegal for the university to spend money designated for the college on anything but the college, Straumanis said.

AIF could not endorse the university’s response, Jako said, because it “indicates no change in the direction for which the fund was established.”

Straumanis pointed out that the university subsidizes the college and gives it a break on overhead services that the university provides. “For the last decade the university has been financially essential to the college’s health,” she said.

“The college could not thrive without the university,” Straumanis added.

The differences between AIF and Antioch cover more than their proposals.

Both Kaplan and Straumanis said that AIF has hurt Antioch College. AIF’s campaign caused confusion, and some have not donated funds to AIF or Antioch because they did not want to take sides, Straumanis said.

Kaplan said that AIF is “doing great harm to an institution that they say they love.” He contrasted that with the Board of Trustees, whom, he said, have contributed $24 million to the college for various activities and needs.

He also pointed out that the Antioch College endowment has increased from $12.2 million in 1997 to $28.3 million last year. The college, he said, has a “dynamic president” and a “Board of Trustees that’s committed to Antioch College.”

Jako said that AIF has had a positive impact on the college. The group has “done a good job” raising consciousness and asking questions in public.

But Jako said that Antioch University “has coasted on the academic reputation of Antioch College.”

“We see no future” for the university, she said. The college would be more successful if, for example, the college faculty had the power to set graduation standards, Jako said.

Kaplan and Straumanis also disagreed with Jako’s assessment of the university. “Antioch University not only can survive, it does survive in a competitive, private market,” Straumanis said.

—Robert Mihalek