November 20, 2003


Students, faculty discuss ways to renew Antioch

The community meeting at Antioch College on Nov. 11 wasn’t business as usual. Most of the meeting was devoted to a discussion in which members of the campus community were invited by the college’s Renewal Commission to share their thoughts about Antioch and its future.

Two questions were written on the large chalkboard in McGregor Hall room 113, where the meeting took place. The first asked community members to complete the statement, “An Antioch education at its best, is…” The second question asked, “If you could wave a magic wand and transform Antioch College, what would it be?”

There was no shortage of answers to the questions. A larger enrollment, harder classes, better organization, more racial, economic and ability diversity, a better public image and more involvement in environmental initiatives were among the students’ primary comments.

The Antioch University Board of Trustees created the Renewal Commission last summer when it empowered the university chancellor, Jim Craiglow, and the board chairman, Dan Kaplan, “to establish a special commission, to be known as the Sesquicentennial Commission for the Renewal of Antioch College (the ‘Renewal Commission’) to develop a plan, strategy and timetable for the renewal of Antioch College.” Craiglow and Kaplan were also given the task of appointing the members of the Renewal Commission. The Renewal Commission first met on Sept. 30 and has continued to meet throughout the fall term.

The Renewal Commission consists of Antioch College and Antioch University faculty and administrators, college alumni, and financial, organizational and educational consultants. The members of the commission include Andrzej Bloch, Tom Clough, Craiglow, Dan Fallon, Everette Freeman, Mavis Gruver, Al Guskin, Jane Jervis, Kaplan, Pat Linn, Laura Markham, Bonnie Scranton, Joan Straumanis, Peter Temes and Carol Geary Schneider.

Several members of the Renewal Commission were present at last week’s meeting to hear people’s thoughts about the college. Kaplan told the audience that the commission is seeking to ensure “long-term financial viability” for Antioch, effective leadership, integration of the college and the university and the upholding of Antioch’s educational ideal.

Kaplan also assured the audience that the meeting was not their only chance to share their thoughts with the Renewal Commission. “This is only a first step,” he said. “Clearly, we have more time, and we’ll take it.”

In answer to the commission’s first question, a faculty member responded that at its best, Antioch College is what it claims to be. “It’s not a utopia,” she said. However, she added, people at Antioch have trouble communicating across the gap between the utopian concept of the college and its reality. She also said she found it problematic that the Antioch Honor Code isn’t really discussed on campus, suggesting new students learn the code.

Two students said that Antioch needs to increase its enrollment and offer more classes each term. One of the students said Antioch also needs more faculty. Several students said that classes at Antioch were not demanding enough. “You can get more out of class here if you’re motivated,” one second-year student said. But, he said, “standards in general are low” at Antioch. He also said that the co-op program, which, he pointed out, is one of the main reasons students come to Antioch, needs to be revamped.

Others were concerned about their chances of getting into graduate school after leaving Antioch. One student said that “there’s a lackadaisical attitude here” and that some Antiochians can’t meet the requirements for graduate school, although they meet the requirements to graduate from Antioch.

Another second-year student said she thought it was good that “classes have a lot of wiggle-room” at Antioch and are accessible to students on different levels. But she added that learning-disabled students are still not adequately supported.

Others said that Antioch is disorganized. “It’s all in front of us, we just need to do it,” one student said, stating that planning transforms anything.

A fourth-year said that at its best an Antioch education would be consistent, complete, respectful, stable and reliable. “Antioch is my home, this is my family,” she said. Her desire, she said, was for Antioch to be “functional,” but as it is, students end up running back and forth between departments because departments don’t communicate with each other.

Another student said that because of the alternation between study and co-op terms, different people are running things each term, and this makes it difficult to implement new ideas.

One student expressed concern about Antioch’s public image and said that a stronger media presence and a good Web site would help the college. He said he would like Antioch to have more influence and have the ability to express its liberal ideas to a larger national audience.

Diversity was also a major concern of the students. One first-year student pointed out that many schools have funds set aside to support students of color. Others also said that Antioch needs to recruit more minority students and students who are not from upper-middle-class backgrounds.

Another student said that differently-abled students are not being accommodated at Antioch. Some students don’t attend Antioch because the campus isn’t accessible to them, she said.

A third-year transfer student expressed gratitude that Antioch has enabled him to travel abroad, saying that the more experiential and experimental Antioch is, the better it will be. He also suggested that Antioch focus more on environmental issues and activism, projects in which people can see the results of their work. A second-year also said “environmental stuff” is important if Antioch is to survive another 150 years, and suggested that Antioch should establish a farm and “green operations” on campus.

— Evelyn La Croix