Yellow Springs: 1803-present



Sex policy shone national light on Antioch
In a paper he wrote in the spring of 1992, Antioch College student Dan Shoemaker said, “Looking back over my time at Antioch (1988–92), I can think of no single issue that polarized the community as much as the Sexual Offense Policy and the process through which it was generated.”

First developed in the fall of 1990 amid tension on the Antioch campus, the Sexual Offense Policy — now the Sexual Offense Prevention Policy, or SOPP — has gone through a number of revisions, and the attitude toward it at Antioch has changed significantly.

On Oct. 14, 1990, two Antioch students were physically assaulted. Six days later another Antioch student was assaulted in downtown and was hospitalized, Shoemaker reported.

Female students reacted to the assaults with a women-only “Take Back the Night” march and a “Face And Fight Rape” discussion in the Womyn’s Center, during which about 15 women started formulating a new sexual offense policy, which would require the college to hire an advocate to deal with rape, sexual assault and sexual harassment. The advocate would determine the guilt or innocence of accused community members.

In November the group Womyn of Antioch presented its demands to AdCil, the college’s Administrative Council, and to the campus. The Dayton Daily News reported that the students who wrote the policy had threatened to issue a national press release about Antioch’s failure to support rape survivors if no progress was made on the policy within a week.

The People’s Record, an Antioch student newspaper, reported that the proposal “was written with the intent that it apply only to those deemed to be guilty of rape,” and that policies about assessing guilt would need to be developed. AdCil asked the Womyn of Antioch, the Community Standards Board (CSB), Community Council (ComCil) and the Sexual Harassment Committee to present their recommendations on the policy later in November.

The Womyn of Antioch compiled suggestions from the other groups into a new proposal, and a definition of rape was written. The Dayton Daily News reported that AdCil accepted the policy in November, though it intended to revise parts before finalizing it. AdCil then formed a subcommittee to determine how to implement the policy.

AdCil approved a revised Sexual Offense Policy in January. The Sexual Harassment Committee would handle cases not covered under the Sexual Offense Policy, including sexual harassment that was not persistent or insistent. The college added a workshop on the policy to student orientation and started offering a self-defense class.

Karen Hall, the first advocate hired under the Sexual Offense Policy, later wrote that many men on campus felt there was an anti-male climate at Antioch when the policy was first adopted. “A lot of people, particularly men, said that if they expressed any hesitancy against the policy, they were perceived as pro-rape,” she wrote.

Some male students left Antioch because of the policy, Hall reported, and some of the women who had engineered the policy also left, worn out by their efforts.

AdCil approved another revision of the policy in March 1992, and in June the Board of Trustees approved the policy.

The policy defined consent as “the act of willingly and verbally agreeing to engage in specific sexual contact or conduct,” and required the initiator of any sexual contact or conduct to obtain the consent of the other person involved at “each new level of physical and/or sexual contact/conduct in any given interaction.” The policy also defined sexual offenses, including sexual imposition and “nondisclosure of a known positive HIV status” or of a “known sexually transmitted disease.”

The policy created a support network for those reporting sexual offenses.

A Hearing Board composed of Antioch community members was created to hear cases of alleged offenses and to determine the appropriate “remedy” for an offense. Antioch received extensive national and international press coverage for the policy, most of which came in 1993 and 1994. The media presence on campus was so great in the fall of 1993 that the college established new, much stricter guidelines for visiting journalists.

Ellen Goodman wrote a column in favor of verbal consent. Diana Trilling wrote a column for Newsweek referring to “the death-dealing spirit which animates the sexual manual which was recently drafted by the students of Antioch College.” The New York Times carried a front-page story on the policy in September 1993. British, German and Swiss media also covered the policy.

In a 1994 booklet on the national reaction to the policy, President Alan Guskin said that the alumni’s reaction was mixed. Some saw the policy as going against the freedom Antioch represented, but Guskin said that he “also received many positive letters.” Guskin said that the policy was “widely accepted at Antioch College” because students helped create the policy.

In June 1996 the Board of Trustees approved the Antioch College Sexual Offense Prevention Policy, a new revision of the policy and the first to include the word “Prevention” in the title. The SOPP requires students to sign a statement that they have read and understand the SOPP.

Now the SOPP is generally accepted as part and parcel of the Antioch experience. Many believe it’s come a long way from its contentious origins to become the policy it is today, which belongs to the whole Antioch community, and not just the women who first drafted it.

— Evelyn La Croix

Recalling the recall election of 2000

The members of the 2000 Village Council were committed to their ideas of how best to steward the Village and tried to tackle several significant tasks. But Council, which had come to office in November 1999, quickly stirred up controversy, leading to a recall election that divided the community.

When local residents who would eventually form the Concerned Citizens Coalition first met in May 2000 to discuss Council’s recent decisions, they brought a host of grievances to bear. Council had disbanded the Village Wellhead Protection Commission and replaced it with a paid consultant; paid a consultant to conduct a search for a new Village manager; and partnered with Yellow Springs Home, Inc. to build affordable housing on the Village-owned Glass Farm. Members of the CCC were also concerned with Village finances and believed that Council had approved an irresponsible budget for 2002 that contained too many capital projects.

On most of these decisions, Council members Tony Arnett and Bruce Rickenbach voted the opposite of Stephanie Slowinski, Trudy Abrams and Joan Horn. The Council women said that the wellhead commission had taken too long to write a plan to protect the public water supply; Home, Inc. had a solid proposal to provide affordable housing; and the Village needed a consultant to help with the manager search, but, they said, the community would have some role in the process.

But a number of residents, particularly those in the CCC, disagreed with the positions Council was taking on these issues. They thought the wellhead commission had done a good job and was close to finishing the protection plan. A citzens search committee could do as good a job as a consultant, and Home, Inc.’s plan should not be the only means of creating affordable housing, they said.

Beyond issues, there was a growing distrust of the “coalition of three” council members, who the CCC called “intractable,” contentious and “alienating.”

Tension among Council members had grown so much that in June Rickenbach resigned because he said that his voice was not being heard by others on Council.

Though it had been a coalition of three, Slowinski and Abrams were considered by many as the most outspoken and the most dismissive of differing views.

At the CCC’s first public meeting in June 2000, an overwhelming majority of the 125 people who attended voted to recall Slowinski and Abrams. To hold a recall election, the group needed 20 percent of the registered voters in Yellow Springs, or 610 residents, to sign a petition asking for an election. Though the group waited until August to submit the petitions, it took the CCC a week to gather enough signatures to force a special election, which was scheduled for Oct. 3.

While the CCC distributed information about Abram’s and Slowinski’s “extremely poor performance in office,” another group, Citizens Against Recall, launched an information campaign urging villagers to favor mediation over recall.

Abrams and Slowinski defended themselves. Recall is for officials who practice malfeasance and bribery, they said, adding that they were only doing what their constituents elected them to do. Recall is “gerrymandering” and is “not the right action,” Slowinski said.

During the campaign, letters to the editor doubled in the Yellow Springs News as local residents debated the recall.

The village could not afford for Slowinski and Abrams to learn “ ‘on the job’ the basics of prudent stewardship of our limited resources,” said Ron Schmidt, one of the CCC organizers. Abrams and Slowinski were preventing the Village manager search from being a participatory process, said Eric Johnson, who came forward as an alternative candidate on the Oct. 3 ballot.

Dave Greco couldn’t condone the offensive manner in which the Council members operated. “Even if they have supported the right causes, they have done so in such a way as to attract so much opposition from so many good people,” he wrote.

Others said that recall was not justified. Recall would not resolve the issues previous Councils had struggled with, Wally Sikes said. “The only guaranteed outcome of a recall would be the poisoning of the Yellow Springs discourse,” he wrote.

Fritz and Judy Leighty disagreed with some of the Council members’ actions, but found “nothing in their actions that begins to rise to the level justifying recall,” they said.

At election, Yellow Springs residents showed they favored by a slim margin keeping the Council members in office.

Local resident Susan Carpenter, who was working on a doctoral degree in comparative literature from the University of Cincinnati during the recall, explored the election in a 95-page manuscript for a class she was taking. Though she has not finished a publishable version of the paper, she said that after dozens of interviews and nearly a year of researching both camps she believes that villagers had lost trust in each other.

Relationships that had existed for many years before the election were tested as people in the village found themselves unexpectedly taking sides and creating antagonism, she said.

“ These are all good citizens trying to do the right thing, and they’re at loggerheads with each other,” Carpenter said in an interview. “It was people’s passion in their beliefs that made them so sure they were right. If you’ve done that much hard work and been so committed then it’s almost impossible to be convinced that you’re wrong.”

— Lauren Heaton

Voters rejected affordable housing referendum at polls

Yellow Springs residents have talked for nearly 20 years about the need for affordable housing in the village. In 1997, Village Council identified affordable housing as its top priority. This goal led to the creation of an affordable housing development plan, which the next Council rejected twice.

Andrew Brouard was among the many local residents who participated in a September 2002 demonstration against a Council decision invalidating a referendum petition seeking a public vote on an affordable housing plan.

Interest in affordable housing then led to a public vote in 2002 on a controversial development plan.

Concerned that the cost of living in Yellow Springs was driving young families out of town, in May 1999 Yellow Springs Home, Inc. announced a plan to build a house that a family of modest income could afford to buy. Around the same time, another local nonprofit organization, Starfish, began building an affordable house on High Street.

In 2000, Council considered a proposal to partner with Home, Inc. on an affordable housing development on the Glass Farm, which the Village owned.

All the Council members supported taking a role in promoting affordable housing, but they disagreed on how to do it. Council members Stephanie Slowinski, Trudy Abrams and Joan Horn felt the Glass Farm plan had merit.

Under the proposal, the Village would transfer part of the farm to Home, Inc. at no cost. Home, Inc. would then build 20 to 30 moderately priced homes over nine years and sell them to families of median or less then median income. The plan would keep the homes affordable by requiring that the homeowners resell the house to another moderate-income occupant.

But Council members Tony Arnett and Bruce Rickenbach took a more cautious approach by saying the Village should consider making land available at marginally less than market value for both business and residential use. They also said that plans should not be limited to only Home, Inc.

Arnett presented an alternative plan for affordable housing in April 2000, but Abrams, Horn and Slowinski continued to favor Home, Inc.

In July 2000, amidst an attempt by a group of local residents to have Slowinski and Abrams recalled from office, Council agreed in a split vote to prepare to transfer a portion of the Glass Farm to Home, Inc.

By this time, Starfish had placed a family in its first house and had begun building its second affordable home on Suncrest Drive. In October the group began searching for an occupant for its second home.

As the summer of 2001 came along more local residents started opposing the controversial Glass Farm affordable housing plan. A local group known as Save Another Farm organized and urged Council to put the development plan to a vote.

But Council refused, saying referendums should be initiated by citizens. Council pushed ahead to approve Home, Inc.’s development agreement and transfer land to Home, Inc. Arnett voted against the land transfer, saying, “My sense of community, which is eroding, is worth more than two houses per year for nine years.”

Save Another Farm pursued a referendum on the plan, by circulating a petition calling for a vote on the land transfer. Within 10 days the group had 617 signatures, almost twice as many as needed to force a vote.

But Council invalidated the petition on the advice of the village solicitor, who said the petition was flawed.

The referendum committee marched downtown to protest Council’s rebuff, and seeing no response, four local residents filed a lawsuit to get the Village to reconsider. But in the meantime, the committee circulated another petition to place the entire housing plan on the ballot.

By October, Council relented and agreed to put the proposal up for special election on Feb. 5, 2002.

The supporters of the Home, Inc. plan said the affordable housing issue needed immediate attention. The village was losing its young population because of a lack of quality moderately priced housing in a town where the average price of a home had nearly doubled in 10 years, according to a pamphlet put out by Home, Inc. supporters.

Home, Inc.’s plan made good use of public resources, which when developed would provide greater diversity, more children for the schools and an increased utilities and tax base for the Village, the supporters said.

“ Market forces are shaping the Yellow Springs community while we wait around to decide,” Judith Hempfling wrote in a letter to the editor in the Yellow Springs News.

The plan’s opponents said that more study was needed and that Home, Inc.’s proposal was financially risky because of hidden costs and that the plan was not inclusive enough.

Some residents feared Council would end up in the housing business if Home, Inc. did not come through with its plan, John Hart wrote in a letter to the News. Local resident Peggy Erskine was concerned with the value of the property the Village would be donating to Home, Inc. Others said that it was inappropriate to develop the farm since the Village used green space funds to purchase it.

Another local resident, Ken Champney, supported Home, Inc.’s plan but still felt the issue should go on the ballot.

Village resident Shelbert Smith wrote in the News that affordable housing does not solve the problem of affordable living, which should be addressed by diversifying business and industrial growth in the village.

The affordable housing plan failed to pass muster with voters, who turned down the issue by a significant margin of 20 percent. The plan was rejected by 942 voters, with 629 in favor.

— Lauren Heaton

Community debated bikepath paving plan

In August 1986, Village Council approved a resolution agreeing to pave Yellow Springs’ segment of the National Scenic Trail.

A bulldozer cleared a lane to pave the bikepath in 1990.

Although the action took place in a public meeting and was reported on by the Yellow Springs News, Council’s decision apparently received little attention from the community at the time.

More than six months later, however, the plan to develop the bikepath through town came under fierce criticism, and received staunch support, and during parts of the next four years, Yellow Springers debated what may have been one of the biggest controversies in the village’s recent history.

“ Everyone thought Yellow Springs would be the easy one and Xenia would be the hard one,” recalled Ed Dressler, who as the director of the Greene County parks system in the 1980s served as the local coordinator for the bikeway project.

In 1983, the Village purchased the abandoned railroad right-of-way from Penn Central Railroad and a year later a segment of the North Country National Scenic Trail opened in Yellow Springs. The route ran along the old railroad corridor and connected Yellow Springs to Xenia. The trail also goes south toward Cincinnati and up the eastern side of the state. At the time, the Yellow Springs trail was used by hikers, joggers, horseback riders and cross-country skiers, the News reported.

In December 1985 the Ohio Department of Transportation secured a federal grant to pave the trail, and Yellow Springs could use some of those funds, if the Village agreed to pave the bikeway and contribute a portion of the cost.

Village Council took what may have been the first vote on the project in August 1986 when it agreed to provide Village money. Even then, sides were forming. Council member Tony Bent voted against the resolution because, he said, it would “radically alter the character” of portions of the local trail. In an interview for this story, Bent said that he was also concerned that the Village would be responsible for maintaining, and eventually replacing, the bikepath, a prospect he thought the Village could not afford.

Others, including Council members George Pitstick and Saul Young, said that paving the trail would make it more accessible. “To limit this path to hardy hikers would be a mistake,” Pitstick was quoted as saying in the News at the time of the vote.

The project also had the backing of the Business Organization of Yellow Springs because of the potential impact the bikepath could have on the economy.

But it was not until the next spring when the debate about the project seemed to grow in intensity. During the spring and summer, a number of heated discussions took place, including a public forum in Xenia in April and during many of Council’s regular meetings. Indeed, on several occasions during the next four years, Council had to change the location of its meetings to accommodate the large crowds that turned out. During one Council meeting the discussion on the project lasted 100 minutes, another time, two hours.

Both supporters and opponents of the project circulated petitions around town. In June 1987 villagers submitted two sets of petitions to Council: proponents gathered 293 signatures, opponents had 280. News reports and letters to the editor indicate that people on each side in the debate argued that the other was spreading myths and that many of their positions were based on false truths.

The project’s proponents and opponents were equally passionate about the debate.

Some bikepath supporters presented the project as a matter of equality, saying that a paved trail would be beneficial to the disabled as well as the elderly. Other proponents said that the project would provide a safe place for cyclists to ride. Some supported the plan based on environmental grounds, saying it would promote an alternative to the automobile. And others, including business owners, supported the project for the financial benefits it could possibly bring to downtown Yellow Springs.

In addition, the project had the support of the director of Glen Helen, Ralph Ramey, who in a 1987 article on a Council meeting in the News called the bikepath “wise” for its provision of recreational opportunities for cyclists as well as the disabled. Ramey also said that the project would not compromise Glen Helen. “Of course, it will have some impact on the Glen,” he said. “There will be a trade-off. We will have to make some adjustments. But I think the trade-off is worthwhile.”

Dressler recalled that for him the project was important because it would connect Greene County’s parks and communities.

Opponents of the plan highlighted its potential impact on the environment, saying that paving the trail would negatively affect the rural character of land south of Yellow Springs, which, the News said, “many villagers treasure as a place to walk, ride horses and enjoy a quiet communion with nature.”

“ This is a dispute about values. My values support the land remaining in its natural state,” Abby Cobb told Council in 1987.

Some said that they were also concerned about problems horse riders would have with cyclists using the same trail.

The project did not have the support of every downtown merchant. Henry Myers said that the large number of people using the bikepath would crowd downtown and destroy its local character. “I see Yellow Springs turning its downtown into a ‘touristy place,’ ” he said during a 1987 Council meeting.

Paul Graham, an official in the ODOT office responsible for bikeway construction, told the News in July 1989 that opposition to the bikepath project in Yellow Springs was “greater than opposition in any other area of the state.”

That opposition, however, never jeopardized the federal funding that Yellow Springs was slated to receive since the project was considered a local one, Graham said.

Indeed, the News reported in March 1988 that the Federal Highway Administration was examining the project in light of the opposition in town. The administration held a public hearing to gather more input on the project later in the month. Two hundred people attended the forum, and of those who spoke, 34 favored the project and 20 opposed it.

Finally, after several years of on-again-off-again debate, one last discussion ensued in May 1990, when Council considered a resolution that would have rescinded Council’s previous agreement to pave the trail with asphalt, and that a “non-paved” bikeway surface be used. A crowd of 135 people attended the Council meeting, which was moved to the Yellow Springs Library’s meeting room, the News reported, “the vast majority of them there to urge Village Council to proceed with the Little Miami Bikeway project.”

Initially, it seemed Council would approve the resolution — and dramatically change the bikeway project. Council members Bent, Doug Hinkley and Roy Eastman said that they would support the resolution changing the bikepath from asphalt to gravel, while Connie Gahagan and Hazel Latson said they would vote against it because they supported the original plan for the bikepath.

But after a two-hour discussion, Eastman, who was elected the previous November and, the News said, was considered the swing vote on the bikepath issue, switched his vote, leading to Council’s rejection of the alternative bikeway and reaffirming Council’s support for an asphalt bike trail.

The audience’s “overwhelming show of support” for the bikepath project “turned Village Council around,” the News reported.

After the vote, the News reported, “the meeting room erupted in long, loud sustained applause. The Bikeway will proceed as planned. Work is scheduled to begin this summer.”

In July, the News said that construction of the 10.2-mile path was set to begin. In December 1992, ODOT completed the project and turned over the bikepath through Yellow Springs to the Village. In November 1998, the bikepath was extended from Yellow Springs to Springfield.

Though Tony Bent opposed the project when he served on Council, today he says he would vote for it, because Greene County is responsible for maintaining the bikepath. “It is being used by walkers, it is used by cyclists, it is used by the Riding Centre,” he said. “It is maintained by the county so it has become very successful.”

The bikepath is now part of a system of 170 miles of bikeways, Dressler said. “It exceeded my wildest imagination,” he said.

— Robert Mihalek