July 3, 2003


Straumanis cites Antioch’s successes and challenges

Antioch College President Joan Straumanis highlighted on Saturday some of the successes and challenges at the college before more than 200 alumni and faculty during a speech as part of the Antioch Reunion.

Straumanis singled out, as good things, the college’s student body, the Co-op Department, which, she said, is “in good shape and getting better,” and the college’s community service effort. She noted that 85 percent of the college’s students are involved in the latter effort, which includes students doing community service in Yellow Springs and neighboring communities.

“So much for being undisciplined,” Straumanis said of the students. “They are very disciplined. They just look that way.”

The college has a new merit scholarship based on community service, she said.

But Straumanis also ran down a list of challenges facing Antioch College, including reorganizing the Dean of Students office, increasing the student body and improving the college’s finances.

“Our finances are very precarious,” she said, and “balancing each budget is a struggle.” In the middle of the year, she said, the college had to cut its budget by a half-million dollars. She said that the cuts did not involve any layoffs.

This year the college intends to sell 22 acres of land on the south end of Yellow Springs to help balance the budget, Straumanis said. “There is no way we can have a balanced budget without selling the land,” she said. She also cited as reasons to sell the property that the college has no plans to use the property and it “is the right time to sell the land.”

Antioch hopes “to find the right developer” for the property, she said.

Straumanis delivered these comments during her “State of the College” address, a speech that was less scripted and more straightforward than previous addresses, and covered a wide range of issues and efforts at the college. The weekend series of events kicked off Antioch’s sesquicentennial which, Straumanis said, will feature a year’s worth of celebrations.

Speaking underneath a large tent on campus, Straumanis told a group of alumni, staff and faculty that “what I and the college really need” is someone like Charles Kettering, who helped Arthur Morgan revitalize Antioch College in the 1920s, when Morgan was named the college’s president. That person, Straumanis said, is rich, philanthropic and “feels Antioch College serves the nation and not just its own constituencies.”

One problem on campus, Straumanis said, is the size of the student body. Though the college has 700 to 750 fees-paying students, 600 to 650 are matriculating students, she said. “We need to enlarge our student body,” Straumanis said.

As part of that effort, the college organized two commissions to study admissions and retention on campus. Issues highlighted by students, Straumanis said, were the conditions of the college’s dorms and “insufficient faculty in the Co-op Department.” Another problem, Straumanis said, is the college’s “lack of endowment.”

According to information provided by Antioch, the endowment has increased from $12.2 million in 1997 to $28.3 million last year. But, for instance, Oberlin College has an endowment of more than $125 million, Straumanis said. “We are not competitive with the colleges who are our actual competition,” she said.

Straumanis said that these problems could be solved through better admissions and research, and with a capital campaign, which will be announced in October.

Though the Co-op Department was highlighted in studies on the college’s admissions and retention effort, Straumanis said that the department “is in good shape and getting better.” She highlighted the work of a commission that studied the co-op program and suggested Antioch offer co-op opportunities for students who are not at Antioch. This would bring in money for the college and encourage employers to keep jobs open, Straumanis said.

Straumanis also said that Antioch students “go out to do very exciting things.” She added, “We would not exchange our student body. We just want more of them.”

“The quality and diversity of the student body is excellent,” she said.

The Antioch College president also discussed problems at the senior administrative level, which she described as a “meltdown.” These issues include the departure of two deans, Michael Murphy, who left his position as the dean of admissions in March — during “the middle of the admissions season,” Straumanis said — and Pat Whitlow, the dean of students who left after one year at Antioch.

The college is still searching for Murphy’s replacement, Straumanis said, while Antioch will reorganize the Dean of Students office, a plan that will be announced soon, she said.

Antioch did experience an “orderly succession” in the Dean of Faculty’s office, she said, when Dr. Richard T. Jurasek was hired in the spring to replace Hassan Nejad, who wanted to return to teaching at the college.

Straumanis also said that seven new tenure-track faculty members have been hired, most of whom, she said, replaced other faculty members who resigned, or were working on campus. The college must offer its faculty members tenure, Straumanis said, “to be competitive and to have excellent faculty.” Tenure is an incentive for faculty members to remain at Antioch and serves to stabilize the faculty, she said.

—Robert Mihalek