I was on the fence when I first heard that Antioch College was going to be closed.
Antioch’s financial troubles have been known for some time, and if there are definite and good intentions to reopen it in four years, perhaps this was the proper choice to properly rebuild the College.
I’m not on the fence anymore.
The more I read, the more I learned and continue to learn about how terrible the decision by the University Board of Trustees is, especially in their conduct (nothing to do with whether their intentions are good or not — they informed no one that they were considering such a decision, and even the College President was informed only AT the meeting in which their final decision was made). And the plans to reopen the school are not only vague, but almost every account indicates that the “newly reopened” school would, stripped of all faculty, students, and much spirit, bear little resemblance to the beautiful and history-rich school upon which the University itself is supposed to be founded on.
And the more I read and continue speaking with and getting to know other alums, etc., the more I am reminded of what makes Antioch College truly incredible and special, and worth saving.
from Bob Fitrakis’s article at
Remember that the Antioch College motto, taken from the great educator Horace Mann, is: “Be ashamed to die until you have won some victory for humanity.”
How one talks about the death, or temporary closing, of the legendary Antioch College — without talking about the great victories that it has won for humanity, this nation, the state of Ohio, and even the city of Columbus — is puzzling.
Let’s recall that history. The Christian Connection founded the college in 1852. It’s a little hard to believe now, in the era of George W. Bush’s warmongering, profit-loving, pro-corporate version of Jesus, but there was a time when the American Christian churches drew more from the Sermon on the Mount than Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations.
One of the funny ideas that Antioch put forth was that the college “shall afford equal privileges to students of both sexes.” Right from the start, Antioch failed to quote “evolve” into the mainstream sexist society. The college went so far as to hire Professor Rebecca Pennell. Antioch gave her the same rank and pay as her male colleagues — an idea that the rest of society did not “evolve” into until more than century later, although it is still not clear if equal pay is being enforced.
Before the Civil War, the college enrolled two African American female students in the Antioch Preparatory School, an official part of the college, when more “evolved” people felt blacks and women were inherently inferior.
From the beginning, Antioch ran deficits, close to 40% of its budget between 1857 and 1859. In 1862, the college closed until the end of the Civil War. Had the college held more “evolved” ideas such as racism, sexism, and capitalism, they would have no doubt taken care of their budget problems with funds from understanding plutocratic donors.
In the 20th century, Antioch was targeted as a bastion of liberal thought and student activism by the authoritarian House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC). The chief criticism centered on the fact that Antioch would not expel faculty and students perceived to have real or imagined Communist leanings.
Antioch College officials argued that freedom does not begin by suppressing unpopular ideas, but by considering and debating all positions. The college was in the forefront of the American civil rights movement and justly is proud of the fact that Coretta Scott King is an alumnus, class of 1951. So is civil rights leader Eleanor Holmes Norton, who later served as Chairwomen of the U.S. Equal Opportunity Commission.
Hopefully, Antioch’s demise is not permanent. But, if Antioch is dead, it is because it was not ashamed to die, because it had won many important victories for humanity.
Holly Zachariah’s article The Antioch Way from The Columbus Dispatch
p.s. The picture on my AIM/Facebook/forum profiles was taken in my dorm room during last term on campus at Antioch in Spring 2003.