An Iconic Progressive College Closes Its Doors - A Small Diminution of the Possibilities of the World
There are more ways of being different than being the same. There are more ways of being dead than being alive.
These two aphorisms(1) crossed my mind as being particularly apt when I heard the sad news last week that Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio (liberal bastion and alma mater of Coretta Scott King, Stephen J. Gould and Rod Serling) was closing its doors at the end of the 2007-08 academic year. My daughter had applied and been admitted to Antioch for this coming fall, and it had remained on her list of “maybes” well into April, so I had a modicum of insight into the problems the college faced. The admissions folks did a credible job of putting up a brave face, but it became clear to my daughter and me that you would be signing up for a crisis as much as for a college (although the end came more quickly than I expected) . And if we had in fact been one of the 125 or so families who put down a deposit and turned down other colleges, I doubt I would be waxing quite so philosophical right now. As it was, we had the privilege of visiting the campus three times in the past year - due in part to its proximity to some of my family as well as our interest in Clifton Gorge and the excellent Glen Helen nature preserve which abuts the campus.
Both of us were intrigued by the unique co-op oriented curriculum at Antioch (I also had some prior familiarity with it), and everyone we spoke to who was associated with the place was interesting, thought-provoking, passionate about Antioch … and, well, different. Different as in different from each other, as well as different from most everyone else you meet while looking at colleges. (I never would have suspected that so many aspects of so many colleges could be characterized so succinctly as “Awesome”.) My sense is that it would have taken a very deft touch indeed for any institution which was buffeted by such powerful passions from key stakeholders to survive in today’s realpolitik academic world. And although I am not really in a position to judge (but am certainly in a position to opine…), where deftness was called for, there seems instead to have been a long history of questionable decisions which led to the current situation. In the 1970s, Antioch expanded to become Antioch University, a group of flar-flung “campuses” of which the Antioch College was just one part. Antioch University lives on at a few of these campuses, but they have a very different mission, mostly adult education. Within that tangled web lies what to many is clearly the proximate cause of most of the trouble. To get opinions and a sense of the place from alums, do read this post (and the comments): What happens when your Intellectual Home goes bust? by Sara at The Next Hurrah. Unsurprisingly, there has been an outpouring of writings on the web. Antirecord.org has a good compilation of other links, and it was also a place where I found some informal information on Antioch back when we were in decision mode - its original name was apparently antiochsucks.com, and it reflected some of the love/hate relationship that folks seemed to have with the place in recent years.