Archive for Monday, July 16, 2007

Liberal Antioch College is left behind

July 16, 2007


— During the campus convulsions of the late 1960s, when rebellion against any authority was considered obedience to every virtue, the film "To Die in Madrid," a documentary about the Spanish Civil War, was shown at a small liberal arts college famous for, and vain about, its dedication to all things progressive. When the film's narrator intoned, "The rebels advanced on Madrid," the students, who adored rebels and were innocent of information, cheered. Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio, had been so busy turning undergraduates into vessels of liberalism and apostles of social improvement that it had not found time for the tiresome task of teaching them tedious facts, such as that the rebels in Spain were Franco's fascists.

That illustrates why it is heartening that Antioch will close after the 2007-08 academic year. Its board of trustees says the decision is to "suspend operations" and it talks dottily about reviving the institution in 2012. There is, however, a minuscule market for what Antioch sells for a tuition, room and board of $35,221 - repressive liberalism unleavened by learning.

Founded in 1852 - its first president was Horace Mann - Antioch was, for a while, admirable. One of the first colleges to enroll women and blacks, it was a destination for escaped slaves. Its alumni include Stephen Jay Gould, Coretta Scott King and Rod Serling, whose "Twilight Zone" never imagined anything weirder than what Antioch became when its liberalism curdled.

In 1972-73, Antioch had 2,470 students. In 1973, a protracted and embittering student and employee strike left the campus physically decrepit and intellectually toxic. By 1985, enrollment was down 80 percent. This fall there may be 300 students served by a faculty of 40.

In 1993, Antioch became an international punch line when it wrote rules to insure that all sexual conduct would be consensual, step by minute step: "If the level of sexual intimacy increases during an interaction : the people involved need to express their clear verbal consent before moving to that new level." Does consent to a touch cover a caress? Is there consent regarding all the buttons?

Although laughable, Antioch was not funny. Former public radio correspondent Michael Goldfarb matriculated at what he calls the "sociological petri dish" in 1968. In his first week, he twice had guns drawn on him, once "in fun" and once by a couple of drunken ex-cons "whom one of my classmates, in the interest of breaking down class barriers, had invited to live with her." A true Antiochian still, Goldfarb says: "I do think I was made stronger for having to deal with these experiences."

Steven Lawry - Antioch's fifth president in 13 years - came to the college 18 months ago. He told Scott Carlson of The Chronicle of Higher Education about a student who left after being assaulted because he wore Nike shoes, symbols of globalization. Another left because, she told Lawry, the political climate was suffocating: "They all think they are so different, but they are just a bunch of conformists."

Carlson reports that Lawry stopped the student newspaper's practice of printing "announcements containing anonymous, menacing threats against other students for their political views." Antioch likes to dabble in menace: It invited Mumia Abu-Jamal to deliver its 2000 commencement speech, which he recorded on death row in a Pennsylvania prison, where he lives because 26 years ago he shot a Philadelphia police officer first in the back, then three times in the face. Antioch's invitation was its way of saying : what?

In an essay in the Chronicle, Cary Nelson, Antioch class of 1967 and now a professor of English at the University of Illinois, waxes nostalgic about the fun he had spending, as Antioch students did, much time away from campus, receiving academic credits. What Nelson calls "my employee resistance to injustice" got him "released from almost every job I had until I became a faculty member." But "my little expenditure was never noticed" when "I used some of Lyndon Johnson's anti-poverty money" to bus anti-Vietnam war protesters from Harlem to Washington.

Given that such was Antioch's idea of "work experience" in the "real world," it is unsurprising that the college never produced an alumni cohort capable of enlarging the college's risible $36 million endowment. Besides, the college seems always to have considered raising money beneath its dignity, given its nobility.

"Ben & Jerry could have named a new flavor for us," says John Feinberg, class of 1970 and president of the alumni board, with a melancholy sense of unfulfilled destiny. His lament for a forfeited glory is a suitable epitaph for Antioch.

- George Will is a columnist for Washington Post Writers Group.


just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 10 years, 10 months ago

I wonder if George will write a similar article about equally painfully PC places such as Liberty or Bob Jones universities.

Oracle_of_Rhode 10 years, 10 months ago

Way to go Georgie, rooting for the demise of an institution of higher learning! It's easy to picture George Will organizing a book burning. Why does the LJ World continually publish conserva-tards like Will, the Iraq War cheerleader, whose Neocon ideology has been completely discredited by the Bush presidency? I wish the Lawrence newspaper better reflected the mores of the city.

jonas 10 years, 10 months ago

I hardly think it's neo-con to point out that liberalism itself is capable of producing as equal a clod of ridiculous, thoughtless conformists as any conservative groupings, at any time. It doesn't really have anything to do with the ideology, but simply the mindless sheep that homogeneity, in any form, tends to attract and breed upon itself. Whatever Will's political inclinations (and he's at least better than that uber-tool Cal Thomas) if the actual events and interviews that he refers to are true, then it shows a higher institution that lost it's purported purpose of learning and progressing (liberalism, if you will) and became instead left-wing conservative, holding on to the many failed ideals that the left-wing has put out in its time. If you purport to be better than the right-wing base (and lord knows it should be easy enough to do so) then admitting the flaws in your own ideological background, and frickin' learning from them, would be a damnedly good place to start, don't you think?

jonas 10 years, 10 months ago

All the same, though, I don't think, Bozo'ondabus, that you should be holding your breath for Will to write any of those articles, anytime soon.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 10 years, 10 months ago

"if the actual events and interviews that he refers to are true, then it shows a higher institution that lost it's purported purpose of learning and progressing"

Even if they are more or less true, at best, this is just a few isolated anecdotes, completely devoid of context.

The reason for the college's demise primarily lies with the high tuition rate, and the lack of wealthy alumni willing to contribute to an endowment association that most small, private colleges rely on for their survival.

BTW, the college intends to restart again within a couple of years.

Oracle_of_Rhode 10 years, 10 months ago

Hey Ferd,

Conservatives often lie, and also often live in fantasy worlds where "truth" cannot diverge from ideology, even when real truth can be scientifically or otherwise proven to be otherwise. Such is the case with you.

If you say George Will wasn't cheer leading for a war with Iraq, you're either ignorant or you're a big fat a liar -- you pick.

From a 2002 (pre-Iraq invasion) piece in Counterpunch...

"In a recent spiel, he wrote a hawkish piece of nonsense, entitled, "What Makes the U.N. Legitimate?" The article advocated, even before any White House policy announcement, a "preemptive" U.S. strike against Iraq. The UN was described by him as a "tar baby" to be avoided at all cost , and the few hearty Democrats, who weren't jumping fast enough on the War Band Wagon, were branded as Jeffersonian partisans, lacking vision, and "anti-nationalist."

You could inform yourself by reading the rest of this article, entitled, "George Will: War Pimp."

I say that George Will and the entire conservative movement is morally and ideologically bankrupt. Why should we care what he says about Antioch College? I assume he's lying, distorting and misrepresenting facts here to satisfy his fantasy-driven, conservative world-view.

oldvet 10 years, 10 months ago

Have no fear... the spirit of Antioch College lives on in Doonesbury... some places just need to die, and this was one...

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 10 years, 10 months ago

"I think you need to pick from those two options. I said Will is not an Iraq War cheerleader. That's present tense. Your example is from 2002!"

Well, unlike you, at least he understands when to abandon an obviously sinking ship, even though, like you, he was cheering all the way as it was steered into the iceberg.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 10 years, 10 months ago

"I suspect you want the troops withdrawn from Iraq so al Qaeda can claim a victory. We know whose side you're on."

So did you tap out the first sentence all by yourself? Did someone else help you tap out the second sentence?

You're very strange, Kevin.

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