A liberal arts education provides a strong foundation of knowledge in many subjects. Liberal arts can discern the capabilities as well as the limitations of each field of study. It allows students to find connections between different fields of study, to explore them, and to discover new ideas. Liberal arts also encourage students to investigate areas of interest and to develop new ones by combining varied subjects. A liberal arts education provides students with a broad spectrum of information enabling them to expand their knowledge and to advance society in a positive direction. This is what Antioch College has provided thousands of alumni who are spread across the world. We, the Antioch College Continuation Corporation (ACCC), have set forth recommendations for keeping the College open that align with the words of Horace Mann: “Be ashamed to die until you have won some victory for humanity” (Hayford, 2011).
Antioch College is an institution with a rich history of progressive education, persistence, and determination. In its 156-year history, the college has struggled through many hard times but has weathered those storms by sustaining a strong tradition of its faculty and board engagement, distinguished administrators, distinguished alumni, and inspired students to fulfill its mission. Over the last seven months, since the University Trustees announced the closure of the College because of “financial exigency,” alumni across the country have raised over $19 million to return our school to its original independent status as Antioch College (Hayford, 2011). While we realize the issues facing the College are complex, we do not feel the Board has neglected to make decisions to strengthen the College:
1. Taking endowment gains meant for use of the College and using them for other campuses
2. Imposing a new curriculum that produced a decline in enrollment
3. Neglecting campus facilities to the point they became unappealing to prospective students
4. Removing the College President’s power to communicate directly with the Trustees and then removing the College President
5. Eliminating faculty and staff positions, notably in the development and departments where they were especially needed
6. Abandoning a strategic plan that had begun to show results in higher enrollment and alumni giving
7. Operating under such a heavy veil of secrecy that not even the College President knew that the College was in danger of closing until the day of the vote.
In 2004, at time when the College was losing faculty and students and the campus was half empty. The Board agreed to let the adult learning component float a $13 million bond to build a new 90,000 square foot facility on the edge of Yellow Springs. This indebtedness makes it impossible for the College to borrow money to save itself (Hayford, 2011). Furthermore, the University has not assisted in fundraising and has tried to block efforts to raise funds for an independent Antioch College. But the ACCC has vowed to keep the College open.
While the above decisions have led the College to be in this weakened state, it is not reason enough for closure. The ACCC understands that alumni support will not keep the College operating. Additionally, we realize the long list of issues and pressures facing higher education with specific criticism of liberal arts colleges. The case for liberals arts education needs to be reframed to suggest not only how well we serve individual students but also how we act as a counterforce against a society that puts a price on knowledge and project a view of community that is reductionist and dangerous. This will involve change, but not a change in the mission Horace Mann established in 1852. Internal and external collaboration is key. With the support (emotional and financial) from student, faculty, alumni and believers of a liberal arts education, we can continue to build programs that respond to specific