From the Print

Faculty refiles lawsuit to keep college open and assets safe

Picket for the college

Antioch College alumni, faculty, students, staff and villagers who support an independent and ongoing Antioch College will picket this Saturday, March 15, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Antioch University McGregor campus on the corner of Dayton Street and East Enon Road.

The purpose of the demonstration, according to organizer Larry Rubin, is to call on the Antioch University Board of Trustees to operate in good faith in its negotiations with the Antioch College Continuation Corporation, or ACCC.

The March 15 event is taking place at McGregor because that school is part of the Antioch University system, Rubin said.

On Tuesday, March 11, faculty members of Antioch College announced that they have refiled their lawsuit against Antioch University. The suit seeks a permanent injunction against the university’s board of trustees in the Greene County Common Pleas Court. The suit asks the court to keep the university from closing the college, from terminating the employment of faculty, and from disposing of college assets. It also requests that the board engage with the Antioch College Continuation Corporation to “amicably complete their negotiations allowing the ACCC to take responsibility for the college.”

“This lawsuit is not about damages or compensation for the faculty,” said faculty member Bob Devine at the announcement Tuesday. “It’s an injunction to keep the board of trustees from closing the college and liquidating its assets.”

Faculty had originally filed the lawsuit in August, after the trustees announced on June 12 that the college’s operations would be suspended in June 2008. They withdrew the suit without prejudice in November 2007, when the trustees and the alumni board agreed on principles of agreement that reversed the June decision. Withdrawing the suit without prejudice meant that it could be refiled any time.

Since that time, the trustees entered into negotiations with the ACCC, a group of alumni and former trustees that seeks to gain independence for the college. While those negotiations continue, two weeks ago the university announced that college operations would be suspended in 2008–2009, an action that the faculty members said was a unilateral action intended to undermine the college’s ability to survive.

“It’s clear that the university board of trustees is not negotiating in good faith,” according to faculty member Scott Warren in the press statement. “That leaves us no other choice but to refile our lawsuit.”

According to the press statement Tuesday, the suit alleges that the board of trustees has “failed to govern the institution properly.” Specifically, it asserts that the board members “breached their contractual responsibilities by declaring a state of financial exigency and suspending college operations when less drastic measures were available.” The complaint also states that the trustees violated their contractual obligations set forth in the Faculty Personnel Policies and Procedures by announcing the college’s closure without consulting faculty. The lawsuit further states that decisions made by the trustees in 2004 and 2005 damaged college -enrollment.

The developments of the last nine months — especially the alumni board’s ability to raise more than $18 million to keep the college open — strengthens the faculty’s case because it makes clear that there were less drastic measures available to save the college in June, Devine said. And even more significantly, the ACCC now has both funds and a plan to keep the college open.

“It has the money, the vision and the business plan to keep the college open,” Devine said. “The trustees have a contractual obligation to look at that.”

As part of the lawsuit, within two weeks the faculty’s lawyers will serve papers on university administrators for depositions regarding the college’s finances, Devine said.

If the negotiations between the trustees and the ACCC are not successful, the faculty affirmed its commitment to Non-Stop Antioch, an effort to keep the college going off campus, if necessary.

“Non-Stop Antioch means we are not going away, and with the support of the alumni are planning to continue to offer Antioch’s excellent liberal arts and experiential education program into the near future,” according to faculty member Anne Bohlen in the press statement.

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