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Antioch University plans to close Coretta Scott King Center

Disappointment and hopefulness are the two conflicting feelings Dana Patterson, director of Antioch College’s Coretta Scott King Center for Cultural and Intellectual Freedom, has been carrying with her this year. Antioch University informed her this month that if the college closes this June, the center, which formally opened just one year ago, would close too. But Patterson refuses to let the university walk away without realizing the unique gift it has in the center, and she holds fast to the hope that with or without her, the CSK Center can continue its work toward increasing tolerance and diversity in the community.

“Knowing that the center might not be open beyond June, I’m feeling a personal disappointment because I made a commitment to this legacy and work,” Patterson said last week. “And I want the university to consider the value of what’s being lost.

Neither university Chancellor Toni Murdock nor university CFO Tom Faecke returned calls early last week regarding the status of the CSK Center. And on Friday, April 11, university leaders and the Antioch College Continuation Corporation agreed not to speak to the press until they had met directly regarding the transfer of ownership of the college.

But according to Patterson, she proposed to the university last month a plan to continue operations at the CSK Center after June 2008 with an annual budget of $350,000. The proposal included full-time positions for a director and a fundraiser, as well as a part-time employee and $20,000 for programming needs. And it could have allowed the center to retain its $50,000 grant from Delta Airlines and two fully-funded VISTA employees, if the programs could be applied to Antioch University McGregor and the university’s other satellite campuses, Patterson said. But the proposal was denied by the university this month, according to Patterson.

So she plans to submit another proposal, one which Murdock has agreed to consider, Patterson said.

This one includes a greatly reduced budget of $150,000 with just one part-time director and a part-time finance director, as fundraising will be key to maintaining the center’s programming, Patterson said. And she also has initiated revenue-producing fundraisers related to the arts that with approval from the university, could get started immediately.

“While the college renovated, we would respond to the needs of the other campuses and facilitate their finding a curriculum at the intersection of those three goals, curriculum, classroom and community,” she said. “If the center would remain, it has the resources it needs to be one of the flagships of the Antioch system because of its unique curriculum design.”

When college alumna Coretta Scott King gifted her name to the center in 2005, the year before she died, it was with the understanding that the center was to be used as an experiential teaching center for Antioch students, faculty, staff and the surrounding community on issues of race, class, gender, and social justice and diversity. According to the agreement between then Interim College President Rick Jurasek and the King Center’s agent Intellectual Properties Management, Inc., the center was also conceptualized as part of the Antioch College Renewal Plan curriculum, which the faculty was mandated by the university board of trustees in 2003 to implement to increase enrollment at the college. The contract is specific about the use of the King name.

“The college will use the name for the life of the center as permitted by Intellectual Properties Management, Inc. — no other use of the name may occur without express permission of IPM,” the document states.

The King Center’s intention gets more specific in 2006 when IPM’s managing director, Eric Tidwell, denied the college’s request to rename a new building after Coretta Scott King. “The agreement only allows for the renaming of a curriculum after Coretta Scott King…,” the letter states. It goes on to say that efforts to refurbish a building, name it after Coretta Scott King and later replace it with a new structure “are counter to the intent of the agreement.”

But Patterson, who has been in contact with Coretta Scott King’s sister and daughter, said that the family is also disappointed in the center’s potential closure. Patterson feels that the center could continue as long as its leaders ensure that its mission aligns with what the family would have wanted.
The CSK Center has a board of advisors made up of both college and village community members, who were and are committed to garnering support for the center. Through her connection with the center, advisory member Joan Horn befriended Coretta’s sister, Edythe Bagley.

“Both of us simply can’t believe there isn’t going to be some magic that will save it,” Horn said. “Dana has worked her heart out, and it’s a crime and a shame and all of that, that it should be thrown away.”

Dr. Leah Fitchue, president of Payne Theological Seminary, has partnered with the center and lauded it as “a place where young people can study current issues of race, liberation and peace while giving hope to this nation that we have a responsibility to be better to each other.”

When Patterson agreed to direct the center, she left her husband and four young children behind in Chicago and has been visiting them two weekends a month for the past year to bring to life the vision that was established by others before her for a social justice education center that went beyond the classroom.

The CSK Center was conceptualized in 2005 with the help and leadership of Antioch College faculty member Beverly Rodgers, staff member Ona Harshaw, and later College President Steven Lawry. The Bonner Foundation furnished scholarships for two Antioch College students each year, and Delta Airlines committed to providing $10,000 a year in scholarships over five years while providing travel expenses for visiting lecturers and performers.

The CSK Center has had a dynamic presence since its grand opening ceremony in March 2007, which featured a day-long program of speakers and workshops on “strength in community,” poetry readings, musical performances and art exhibits by college and Yellow Springs community members and local youth. The center’s first program was a Native American symposium focused on the issues and activism of the Miami Tribe of Oklahoma, which occurred prior to the grand opening.

Last spring the center hosted “Eyes Wide Open,” an art installation of boots portraying the human cost of the Iraq war, followed by the annual Midwest Hip-Hop Convergence, a symposium on the history and impact of hip hop culture. In February the center partnered with local African American churches and the Human Relations Commission to sponsor a Martin Luther King Day celebration with the Watoto Children’s Choir of Uganda.

Even in the midst of possible closure in June, the center had already planned for this spring a two-day celebration of King’s birthday in partnership with the Dayton Peace Museum, another Hip-Hop Convergence, a non-violence workshop and one more look at “Eyes Wide Open” to be displayed on Mills Lawn at the June Street Fair.

Patterson no longer believes she can sacrifice her family life for her dream job, as she has for the past year. But she fervently hopes that a discussion with University Chancellor Toni Murdock and a more modest proposal for the immediate future of the center will yield a solution that will allow the center to continue its mission.

“The center was a testimony that Coretta was here and that Antioch was part of helping her grow and begin her life’s work,” Patterson said. “The center was a gift she gave to the college, and this legacy is too important to be forgotten.”

UNIVERSITY TRUSTEES TO MEET FACE TO FACE WITH ACCC

The Antioch University Board of Trustees and the Antioch College Continuation Corporation will meet “as soon as possible,” at an undisclosed place and time, according to an Antioch University press statement released Friday, April 11.

On Friday Antioch University Director of Communications Lynda Sirk stated that when the two groups decided to meet, an embargo was placed on information, so that University Chancellor Toni Murdock and Board Chair Art Zucker chose not to respond to requests for interviews. ACCC Co-Chair Eric Bates also stated on Friday that he could not comment on the meeting.

The meeting will be closed to the press, Sirk said this week.

The board has been under pressure from alumni and villagers in recent weeks to meet with the ACCC, a group of major donors and former trustees that seeks to gain independence for Antioch College.While the ACCC negotiating team and the board’s negotiating team have met several times over the past months, the ACCC’s previous requests to meet with the full board had been denied by the board’s executive committee. Negotiations between the ACCC and the trustees broke down several weeks ago.

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