Educational & Cultural

Faculty launches Nonstop

Some small towns, if they’re lucky, are home to a liberal arts college. But Yellow Springs may be the first village that is a liberal arts college, or at least that will become one on September 4, when the many doors of the Nonstop Liberal Arts Institute — located in churches, coffee shops and homes around town — open for business.

The organizers of Nonstop rolled out their plans last Thursday, July 17, to an appreciative audience of about 75 people at the Bryan Community Center gym. They plan a second gathering in August to more specifically describe curriculum offerings.

“We hope you join us this fall for our cultural and educational adventure,” Nonstop organizer Chris Hill said at the event.

Nonstop is many things, according to Hassan Rahmanian of the effort’s executive leadership collective, which also includes Hill and Susan Eklund-Leen. All are former longtime professors at Antioch College, which closed at the end of June.

Nonstop “is an act of reclaiming our education, an act of carrying the torch and saving the soul of Antioch, and it is the revitalization of an exhausted, demoralized faculty,” Rahmanian said.

Nonstop is also a profound opportunity for Yellow Springers to not only support former college faculty and students, but to gain more vitality as a community, according to villager Don Wallis, who will teach a Nonstop class on community journalism with former Antioch professor Dennie Eagleson. In his three decades in Yellow Springs, Wallis said, he has seen a decline in community values, including creative problem-solving and respect for diversity, and he believes this college/community collaboration can reverse that trend.

“This is an opportunity to not only save Antioch but to save our community,” he said.

Nonstop is not aimed at drawing energy away from the efforts to save Antioch College, but to complement that goal, according to Eklund-Leen in response to a question from Suzanne Clauser. While the Nonstop curriculum will work in its current manifestation as an educational venture embedded in the community, it can also serve as a newly designed curriculum for a revitalized Antioch if efforts to create an independent college succeed, she said.

“Nonstop is a way to keep the spirit and values alive and to keep the faculty,” she said. “It’s a bridge to return to the campus. We are hopeful that all of us can march back to campus someday.”

The effort to continue the college’s legacy off campus has sparked considerable energy and passion in the past year, according to Hill, who described renewed connections between the college alumni and its faculty as well as between the college and the community. Some alums are so excited about taking part that they plan to move back to Yellow Springs, she said.

Until efforts to create an independent Antioch come to fruition, the faculty members will focus on teaching in their new and varied venues, according to Ellen Borgersen, president of the College Revival Fund, which is funding the Nonstop effort.

“This liberated faculty has seized the opportunity to re-imagine their curriculum,” she said.

Nonstop weekday classes tentatively include the interdisciplinary Visions of Suburbia, (literature, sociology and cultural anthropology) taught by Jean Gregorek and Beverly Rodgers; Ecological Sustainability and Community Economics, (ecological philosophy and management) taught by Colette Palamar and Hassan Rahmanian; and Revolutions: Theory and Practice, (cultural and media history and philosophy) with Bob Devine and Scott Warren.

Evening and Saturday classes include Ecology and Feminism, taught by Colette Palamar; The Qu’ran, Mohammed and Islam by Al Denman; and Spanish Mysticism by Jocelyn Hardman.

Weekend workshops include the history of jazz with Steve Schwerner and the art of storytelling with Harold and Jonatha Wright. The Nonstop effort also includes a lecture series, the Al Denman Friday Forum series, a weeklong learning festival and special films and performances.

Nonstop organizers hope that their offerings spark interest from Yellow Springers, according to Nonstop literature, which states that “significant aspects of our curriculum are inspired by the interests and needs of the immediate Yellow Springs community and its environment.”

Classes are open to everyone, organizers said, and they hope villagers will take part. Because the campus buildings are now shut down, classes and workshops will take place in a variety of venues around the community, according to Rahmanian, who said Nonstop has received over 20 offers of classroom venues so far.

Currently, Nonstop has about 22 students, according to Rahmanian, who also said that all but seven Antioch College faculty members chose to put their energies into Nonstop. Nonstop will also benefit from the contributions of eight emeritus faculty members, and more than 10 faculty from area colleges who have volunteered their services to teach, he said.

In response to audience questions, Nonstop organizers said that they are not currently accredited and that the summer has proved a difficult time to pursue efforts to gain temporary accreditation through “sanctuary” with already-accredited institutions. However, doing so will be a priority in the fall, according to Eklund-Leen. In the meantime, there is a good possibility that Nonstop classes will be transferrable to other colleges if students keep a detailed portfolio of their learning experience, Hill said.

The vision for continuing the unique Antioch College learning experience — with its three components of academic rigor, co-op learning and shared governance — began more than a year ago, soon after the Antioch University Board of Trustees announced that the college would close in July 2008 due to financial exigency, according to alumnus Rowen Kaiser, who is the Nonstop co-community manager this summer. The vision gained steam throughout the fall and winter, as faculty and students considered the real possibility that they could continue the Antioch educational experience off-campus. In February, the College Revival Fund committed $1 million to Nonstop, and faculty began shaping the new curriculum in two workshops in the spring.

While two major efforts to negotiate with the trustees for college autonomy ultimately failed in the last year, a third effort is ongoing. Last week, the college alumni board and university trustees both passed a resolution that requested a task force present a letter of intent for college independence to the board. (See accompanying article.)

Whether or not this effort results in an independent Antioch College, the Nonstop Liberal Arts Institute aims to keep college faculty in town in the expectation that the college will reopen in the near future, according to Borgersen. Toward that end, the effort is funded by the College Revival Fund through December, and the alumni are currently raising more funds to continue past that date.

For more information on Nonstop, go to nonstopinstitute.org, or call 767-2341.

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