Prominent academics call for the reopening of college
- Published: August 14, 2008
More than 1,480 academics from liberal arts faculties and state and private universities around the country have signed a petition expressing their support for the efforts of the Antioch College alumni and faculty to save the college.
“Alumni, faculty and staff have made great efforts, intellectual and financial, for Antioch College to continue,” said James Engell, chair of the English Department at Harvard University. “Where such passion and commitment exist, everyone in higher education should support the undertaking.”
The petition has been circulating for the past month, according to Iveta Jusova, who directs the Women and Gender Studies program in Europe for Antioch Education Abroad, or AEA, and is one of the organizers of the effort. According to Jusova, the petition is being circulated by former college faculty and college alumni.
Many who signed cited the Antioch College closure as symptomatic of what they perceive as a disturbing trend toward a corporate, top/down model of higher education and away from the model of academic freedom and critical thought ensured by a tenured faculty.
“Tenure protects what is the lifeblood of education: freedom of thought and speech. That is why corporate managers like those running Antioch University have tried to eradicate it and why the restoration of tenure throughout Antioch is a key part of reestablishing a free and healthy college,” said Paul Lauter, the Allan K. and Gwendolyn Miles Smith professor of literature at Trinity College.
Some signatories cited Antioch College as a “national treasure that is not just another liberal arts college,” according to Jusova. According to Marilyn Johnston-Parsons, professor at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana, “More than ever, education in the United States needs the example of Antioch College’s tradition of progressive education and social justice orientation.”
Those who signed included well-known scholars such as Michael Apple, Alex Callinicos, Judith Butler, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Judith Halberstam, Michael Hardt, Peter McLaren and Andrew Ross. Signers are calling on the Antioch University Board of Trustees to “live up to their recently stated intention of transferring the college to the alumni association, who would then work to re-open it as an autonomous progressive residential liberal arts college, with its tradition of tenure and unionized labor intact,” according to a press statement released last week.
The petition also applauds the effort of former Antioch College faculty, staff and students in creating the Nonstop Liberal Arts Institute, which seeks to continue the traditions and values of Antioch in the village, now that the campus has closed.