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ACCC optimistic for college

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Recent weeks have been like “the last leg of a relay race” that organizers hope will result in the creation of an independent Antioch College, leaders of the Antioch College Continuation Corporation, or ACCC, said last week.

“My feeling is that we will be successful and that there will be an Antioch College with people on the campus again, doing the things the college should be doing,” Matt Derr, the ACCC’s chief transition officer, stated to the Antioch College Alumni Board, which met in Yellow Springs last weekend.

Derr and Lee Morgan, who have led the current ACCC effort to create an independent college, made clear that no deal has been reached as yet. However, both men expressed hope that they will sign agreements with Antioch University on the deadline date of June 30. Also on that date, ACCC will put in escrow $6.08 million, the amount the group will pay the university for the college.

However, the deal won’t be legally done on that date, both men said. There will still be legal issues to resolve, and the closing date for actual ownership of the college is Aug. 31. At that point, the ACCC Board Tempore would assume ownership of the college, and the search will soon begin for a new president.

Both Derr and Morgan stated that they are hopeful that the ACCC will have the “keys to the campus” after the June 30 agreements are signed, and that efforts to re-open the campus can begin at that time.

In June 2007, the Antioch University Board of Trustees announced that the college would close a year later due to financial exigency, and the campus has been closed since June 30, 2008. Two subsequent alumni-led efforts to keep the college open were unsuccessful. The current effort began with an Antioch University Board of Trustees resolution last June asking the alumni to work with the trustees to create an independent college. A task force of college alumni and university trustees, with the help of Richard Detweiler of the Great Lakes Colleges Association, or GLCA, worked to reach an agreement this year.

All of the efforts have contributed to what organizers hope will be a successful outcome, according to Derr, who said a friend commented that those working to save the college were “the most tenacious group they had ever encountered,” adding that “all of us deserve that reputation.”

“What’s remarkable,” Derr said, “is that two years after the announcement of the suspension, there’s still an extraordinary group of people in this relay race, and each has found a place” to be helpful.

While ACCC leaders hope to have access to the campus immediately after June 30, there will be a significant period before students appear, according to Derr, who said that up to two enrollment cycles, or two years, could pass without students. Student enrollment will coincide with the college receiving accreditation, he said.

However, if a final agreement is reached, faculty and staff will be hired and begin working to create the new college.

“The next year and beyond will be a visioning exercise,” Derr said.

That vision will be shaped by the historic Antioch College educational model of work, study and community, according to Morgan and Derr, who also emphasized that while Antioch’s past will serve as a guide, the college will not be limited by its past.

“This is a rare opportunity to create a radically different educational model,” Morgan said.

The new faculty will probably include some who taught at Antioch College, according to Derr, who described hiring former faculty as the “pragmatic” thing to do, since those teachers understand the school’s history and values.

If an agreement is reached, the new Antioch College would be considerably smaller than the previous one, according to Derr, and the first year’s estimated budget, about $4.5 million, is a third of that of the college’s final operating year. Organizers anticipate hiring about 35 faculty and staff initially, and employing about 60 after five years. They anticipate that the college will receive about 70 students in its first enrollment cycle, and that number will increase after five years to about 215.

The numbers are small because organizers are planning to create only what they can sustain financially, Derr said. The new college’s first years would be funded totally by donations, and after several years, organizers hope the college would receive 60 percent of its revenues from tuition, he said.

Some aspects of the new college would be different than the former one, according to Derr, who described as one of those differences that faculty salaries would be in line with the mean salary of the GLCA. In the past, faculty members have been paid substantially less than their peers in GLCA schools.

The new college would have tenured faculty, according to Derr, who said that organizers believe that “tenure is critical to academic freedom,” that a tenured faculty remains true to the college’s history, and that alumni won’t have it any other way.

“Unless you live by the values the college has espoused, people don’t give,” he said.

Organizers have also assumed that the college would have a unionized staff, Derr said.

While the ACCC and the university have negotiated about 100 different issues, “at the end of the day, most of them have been hammered out,” Morgan said, although some legal issues remain. All parties want to reach an agreement, he said, and attorneys for both the university and the ACCC are continuing to work toward that goal.

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