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Signed agreement prepares way for transfer of college

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On Tuesday, June 30, the boards of Antioch University and the Antioch College Continuation Corporation, or ACCC, announced that each unanimously approved an agreement that paves the way for the creation of an independent Antioch College in Yellow Springs.

While the two groups both approved the agreement, the deal will not be finalized until certain conditions are met. Organizers have set Aug. 31 as the target date for closing the deal, at which point the college assets, including the campus and endowment, would be transferred from the university to the ACCC, which is made up of college alumni.

The leaders of the alumni effort feel optimistic that the conditions will be met and the transfer will occur, they said in a conference call Tuesday afternoon.

“As a group of people we have faced significant challenges, and we’re well positioned to deal with the challenging things remaining,” said ACCC Chief Transition Officer Matt Derr, referring to the university and ACCC representatives who have worked together this year to achieve agreement. “The challenges we face now are nothing compared to what we’ve been through.”

This is the third alumni effort to create an independent college since the Antioch University trustees announced in June 2007 that the college would close the following year. The first two alumni efforts were not successful.

This effort has succeeded so far because of a “change in the tone and the kind of dialogue,” in the negotiations, Derr said in the conference call. That change in tone began when the Antioch University Board of Trustees took what Derr described as a “bold step” in June 2008 to ask the alumni to work with the trustees to create an independent college. A task force composed of Derr and ACCC Chair Lee Morgan, along with Antioch University Trustees Dan Fallon and Jack Merselis, met regularly throughout the year, along with Rick Detweiler of the Great Lakes Colleges Association, or GLCA, who acted as honest broker of the process.

The process was daunting, according to Antioch University Board Chair Art Zucker in the conference call. Initially, the alumni and university leaders faced about 100 issues to be resolved, and they worked their way through them.

“It was the willingness to sit down and labor constructively toward our common goals” that helped the effort succeed, Zucker said. “That commitment by the board and the alumni made it work.”

According to Morgan in the conference call, “There was never any question of a lack of good faith on either side.”

There are three main areas of conditions that need to be met before the transfer can take place, Zucker said. The first area is receiving approvals from external agencies, such as the Ohio attorney general. The second area is gaining approvals from the university’s bondholders, who hold bonds on university buildings at Antioch University Seattle, Antioch University New England and the new Antioch University McGregor building. The third area involves the university and ACCC reaching operating agreements on such collaborative efforts as sharing the Antioch College library and other resources.

Most of the remaining work to be done will be accomplished by attorneys, according to Morgan on Tuesday. In the next two months, he plans to continue fundraising efforts and Derr will focus on program issues for the new college.

If the conditions are met, the ACCC will at the end of the summer transfer $6,080,000 to the university. At that point, the ACCC’s financial obligation to the university will be complete, Morgan said.

While the ACCC will owe no more money to the university, it will continue to raise funds to refurbish the campus, Morgan said.

If the conditions are met, the ACCC will take control of the historic Antioch College campus, including Glen Helen and the Coretta Scott King Center. The university will retain ownership of WYSO Public Radio and Antioch Education Abroad.

While the ACCC does not yet have access to the college campus, it is working on finalizing details that will allow it to do so, according to Morgan, who said the ACCC hopes to have access before the August 31 deadline.

It’s likely the college will not be ready to receive new students for about two years, according to a GLCA press release on Tuesday.

If the effort to create a new college is successful, the exact relationship of the future Antioch College and Antioch University is still unclear, according to Zucker. However, what is clear is that the two institutions will have one.

“There will be a continuing relationship,” Zucker said. “We share many values.”

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