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State of the college address— College is ‘coming alive’

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“It would be impossible to document all that happened over the last year,” Antioch College President Mark Roosevelt said to a tent full of students, staff, alumni and villagers at Friday night’s state of the college address. Then, in pep rally style, Roosevelt set to tallying a long list of accomplishments the college has made in the last 12 months, including doubling the faculty, tripling the student body and puting 34 students through the first full year of the renewed college.

If 2010, the year the College restarted after closure, was “daunting but doable,” and 2011 when it welcomed its first class was “[we’re] all in,” then this year the thrust on campus is “coming alive,” he told the crowd. Over 150 college affiliates and community members gathered for a potluck dinner on the campus front lawn to kick off Founders’ Weekend and a meeting of the board of trustees.

The address, which followed the arrival of the college’s second class of 75 new students in early October, focused on the positives, such as the renovation of historic North Hall dorm, a start on the science building renovation and the hiring of 19 additional faculty and staff over the past year for a total of 80 full- and part-time employees to serve the college’s 110 students. But Roosevelt also acknowledged the sobering need for money to support the college’s continuing operation.

“This isn’t easy, and if we said it was going to be easy, we were kidding ourselves,” he said. “We need to raise funds to fuel the growth of the enterprise — that is the challenge.”

College funding

At last update one year ago, the college had established a three-year budget of $27 million, most of which was to be funded by endowment and annual giving funds as well as a $9 million commitment from the 12-member board of trustees last year. That left an $8 million gap, which the college is still working on closing.

In operating expenses alone the college spent $7.8 million for fiscal year 2010–2011, $9.7 million for 2011–12, and has budgeted $11.2 million in operations for 2012–13. In addition, $11.3 million has been allocated for capital renovations in 2013, including the science building and the theater building.

In the face of tough figures, Roosevelt appealed to the community to remember that the college has a unique mission that no other institution of higher education is serving. While other institutions have loosened their need-blind admissions standards and “maintained the status quo” by admitting just 8 percent of their students from the bottom 50 percent of the economic strata, he said, Antioch has committed to tuition-free education for its first four classes. Its mission, one that is tied to its 150-year tradition as a progressive beacon for social justice, is to serve a broad range of students from every socio-economic background and prepare them to be leaders of positive change.

“And that we cannot break away from,” he said Friday. “We are not neutral on this — we are committed to educating students and doing better than our generation did to tackle the greatest problems the world faces.”

Campus strides

The bustling campus is evidence of the strides the college has made to steadily increase personnel and, one by one, bring its facilities back online to serve the needs of both the students and the local community.

The college has begun the first phase of renovations to the science building, which is scheduled to open for use in January 2013. The first phase, expected to cost approximately $3.58 million, includes four completely renovated labs, two each for chemistry and biology. And volunteers are working with a college facilities crew to refurbish the cabinetry in the labs. This phase also includes a high efficiency HVAC system and hoods that are environmentally sound.

The college is preparing this year to renovate the foundry building on Corry Street that has served as the college theater for the past 50 years. Phase one of the project, estimated to cost $800,000, would include constructing new seating, lighting and sound systems, a new roof and handicapped accessible restrooms, and upgrades to the heating, cooling and fire alarm systems.

Also in the works are plans to build a $7.8 million wellness center, possibly starting as early as May 2013.

Chief for students is the newly renovated North Hall, a $5.4 million reworking of a dorm for the incoming class of 75 students, with a new main dining hall and geothermal heating and cooling system.

Capacity-wise, the college has integrated its campus farm into both its dining program and its curriculum in a way that few other colleges have done, Roosevelt said. He noted for example that the farm’s fuzzy little hatchlings, which turned into chickens, are no longer alive.

“That’s because they’ve been eaten!” he said.

The college also now has a functioning community governance process and has scheduled its own elections on Nov. 6 for the members of an Antioch College Community Council. The faculty has established an academic assessment plan and a faculty handbook, in addition to a curriculum catalogue. And the campus also created “self study teams” of students, faculty and staff charged with meeting accreditation needs and improving the campus in general, Roosevelt said.

And the college has grown its ties to the Yellow Springs community, including 60 of its students in a community service work day in the village this month and making plans to integrate both the theater building and the wellness center with the larger community. The community has also given back to the college, Roosevelt said. Since May 38 volunteers have given 2,754 hours of labor to help with the science building, the amphitheater and other needs.

“The village has been warm and welcoming to our students…we are lucky to have such a great village,” he said.

Roosevelt concluded his talk on Friday with a balancing quote from the Talmud about continuing hard work for the greater good.

“Look ahead. You are not expected to complete the task. Neither are you permitted to lay it down.”


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One Response to “State of the college address— College is ‘coming alive’”

  1. Mark Pomerantz says:

    I still don’t get how the college will attract enough students to survive once they’re expected to pay tuition. Are the students themselves expected to come up with a survival plan? I haven’t heard anything innovative or compelling from the college leadership yet.

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