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Transfer ‘celebratory’ for college

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The recent agreement between Antioch College and Antioch University that nullifies the university’s remaining claims to the college campus will allow the college to move ahead with projects that also benefit the Yellow Springs community, College President Mark Roosevelt said at a public meeting last Friday, Dec. 14. The projects include refurbishing the theater building and building a new college/community wellness center, which is scheduled to break ground in spring 2013.

“This is a celebratory moment,” Roosevelt said in a talk to an overflow crowd of college and community members at Herndon Gallery. He decided to give the talk, which was announced last Wednesday, “to put the transaction in the larger context,” he said.

College leaders announced last week that the college and university had reached a tentative agreement in which the college will pay the university $8 million to bring WYSO Public Radio back to the college, along with nullifying the reversion clauses of the agreement reached in 2009 between the university and the Antioch College Continuation Corporation, or ACCC, that led to the college gaining its independence.

For the past year and a half, Roosevelt said, college leaders have agreed that the reversion clauses were significantly hindering the rebirth of the college. The reversion clauses “meant that the university retained some rights to the college under certain circumstances,” Roosevelt said, including the reversion of the campus back to the university if the college did not achieve accreditation by 2016.

“We fully expect to gain accreditation,” Roosevelt said, but the threat of reversion still had several “destabilizing impacts.”

First, the reversion clauses limited the college’s ability to use its endowment, or borrow against the endowment, Roosevelt said, stating that “we needed to seek permission [from the university] to do certain things.”

Secondly, some alums hesitated to give to the college due to the uncertainty linked to the possibility of reversion, he said.

“If this agreement is finalized, we will be entirely independent,” Roosevelt said, to enthusiastic applause. He also stated that “the end of these entanglements mean we can begin to identify ways that the college and university can work together.”

Returning WYSO, which was started in the 1950s by Antioch College students, back to the college has significant benefits, Roosevelt said, stating that the station is “an extremely respected organization not only in the Miami Valley but on the national level.”

While the college’s opinionated alumni offer a variety of responses to almost every action college leaders take, “we haven’t had a single negative comment regarding retaining control of WYSO,” Roosevelt said.

The agreement with the university should be finalized within two months, after approval by the Greene County Probate Court, Roosevelt said.

Funds to pay for the transfer will likely come from the college’s sale last year of YSI stock, which brought in $34 million That amount, which took the college endowment from $20 million to $50 million, “gave us some room” financially, Roosevelt said, stating that the YSI sale money is also being used to fund facility renovation.

Roosevelt encouraged the audience to consider the rebirth of the college, which is believed to be the only liberal arts college in the country that is being launched at this time, in the larger context of higher education. A recent New York Times article spotlighted the pressure on colleges to go into huge debt in order to build new multimillion-dollar facilities.

“Some places are building Taj Mahals,” Roosevelt said.

At Antioch College, the priorities will be “a campus that’s efficient but not overbuilt,” Roosevelt said, pointing to the recent $6 million renovation of the historic North Hall, which, with its geothermal heating system and roof solar panels, aims to be the oldest building in the country to win a LEED certification.

“When you go to North Hall you’ll see what we want the campus to become, quality buildings done right” which are sustanable both economically and environmentally, he said.

College leaders recently decided to install on campus a central geothermal heating system, Roosevelt said, which will cost more than a standard system upfront but will save about $400,000 a year.

Upcoming campus improvements will include refurbishing the theater building to become a theater arts complex shared with the Yellow Springs community, an updated science building and the campus/community wellness center, slated for groundbreaking this spring.

However, the college is “still in a recovery mode, dealing with 40 years of mismanagement and neglect,” Roosevelt said. “It takes time.”

While updating campus facilities is a critical aspect of the rebirth, Antioch College will emphasize students over buildings, Roosevelt said. For instance, funding the Horace Mann fellowships, which offer tuition-free educations for the college’s first four classes, was necessary in order to pursue both diversity and excellence in the new student body, Roosevelt said.

“At the core of what we’re doing is quality, first and foremost,” he said. “If we succeed, it’s because people respect what’s happening here.”


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