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All campus presidents fired— Antioch University restructures leadership

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Antioch University leaders announced on Monday a bold restructuring that includes eliminating all of the university campus’s boards of trustees along with the presidents of each AU campus. The AU fiduciary Board of Governors will continue to oversee the entire university system.

Antioch College Not Tied to Antioch University

Antioch College released a statement July 1 explaining that the institution “has received a number of questions about whether those changes will affect the College’s accreditation efforts or financial stability.” The College, the release states, has no legal, financial or administrative ties to Antioch University.

“Antioch College was founded in 1850, and it was closed in 2008. When the College re-opened in 2011, it did so as a completely independent institution without a formal or informal connection to Antioch University.

“As an independent institution, the College has been in a multi-stage accreditation process. This month, the Higher Learning Commission is set to deliver a decision on whether Antioch College will be granted accreditation two years ahead of the traditional accreditation path. In June, the College conferred degrees to the second class to graduate since re-opening.”

“The Board of Governors took several actions at its recent meeting to address the current budget issues, including significant changes in the university budget process and its business model, as well as an administrative reorganization,” according to a letter sent by Board of Governors Chair Charlotte Roberts on Monday, June 27. “We also recognized the pressing need to simplify and reshape a complex governance structure and to allow the Chancellor and his administration to focus on programs and enrollment.”

In a separate letter from Interim Antioch University Chancellor Bill Groves, Groves stated, “At the heart of this initiative is concern for our students, current and in the future, particularly creating and enhancing our innovative, reflective and experiential approach that has long characterized our academic environment.”

According to an April 4 memo to Antioch University community members, Groves was named interim chancellor for two years, replacing Chancellor Felice Nudelman. As of June 30, Nudelman will be the university’s Chief Global Officer for Innovation and Partnerships.

Nudelman took on the chancellor job in 2012, replacing former AU chancellor Toni Murdock. During Nudelman’s tenure the university initiated partnerships with the Peace Corps and also launched AU Connected, an exclusively online degree program. Nudelman did not respond to an email seeking comment.

Groves, a Springfield attorney, has been associated with the university since 1979, and since 2010 has been a vice chancellor and general counsel for the university.

In a phone interview on Monday, a university leader agreed to provide background information, although not to be quoted directly or identified.

The presidents of AU’s five campuses — AU Midwest, AU Los Angeles, AU Seattle, AU Santa Barbara and AU New England — were notified on Monday that their jobs were being eliminated, and were given until Friday of this week to leave their positions, the source said. However, they were provided severance pay until the end of the year.

The presidents’ positions were eliminated because the university is attempting to unify its identity into one national university rather than five campuses with separate identities, the source said, stating that the campus presidents’ responsibilites had included fundraising and external relations, along with being the face of the school. However, the presidents never really performed those functions, according to the source, and fundraising and external relations will now be assumed by Antioch University Vice Chancellor of Institutional Advancement Tim Forbess, along with other university officials.

The presidents whose jobs were cut were Karen Schuster Webb of Antioch University Midwest; Tex Boggs of AU Los Angeles; Dan Hocoy of AU Seattle; and Steve Jones of AU New England. Nancy Leffert of AU Santa Barbara had already announced her retirement and was scheduled to leave her job on June 30, but the position of her replacement, William Flores, was eliminated.

Attempts to communicate with several campus presidents on Tuesday were unsuccessful. President Schuster Webb of AU Midwest did not return a call and President Jones of AU New England, in an email, declined to comment. University website pages no longer contained information about the campus presidents.

From now on, the provosts on each campus will serve as the public face of the campus, and will focus on academic programs only, as they have previously, according to the source. At AU Midwest, the provost is Marian Glancy.

One aspect of unifying the five campuses will be an effort to “scale up” successful academic programs from one campus to all five, according to the source. For example, the university will introduce the environmental studies graduate program, now highly successful at AU New England, to other AU campuses. There are no plans to eliminate current academic programs, the source said, unless there are programs that don’t produce enough income to pay for their faculties.

Ultimately, the purpose of the restructuring is to make Antioch University more competitive in the extremely competitive world of higher education, the source said. The university may also create more hybrid models of education similar to the Ph.D. program in Leadership and Change, which combines online learning with small residencies on campus. Such a hybrid learning model may be the model of the future, as it allows adult learners to both connect with a community of learners and stay in their home communities, the source said.

The campus boards of trustees were created several years ago in an attempt to enhance community identification with the AU campuses, along with fundraising efforts, according to the source. However, the campus boards had become unwieldy to manage, and the AU fiduciary Board of Governors recently approved eliminating the boards to further streamline the university. However, some members of the campus boards may be invited to join the Board of Governors, according to the letter from Board Chair Roberts.

She assumes the chairmanship of the Board of Governors on July 1, taking over from Howard Coleman, who will become the board’s vice chair.

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