Village Council— Town-gown ties strong
- Published: September 21, 2017
Antioch College President Tom Manley has spoken before city councils many times in his nearly 40 years in higher education, but more commonly to placate officials or “put out fires” sparked in a tense town-gown relationship.
In Yellow Springs, the relationship between college and village couldn’t be more atypical of his experience.
During his first talk before Yellow Springs Village Council, Manley, who took the helm at Antioch in spring 2016, instead praised the way both “extraordinary places” support one other.
“I have found that the relationship of small colleges to the community they live in is complicated, sometimes fraught and one-sided,” Manley said.
He added that while the local relationship between college and village can be complicated, “what I’ve found is a symbiosis that actually creates a richer potential for both.”
Council members affirmed the feeling is mutual.
“We consider Antioch a vital element of this community,” Council President Karen Wintrow said, adding that while Village government cannot directly help with enrollment, “we can always model what a great place this is and talk about the values of the community which we think will help to attract students.”
As the college struggles to transition from a tuition-free school and increase enrollment while facing external threats, such as the papering of the campus area by purported white nationalists and changes to federal immigration policy that may affect current students, the support from the village is highly valued, Manley said.
“We feel supported by all of the institutions in Yellow Springs,” Manley said. “These are complex times to us and we value this relationship.”
Manley said Antioch is hoping for a new freshman class of 30 students when the new school year begins in October, the smallest since the reopened college’s first class in 2011. On Sept. 5, the online publication Inside Higher Ed reported current enrollment for the new class at 22. It’s the third straight year enrollment targets have not been met. And while the college likely balanced its budget at the end of its 2017 fiscal year in June after a $7 million deficit in 2016, the college is still overwhelmingly dependent upon donations, which cover around 85 percent of expenses, according to Manley.
But Manley sees the way alumni have stepped up to support the college — which they did to the tune of $12.75 million last year with 30 percent of alumni giving — as “an incredible story in America.” And while enrollment is “not on par with where we’d like it to be,” Antioch is doing well by other measures, Manley told Council. Chief among them is how Antioch, which Manley described as a “167-year-old experiment in higher education,” is still being true to that experiment. He cited community governance as one area of experimentation that is particularly unique, even among progressive colleges. Antioch acts as a “living laboratory for [students] to learn about participatory democracy,” Manley said.
Manley also said he is encouraged by the progress that Antioch, which he called “the only startup college in the nation,” has made since reopening to students in 2011.
“We’re six years into a start-up and our alumni are paying for this,” Manley said. “It’s incredible that a small school with hundreds of students is in this position at all.”
In the coming years, Antioch will work to find its niche in higher education, which Manley believes is an education with “a high degree of agency,” and more experiential than that offered by 95 percent of colleges, he said in a later interview.
“Antioch’s role is to provide an education where students don’t have to wait to have an impact,” Manley said.
But the larger world is also having an impact on Antioch. The recent announcement by the Trump administration that the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, immigration policy will be revoked means that “a number of students that go to Antioch are now uncertain about their future and their welcome in their country,” Manley told Council. Antioch’s challenge is how to respond as a progressive institution while being sure not to threaten the college’s funding, which is dependent upon federal financial aid for students.
“We’re worried about repercussions from the federal government … about stands that we take,” Manley said at the meeting.
As a result, Antioch is shying away from declaring itself a “sanctuary campus” since the term lacks any actual protections while potentially drawing ire from a federal government that has shown its willingness to cut funding to “sanctuary cities,” Manley said. But the college is also lobbying for the policy’s continuation through its membership in the Great Lakes Colleges Association, while offering free legal support and counseling to the several students who would be affected, Manley added after the meeting.
As Antioch continues to navigate its myriad challenges, Manley encouraged Council to focus on another positive — the exceptional students who have chosen to attend Antioch:
“There are some really exceptional young people that will not only change our college and our village but change the world.”
In other Sept. 5 Council business:
• Brown water is expected to affect local residences and businesses on Thursday, Sept. 14, when a hydrant is flushed as part of the construction at the corner of East Enon Road and Dayton-Yellow Springs Road, according to Village Manager Patti Bates. Several more brown water episodes are likely in the coming weeks due to the construction, which is bringing utilities to the entrance of the property known as the Center for Business and Education.
• Council unanimously passed the first reading of several ordinances to create a new zoning category to promote housing density and communal living in residential areas.
Pocket Neighborhood Development, or PND, is defined in the legislation as “a type of planned community which consists of a clustering of smaller residences or dwelling units that are individually owned, around a courtyard or common open space, and designed to promote a sense of community and neighborliness through an increased level of contact on a single lot under the control of a Homeowner’s Association (HOA).”
PNDs will be conditional uses in all residential districts and allow for more density in infill development, and need a minimum of four dwelling units to qualify, according to Zoning Administrator Denise Swinger at the meeting. For example, on a 1.3-acre property, 12 dwelling units could be developed in Residence A, 16 units in Residence B, and 28 in Residence C, Swinger reported.
Recently, Home Inc. had announced its plan to develop a pocket neighborhood, Glen Cottages, on Xenia Avenue on the south end of town.
• At the request of Tecumseh Land Trust, Village Council voted unanimously to authorize the use of $205,000 from the Village greenspace fund to permanently protect properties in the Jacoby Greenbelt on the western edge of Yellow Springs and in the one- and five-year time-of-travel zones of the Village well field along Jacoby Road south of town. The commitment from the Village would help TLT leverage as much as $3.4 million in federal, state and private funds as part of a five-year grant proposal to the Regional Conservation Program, TLT Executive Director Krista Magaw said at the meeting. The grant, if funded, could also be used to demonstrate improved conservation practices on private property in the watershed, Magaw said.
Council member Judith Hempfling explained that averaging out the cost of the commitment over five years comes to $40,000 per year, or just slightly more than the $25,000 per year the Village has been regularly putting in the Greenspace Fund.
“Getting the $3.4 million by just upping our yearly commitment a little bit — it’s just huge,” Hempfling said.
Local landlord Bob Baldwin spoke in opposition to the resolution at the meeting, saying that while he is not against the Village funding any greenspace, other priorities such as downtown parking should take precedence. He added that the village is reducing available building space for homes or businesses by continuing to fund greenspace on its borders.
“I think Yellow Springs wants to surround itself and protect this little island of civility and progressivity, but it’s coming at a certain cost,” Baldwin said.
Council President Wintrow defended her support of greenspace by saying that concerns around its impact on affordability are being addressed by increasing density in the village through the Pocket Neighborhood legislation addressed earlier in the meeting and developing the Center for Business and Education.
“We’re doing everything we can do to get density in the village while we are trying to protect that agricultural perimeter that everybody loves so much,” Wintrow said.
• Sidewalk construction continues apace this fall with the replacement of 63 sidewalk ramps to ADA specifications along Dayton Street and West South College Street. The bulk of the funding for the $139,000 project came from a federal grant, with the Village paying $38,000 in engineering costs. Council unanimously authorized funding for the project, which is running ahead of schedule, at its meeting this week.
Additional sidewalk construction as part of a Safe Routes to School program will also take place this fall, along North Winter Street and Yellow Springs-Fairfield Road, according to Assistant Village Manager/Finance Director Melissa Dodd. A multiple-year project to replace sidewalks along Xenia Avenue will conclude in the summer of 2018.
• Council unanimously approved the final reading of a resolution accepting the annexation of about 1.7 acres of land from Miami Township into Yellow Springs. The parcel in question is located behind the lots that face North High Street and Fairfield Pike and is completely surrounded by annexed Village property. The annexation will not expand village boundaries.
• A corporal position may be added to the list of allowable command staff at the Yellow Springs Police Department; Council unanimously approved the first reading of an ordinance designed to give police officers more opportunities for advancement and increase the number of supervisors on the force. Police Chief Brian Carlson proposed the change so he could add two corporal positions — a rank between officers and sergeants — to the police department. Promotion of an officer into a corporal position would cost the department about $2,317 per individual, which together add up to the cost of a promotion to sergeant.
• In response to several white nationalist fliers posted two weeks ago in town near the Antioch College campus, Council members discussed how the Village could help promote nonviolent resistance strategies communitywide in support of those who feel threatened by the posters.
Hempfling said she has started working with local faith communities, The 365 Project and Village Mediation to organize a local training on nonviolence and to “further our anti-racist commitments.”
Antioch President Manley said the posters represented “extremist views” and made Antioch students of color and with LGBTQ identities “uncomfortable with their safety.” In response to a question on how villagers could support Antioch students, he encouraged locals to “show solidarity and presence on campus.”