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Higher Education

A partnership for Wilberforce and Antioch

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They are both small, private liberal arts colleges in Greene County. They were both founded in the 1850s. And in recent years they’ve both been trying to bounce back from financial and accreditation woes.

Antioch College and Wilberforce University have a lot in common, and this fall, the two storied institutions are teaming up with a cross-campus, cross-cultural collaboration.

The most tangible aspect of the nascent partnership is that 16 Wilberforce students will be living on Antioch’s campus this school year due to limited dorm space at Wilberforce, located seven miles away. The students moved into West Hall on E. North College Street a few weeks ago, and have been invited to participate in social and academic life as well.

The opportunity came as this fall Wilberforce had one of its largest incoming freshman classes in years, with 300 freshmen arriving in August, according to a Dayton Daily News article. Total enrollment is at 650, a Dayton Business Journal article reported.

To Antioch student Marcell Vanarsdale, the partnership is an opportunity to extend the concept of community beyond Antioch’s small campus, with just over 100 students enrolled this school year.

“One of our consistent battles at Antioch College is to take our values — what we believe in, what we want to fight for — and to share that with the greater community,” said Vanarsdale, who is finishing up his final quarter at Antioch.

Because young black people are an underrepresented demographic in Yellow Springs, students from the nation’s first private historically black college can make a valuable contribution to Antioch, and would “bolster our student experience,” Vanarsdale said.

And Wilberforce students may take something from the Antioch experience too, Vanarsdale said. Last week, one Wilberforce student who was under the weather was directed to Weston Hall’s student-run apothecary for relief.

“We had a tincture to kick that cold,” Vanarsdale relayed.

Last weekend, Antioch students threw an “icebreaker” party for the Wilberforce students at Weston,  featuring two Dayton-area rappers. According to Vanarsdale, who organized the event through the Antioch Creative Collective, the party served a dual purpose. In addition to welcoming the students, it was a way to share information with them about affirmative consent, as attendees were asked to sign the college’s Sexual Offense Prevention Policy, or SOPP, at the entrance.

While Vanarsdale said that during his time at Antioch there has been some informal exchange with Wilberforce — a few students forming friendships, some playing together in a community basketball league at the Wellness Center — a more formal relationship is a positive step.

Students will also be able to take classes on each other’s campuses and the institutions plan to collaborate on programming through Antioch’s Coretta Scott King Center for Cultural and Intellectual Freedom and Wilberforce’s Mark and Shelly Wilson Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, according to a joint press release.

In the release, Antioch President Tom Manley called the partnership a “win/win.”

“This is the type of collaboration that is needed for colleges and universities to effectively and creatively respond to the common change we face,” Manley wrote.

Wilberforce President Elfred Anthony Pinkard emphasized in the release how the partnership will push students from both institutions beyond “what is known and comfortable.”

“Our students will confront both their commonality and difference in ways that will challenge their perceptions of the other and in so doing begin crafting new ways of living harmoniously and productively in community,” Pinkard wrote.

Vanarsdale emphasized that it’s not the first time that students will be working together across the nearby campuses. For example, in the late 1960s and and early ’70s, students from Central State and Wilberforce lived on the Antioch campus in the Afro-American Studies Institute dorm.

As Antioch’s commitment to social justice and inclusion continues, the renewed partnership with Wilberforce only makes sense, Vanarsdale added.

“It’s nice to see we’re getting back to those roots and reaching out to the [Wilberforce] community,” he said.


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