June 14, 2007
Antioch College, R.I.P.By Henry P. Wickham, Jr.
According to a statement released on June 12, 2007 by the Antioch College Board of Trustees, the College in Yellow Springs, Ohio will suspend operations on July 1, 2008. The Trustees announced that the "College's resources are inadequate" to continue its operations in Yellow Springs.
The statement from the Trustees refers to the College's "low enrollment and lack of adequate funding." It refers to all of the cutbacks that the College has made, which have "eroded the confidence students and parents have in the College's academic program."
The statement mentions the long-term goal of reopening the campus at some point in the future. However, given the College's declining enrollment, decrepit facilities, and low endowment, one wonders how the College can resurrect itself, absent a sugar daddy like George Soros.
I grew up within ten miles of Antioch College. To step onto its campus was to experience something of a time warp. In the 1960s, it was 1950's beatnik. Since then, it was and always will be 1968. There was something about Antioch's campus that was like one of those colonial villages in Williamsburg where everyone dresses in colonial costumes. Antioch students certainly dressed their part with their studied shabbiness. The Bohemianism at Antioch was always a little too self-conscious and self-congratulatory, and the radicalism conventional and, dare I say, boring.
If you were a high school student with a strong left-wing political philosophy, and if you desired to spend four years at a college that will confirm all of your political prejudices and reward certain righteous attitudes, Antioch College was the place to go. The PC orthodoxies on campus were always stifling and predictable. There was no political, social, or economic issue where anyone could doubt where the Antioch students stood. One could almost mouth the clichés and slogans as they were being spouted.
"Boot camp for the revolution" was how one student described Antioch to me. I wonder how much of their assigned reading students were able to buy at "Big Bill's Revolutionary Book Store" that used to be located on Xenia Avenue?
I was once told by a student that they could get classroom credit for partaking in public political demonstrations. I remember one demonstration outside of the Federal Courthouse in Dayton, Ohio in 1978 after the Supreme Court issued University of California Regents v. Bakke. This is the case where the Court somewhat restricted racial preferences in public university admissions. The Antioch students were demanding unfettered racial preferences. That the U.S. District Court in Dayton had absolutely nothing to do with the case, and that no court of law should be ever influenced by public demonstrations, of course meant nothing to them. What are mere facts and separation of powers when there is moral and political exhibitionism to tend to.
Antioch always touted itself as "innovative," it never being clear to me at Antioch the distinction between innovative and trendy. Who can forget that most notorious innovation, Antioch's sexual harassment policy?
This policy was published in Antioch College's Student Survival Guide. There is something precious in that title, Survival Guide, as if Yellow Springs were Afghanistan or the darkest reaches of the Amazon. By way of a preface, those so-hip administrators advised students as follows:
No, dear readers, I do not have the talent to make this up. Did Mr. Rogers write Sex for Dummies for the Neighborhood? Is this a training manual for six year olds learning to play "doctor"?
Then, things get even more serious. Down from Mount Sinai with the tablets, Antioch College's administrators laid down the law:
And so on and on.
I am not sure which is more hilarious: imagining the discussion that led to this twaddle or imagining the actual implementation of this policy in the dormitory.
Antioch College: so hip, so innovative, so politically active, so relevant. This is yet another case where the American public has shown more sense than its supposedly intellectual superiors. Antioch College was selling, and the people (as in "Power to the People") were not buying. The packaging shouted "Relevance!", and the people, voting with their feet and pocket books, proclaimed Antioch's titanic irrelevance.
As that other, far more gratefully dead once put it, "What a long strange trip it's been."
Henry P. Wickham, Jr welcomes comments.