Dec 10

Fairness begins at home

December 2, 2010

By the Ad Hoc Tenured Former Faculty Committee, Letter to the Editor, Yellow Springs News

We’d like to thank Diane Chiddister for her in-depth article regarding the complex relationship of former tenured Antioch College faculty with the “new” revived institution. The article offered various points of view providing factual information, elaborating differences of opinion, and revealing the contradictions that have become the fabric of our relationship with the current Antioch College Board and administration. We do, however, want to clarify our position. We are engaged in a labor negotiation, and our position is supported by the American Association of University Professor’s standards respecting faculty hiring and faculty tenure. We believe that as former tenured faculty we should be hired on our merits where suitable in the current curriculum. We understand the Board’s desire for national searches, since we too were hired in national searches and see this as the preferable mode of hiring in most cases. However, in the current anomalous situation faced by the newly reconstituted College, experienced senior faculty are needed immediately. Antioch’s incoming president Mark Roosevelt will confront many challenges, and having some faculty who are familiar with the educational model will be essential for the College to succeed and to continue its educational legacy.

In truth, there is no legal or professional impediment to the rehiring of qualified members of the former tenured faculty. National searches were not conducted for the current Director of Work or the College Archivist, most likely because they bring vital institutional knowledge and experience—as would we. The majority of the current administrators and staff were either reinstated or hired into positions that were not even advertised. Faculty hires are one of the few categories at the “new” Antioch to which national searches are being applied.

Some background: when the University closed the College, the tenured faculty filed an injunctive lawsuit to keep the College open and protect its assets into the future; we did not sue for personal damages. When the University gave us the option of taking a year’s salary buyout we stayed and helped mentor students to ensure their graduation. After the College closed, the faculty produced a cutting-edge situated learning experience in the form of the Nonstop Liberal Arts Institute supported by the Alumni Board and College Revival Fund. Perversely, the tenured faculty’s long-term investment in the College has been interpreted by some as an indication of our unworthiness. Assumptions appear to have been projected onto the faculty that bear no resemblance to the facts.

Statements made by the current College leadership in last week’s Yellow Springs News article underline the contradictions we continue to face. While Interim President Matthew Derr claims that the College will be conducting a completely transparent and fair faculty search process, Lee Morgan, Chair of the Board, informs us that “donors will not give to the College if the former faculty are favored over those turned up in national searches.” This statement creates the distinct impression that this supposedly ‘open’ hiring process would actually be biased against us.

Our respected colleague Al Denman’s suggestion that we volunteer (on an unpaid basis) to support the revival efforts of ‘pioneer’ faculty unfortunately conflates the situation of mid-career academic professionals with that of retired and emeritus faculty and fails to recognize that we are facing a serious academic labor issue.

The American Association of University Professors was founded by John Dewey and Arthur O. Lovejoy in large part because maintaining the independence of advanced research, teaching, and the search for truth was recognized as a public good. The organization was part of a wave of Progressive-Era reforms that sought to insulate public institutions (and educational institutions which served the public) from the direct influence of donors and corporate sponsors. Bowing to the whims of wealthy donors in matters of academic hiring and curriculum is a very serious violation of this fundamental principle of independence. This is not an auspicious starting point for the new Antioch College.

If, as Interim President Derr stated, ethical and fair hiring practices are as dear to the hearts of the current College administration as they are to the Antioch community and to the AAUP, then we will be in complete agreement. Fairness begins at home.

Signed: Ad Hoc Tenured Former Faculty Committee

Read Antioch College’s response to the Yellow Springs News story mentioned above.

Dec 10

Former Faculty Essential to Antioch

December 2, 2010

Editorial by Diane Chiddister, Yellow Springs News

As someone who has reported on Antioch College off and on for the past 25 years, I find the apparent exclusion of former faculty from the college’s revival to be heartbreaking. Not all former faculty were stellar; there were a few slackers, some burn-outs. But over and over I’ve been deeply impressed with the dedication and talent of this tiny, scrappy group of teachers. A significant number of former faculty performed extraordinarily well under extraordinarily difficult circumstances.

There are two critical reasons why Antioch College leaders should reinstate former tenured faculty in positions for which they are qualified, and also increase the number of those positions. First, it’s the right thing to do. According to AAUP guidelines, the college has an ethical obligation to reinstate former tenured faculty. And in a higher education landscape in which academic tenure is increasingly threatened, this move would place the new Antioch College squarely among the ranks of principled liberal arts schools.

Equally important, the revived college needs former faculty. All agree that the college’s unique educational model should be continued: how, without experienced faculty (or administrators), will new hires learn this model? How will new students be guided? People don’t learn from an abstract example; they learn from other people who have a passion for a subject. Those people are former faculty, who have a passion for Antioch.

Everyone involved in this controversy cares deeply about Antioch College and wants it to succeed. A mix of new faces and a substantial group of seasoned veterans, as proposed by some alumni, may be the best path forward. Whatever the specifics, former faculty should be embraced as valued partners in the rebirth of Antioch College.

Oct 10

Welcome to FacultyJustice.org

October 7, 2010

The Ad Hoc Tenured Faculty Committee announces the opening of facultyjustice.org, an online archive of letters and documents spanning 2008-2010.

This group of former tenured faculty of Antioch College, having lost their professional positions through Antioch University’s arbitrary and unnecessary closure of the College, is requesting that the new Antioch College Board of Trustees Pro Tempore agree to conduct a hiring process that acknowledges their former tenured status at the College and is consistent with the procedures and standards recommended by their professional organization, the American Association of University Professors (AAUP). The AAUP has stated in its investigative report, ratified by its national membership in June 2010, that it “trusts that the Antioch College Continuation Corporation will appreciate the fundamental importance of the tenure system and will offer reinstatement to those whose appointments terminated with the closing, restoring their tenure rights.”

The Ad Hoc Committee believes that the reinstatement of some faculty into positions consonant with their qualifications has much to offer the College as it works to gain academic accreditation and prepares for the arrival of students in fall 2011. With few exceptions, the tenured faculty was hired through comprehensive national searches. Their tenure status was earned through rigorous multi-year processes of peer review incorporating numerous internal and external evaluations in order to assess their long-term value to the institution. They bring a unique wealth of experience with Antioch’s distinctive mix of Co-op and the liberal arts, with its long traditions of faculty and community participation, and with its outward-looking, globally-oriented educational mission.

The Ad Hoc Committee has requested in a recent presentation to a delegation from the Board Pro Tempore that AAUP staff be brought in to advise directly on determining which of those former tenured faculty are “qualified” to teach in the new curriculum, who would serve as “opportunity” or “transitional hires” hires. Such action would reverse, rather than reiterate, the actions of Antioch University. The former tenured faculty members stand ready to share their collective experience and knowledge to advance the efforts of an independent Antioch College.

Ad Hoc Committee of Former Tenured Faculty at Antioch College:
Jill Becker (Associate Professor of Dance), Anne Bohlen (Professor of Film & Communications), Kabuika Butamina (Associate Professor Of Chemistry), Chih Tsong Chen (Associate Professor of Computer Science & Mathematics), Bob Devine (Professor of Communications), Dennie Eagleson (Associate Professor of Photography), Jean Gregorek (Associate Professor of Literature), Chris Hill (Associate Professor of Communications), Pat Mische (Professor of Peace Studies), Nevin Mercede (Associate Professor of Art), Hassan Rahmanian (Associate Professor of Management), Louise Smith (Associate Professor of Theater), Chuck Taylor (Professor of Physics), Peter Townsend (Professor of Geology & Environmental Science)

Please link to share material from facultyjustice.org.

Contact Chris Hill or Jill Becker for further information (see below).

Ad Hoc Committee of Former Tenured Faculty at Antioch College
c/o Chris Hill and Jill Becker
P. O. Box 453
Yellow Springs, OH 45387