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.

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