Why should Antioch College follow the AAUP recommendations?

November 12, 2010

“The committee is concerned about the role that the Antioch faculty members who were released when operations were suspended will play in the development of the academic program at a reopened Antioch College and in teaching there when operations resume. The investigating committee 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. Moreover, the committee trusts that the corporation will approve a system of shared governance when the college reopens, ensuring primary faculty responsibility for academic matters as called for in the Statement on Government of Colleges and Universities.” – 2009 AAUP Report

There are a number of distinct advantages to be gained from following the recommendations of the AAUP and respecting the tenure of the former College faculty. The AAUP’s recommendation will provide a core of experienced and properly credentialed faculty (i.e. having earned tenure through a rigorous process of peer review and review by the College) to anchor the enormous work of hiring new tenure-track faculty along with part time and visiting faculty. This small core will be available to mentor new hires into a complex academic curriculum and the educational philosophy and pedagogies associated with Antioch’s distinctive Co-op model and community orientation. The acknowledgment of the former tenured faculty will go far to assuage the increasingly vocal concerns of younger alums from the past three decades that their College and their college education are being dismissed as subpar. (There is evidence that loyalty to the College on the part of these generations of alumni is plummeting as we write.) It will dramatically reduce tensions and bad feeling in the Village where the College lives, and it will prevent the hiring of new faculty into what one alum at the last reunion called a “poisoned well” of intrigue and acrimony.

In 2002 the North Central Association, in the process of the re-accreditation of Antioch University, made their scheduled site visit to Antioch College. Their official report opens with comments about the abundant evidence of neglect and deferred maintenance of the College’s Yellow Springs campus. However, the Report continues, once the accreditors looked deeper, past the conditions of the campus facilities, they discovered much that impressed them; they found the very “spirit of idealism and academic excellence.” They found the living educational community of Antioch College: “Indeed, it was not until after frequent and focused dialogues with administrators, faculty, staff and students, and observations of documents, records, and artifacts on all campus sites that the Team developed a degree of respect and admiration for the institution. This is a place where administrators, faculty, and staff appear to be extraordinarily committed to implementing the Antioch mission and academic excellence…In spite of the Team’s concerns about finances, enrollments and facilities, the Team believes that Antioch is a place that has earned continued accreditation—primarily because of the people who work for the University.” How ironic that the daily efforts of these very people to carry on the College’s mission of academic excellence in the face of steadily deteriorating infrastructure, staff cutbacks, faculty hiring freezes, and an unresponsive governance system—the very work and idealism that persuaded objective reviewers that the College and the University merited accreditation despite manifest institutional problems—has now been scapegoated as contributing to the College’s closure in an unsupported and opportunistic justification to begin with a ‘clean slate.’

As members of the academic profession, we strongly believe that the emerging College needs the blessing of the AAUP. If one is trying to resurrect a famous hospital, it does not behoove the institution to defy the respected professional guidelines of the American Medical Association. Criticism or sanction by the AAUP will unquestionably damage the College’s reputation and standing in the academic community. This will not go over well with alumni who hail from the traditional groves of academe, and will be registered with particular force in the progressive sectors of the academy of which the College has historically been a leader and a source of inspiration. Two of the major fronts in university reform of the past decade have been graduate student unionization and defenses of threatened ethnic studies programs. The young faculty and newly-minted PhDs shaped by these agendas are often among the best and brightest, and have exactly the values and commitments we want for faculty at Antioch; they are also the very pool most likely to heed AAUP criticism.

Everyone understands that the revived Antioch College cannot legally be held accountable for contracts technically signed by Board of Trustees of Antioch University (despite the equally clear fact that tenure meant a commitment to the College only; the College was the only University campus that maintained tenure). But relying on this legal sleight-of-hand is hardly going to win friends among the thousands of academics and alumni who believe in the importance of hard-won protections granted through unions and professional organizations. At this delicate moment in the College’s history, there is too much to lose: the College cannot risk a national reputation for unprofessional hiring practices and violations of widely-held industry standards to add to its existing reputation for instability and financial insolvency. The college needs to hold fast to established academic guidelines of fairness rather than the problematic process currently being put forth by the administration. And it needs to hold fast to the higher ideals that will draw and keep talented academic professionals with a social conscience and a spirit of collective enterprise. Only this way will the College be able to serve its students—past, present, and future—and its revered educational mission honorably.

Ad Hoc Former Tenured Faculty Committee

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