Friday, April 04, 2008

Perfidy at Antioch: tales of university trustees and senior staff lying, double-dealing, and committing institutional sabotage continue emerging.

If you’ll forgive an old (but apt) cliché, studying the reasons why Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio has in effect ceased to exist is like peeling an onion.

Antioch, as you may recall from an earlier post here, is a 157 years old college controlled by a “university” of the same name – although the university facilities consist of a bunch of second rate college continuation and adult education schools, some offering a few graduate courses.

These satellite “colleges” have no tenured faculty, no residential campuses, and sometimes offer courses of quality one well might question. (See the item on the Seattle campus’ science lab, way down below.)

An ongoing horror story

Each time I receive an e-mail from enraged college alumni – about the university trustees’ rejection of an attempt to save the college by an alumni group called the Antioch College Continuation Corporation (ACCC) – I go digging a bit more. And each time, I find myself peeling off more layers from the onion. It’s an ongoing horror story and at the center of it, if anyone ever gets to the center, you may find a plot as tangled and crooked as the Watergate scandal.

Needed, an ambitious
Ohio attorney general

It’s the kind of case that an ambitious state attorney general – if Ohio has one ambitious enough – might fruitfully explore to see if members of the Trustees and the parent Antioch University chancellor’s staff have been up to shenanigans that might violate state laws involving charitable trusts.

At any rate, here are some shockers I’ve stumbled across this week:

From the Yellow Springs News, the local weekly that finally seems to have its dander up:

Had the negotiating team, led by Chancellor Toni Murdock, wanted an agreement with the ACCC, it would not have started out asking the outrageous price of $54 million for the college, then stalling almost a month before lowering that price while every passing day was critical to the college’s ability to stay open. Had the university negotiators wanted the college to live, they would not have included the demand that the college pay the university $22 million for the college’s own $22 million endowment.

What’s clear is that the university negotiators showed no interest in reaching an agreement that would benefit both the college and the university. Bottom line, they wanted cash. And now it’s reasonable to assume that should the college close, the university leaders will sell off its assets to the highest bidder.
Trustee asset raids worthy
of Wall Street barbarians

Turns out the University wanted to make a grab for assets created at and by the college. The $22 million endowment was only part of it. The University also demanded that it keep WYSO, the college radio station whose license could be sold for a small fortune, and Antioch Education Abroad, another potential money maker. Both WYSO and the education abroad program were begun before there ever was a university.

From Inside Higher Education:
And in an additional complication, university officials said over the weekend that if another buyer for the college emerged — willing to pay for the college with cash immediately and willing to let the university keep Antioch’s NPR stations — a sale was still possible. This prompted a mock ad on Craigslist that said: “Antioch College no longer holds any substantial meaning or value to its Board of Trustees, beyond what it can be sold for on the open market. Offers by alumni groups promising to operate the college in a continuous manner, beholden to its traditional values of openness and academic freedom are particularly loathsome. Real Estate developers with proven military-industrial success are preferred. Contact the Board of Trustees at their Corporate Headquarters in Yellow Springs for more info.”
Also from the same article:
A statement from the university said that negotiations fell apart because the alumni group, which offered to buy the college for $12.2 million, was able to provide only $6 million in cash immediately, and wanted to pay off the remaining sum over the next few years. The lack of security made the deal impossible for the board to accept because the university’s creditors wouldn’t have liked it, said the statement. (At least one trustee, however, reported that there was never a formal vote on the matter and that some trustees might well have accepted the condition.) The statement went on to pledge support for the revival of the college at some point in the future.

Leaders of the Antioch College Continuation Corporation disputed the board’s statement. Eric Bates, co-chair of the group, called the board’s statement “mostly incorrect” and said that he was “shocked” by it. Specifically, he said that his group had offered to use the physical campus of the college to back up its financial pledges, so that in fact the alumni had offered something of far more value than the funds it would have still owed the university.

Borgersen [One of the people trying to keep the college open] said [of the trustees] …“They are trying to build a University of Phoenix clone out of the ashes of Antioch College and we will not let that happen.
From another source comes the news that Tulisse (“Toni”) Murdoch, the Chancellor of Antioch University, received a campus-wide vote of no confidence from the college community last year.
The referendums stated Murdock has “violated long-standing Antioch College values, community standards, and the Civil Liberties Code.” This community-wide vote of no confidence in Chancellor Murdock unifies the two pre-existing votes of no confidence in the Chancellor by Antioch College faculty and union staff. The College’s advisory body to the President, Adcil, was concerned and frustrated with the lack of consultation leading to the departure of President Steve Lawry. The community also endorsed a second referendum that advocates independence from the Antioch University system, including a separate Board of Trustees. This referendum posits that Antioch College can maintain operations beyond the 2007-2008 academic year by attaining autonomy and with the support of the College Alumni Board
And if you think Tulisse Murdoch’s reign is better on other “University” campuses, find the full text of this post to an article about Antioch from an anonymous faculty wife on the University’s Seattle campus. (You'll have to scroll down once you reach the linked article to find it.)
The science laboratory on the Seattle campus is a 3’by 5’ former clothes closet. A shelf has been installed, upon this shelf sets two (2) very, very cheap (toy store) microscopes. Yes, folks that is a science lab in Antioch terms. Any curriculum to accompany this facility? What do you think?
And so I’m waiting, Mr. Ohio Attorney General. Please bring in your charitable trust experts, your forensic accountants, a couple of hard-nosed assistant DAs and lots and lots of subpoena forms. With any luck, we may see some trustees and university administrators performing a classic dance:

The Perp Walk.

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