Nonstop is the spirit of Antioch

Apr 30th, 2009

By Joe Blundo, Columbus Dispatch — read the original editorial here.

YELLOW SPRINGS, Ohio — Two students and an underpaid philosophy professor sit at a kitchen table, studying existentialism and keeping the spirit of Antioch College alive.

“We’re the cockroaches after the nuclear war,” says the professor, Scott Warren.

He might have been understating the persistence of Antiochians.

When its parent institution closed the ailing college last year, alumni and faculty members raised $1.4 million, created office space in an old factory and established the Nonstop Liberal Arts Institute (nonstopinstitute.org).

True to its name, the institute has endured, despite precarious circumstances. When the spring term ends in May, it will have completed a school year of classes in churches, borrowed rooms and homes in this village about 60 miles southwest of Columbus.

Nonstop even has a library, stocked in part with books rescued from a Dumpster after the college closed.

Warren is earning far less than his Antioch salary, he said, “but I don’t think I’ve ever had so much fun.”

Critics called Antioch a poorly maintained, academically lax institution with a contentious culture intolerant of anyone whose views weren’t far to the left. Enrollment, more than 2,000 at its peak, had slipped to about 200.

But when former media-arts professor Chris Hill speaks of the “DNA of Antioch,” she’s talking about something else: For much of its 155-year history, Antioch was known for freedom of thought, progressive social policies, inclusive governance and adventurous students who alternated semesters in the classroom with semesters of travel and work.

Nonstop was created to preserve that unique DNA, she said. It has 27 college-age students and 38 nontraditional students, many of them Yellow Springs residents. The school is unaccredited, so the courses may or may not transfer.

Classes meet in places such as the Dharma Center, a Buddhist meditation house — where, on a recent weekday, Warren was teaching “Black Existentialism” to Lincoln Alpern and Jessie Clark.

Alpern, 21, of Peekskill, N.Y., enrolled at Antioch and stayed on at Nonstop.

“It’s just possible I could get as rich a learning experience and social experience at another institution somewhere, but the chances of my being able to figure out which one are vanishingly small.”

Clark, 21, of Milwaukee and also a former Antioch student, said that, as a member of the institute’s executive council, she helps run the school. Few colleges, she added, provide such opportunity.

Both admit to missing campus life.

Uncertainty is the watchword at Nonstop these days. Antioch alumni are negotiating to take over the college from its parent, the Antioch University system, and reopen it. Nonstop must raise enough money to continue until that day arrives — if it arrives.

Jean Gregorek, a former Antioch associate professor of literature who teaches at Nonstop, acknowledges that the situation might rightly be termed bleak.

“On the other hand, it’s been looking bleak for two years. Part of me thinks you just have to keep fighting.”

Joe Blundo is a Dispatch columnist.

jblundo@dispatch.com

Alternative Libraries

Apr 20th, 2009

The New Nonstop Library

Apr 19th, 2009

4,000 Books And Publications Find Home In The New Nonstop Library

Volunteer farmers, academics, and townspeople rallied to the cause to rescue 4,000 books and publications—discarded or left behind at the abandoned Antioch College Campus when Antioch University closed the school last July—until they could be safely housed in the Nonstop Library, in its newly constructed Headquarters.

A professional librarian guided the cataloging of the libraries. An alum (’64) drove across the country from Oregon to Yellow Springs—where she lived for two months—joined Nonstop students and staff to help organize the collection, while volunteer alumni, villagers, and Nonstop personnel painted the floors, built shelves, installed lighting, and donated computers and furniture. (This was an effort similar to the substantially volunteer campaign to renovate Nonstop’s 5,000 square-foot Headquarters: at a cost of $10 per square-foot, as opposed to the typical renovation cost of $100 per square-foot).

To make the books and publications accessible, Nonstop’s IT department installed an open source online checkout system and network, driven by a brand new $8,000 server, donated to Nonstop by an Antioch College alum.

This scalable library infrastructure—complete with protocols, bar codes, and database integration—sets a framework for an expandable knowledge base and future integration with an independent Antioch College.

These volunteer efforts by alumni, faculty and friends reflect the in-kind endowment of our grassroots effort to protect the past and preserve the present as we build our future.

Please visit the Nonstop Library on-line and watch a 4-minute video about this extraordinary liberal arts intervention.

library.nonstopinstitute.org

Nonstop Liberal Arts Institute
April 19, 2009

April 8 Issue of the Nonstop Record

Apr 17th, 2009

Edited by John Hempfling – Read the Record here

 
In this Issue:

  • Committees Form to Tackle Transition Issues
  • “An Evolving Piece of Work”: Joe Foley on role as Vice-President, the Nonstop budget and the Alumni Board’s upcoming challenges
  • Beehive Collective Pollinates Community Day
  • Nonstop Students at Work: An Academic Portfolio
  • Nonstop Planning for June Alumni Festival
  • We all believe we are torch bearers: an Interview with Micah Canal ’08
  • Question of the Week: Staff Special!
  • Concept Paper Forum: “The rest is pretty okay” by Gerry Bello ’97, “Cheap Glitter and Mixed Feelings,” by Lincoln Alpern ’11, “Collaborative Process,” by Dan Reyes, and more
  •  
    Letters to the Editors & Op/Eds:

  • “Support Nonstop,” by Chad Johnston ’01
  • “Support Nonstop, 2” by Tony Dallas
  • Continue Discussion in The Record Forums
  • Long Distance Mom: Antioch Confidential

    Apr 17th, 2009

    By Elizabeth Coffman, Blog U, Inside Higher Ed — read the original blog post here.

     
    “If evil is inevitable, how are the wicked accountable?
    Nay, why do we call men wicked at all?
    Evil is inevitable, but is also remediable.”
    –Horace Mann

    Horace Mann’s quote appears on the web site of “The Antioch Papers,” an open archive for materials that address the closing of Antioch College by the Board of Trustees of Antioch University in 2007, the misuse of Antioch endowment funds, and the rejection of alumni donations. Alumni have attempted to buy back the college from the governing Antioch University in order to operate independently. Even though progress seems to have been made recently, the Board has rejected all prior proposals from Antioch College alumni.

    In 1853 Horace Mann was Antioch College’s first provocative president. Antioch professor (and Mann niece) Rebecca Pennell was the first U.S. woman to receive equal pay and rank with male professors. Coretta Scott King and other important black civil right leaders attended or were graduates. The greatest irony of Antioch’s closing, and one that has not escaped these pages, is that Antioch College was known nationally for its shared governance practices, and as one of the first institutions to include students in the administrative life and decision-making of the college. As economic times have changed and enrollment levels dropped, however, Antioch’s conservative Trustee Board reveals the vacuum at the heart of shared governance practices — BOTs still hold the purse strings of universities and they can open and shut them at will.

    One of the documents on the “Antioch Papers” site (that Paula Treichler has also referenced) is Brian Springer’s video ANTIOCH CONFIDENTIAL (2008). Media curator and Antioch colleague Chris Hill brought the video to my attention recently when she was speaking last week at the Art Institute of Chicago. Hill is widely known in the media art world as someone who has supported, reviewed and documented the video art and public access movements of the 70s and 80s. She curated Video Data Bank’s important anthology, “Surveying the First Decade,” which demonstrates the cross-fertilization between artists, journalists and filmmakers in the early days of the video Portapak. From Steina Vasulka’s experimental video effects in SWITCH! MONITOR! DRIFT! (Steina Vasulka, 1976) to the QUEEN MOTHER MOORE SPEECH AT GREENHAVEN PRISON (People’s Communications Network, 1973), the push towards achieving a transparency of ideas, materials and politics with new forms of technology is obvious in Hill’s work.

    Transparency is the driving theme of ANTIOCH CONFIDENTIAL — a theme that becomes evident through ironic juxtapositions of material. The video opens with text appearing over an aerial shot of Antioch college from a 1967 student film: This footage was shot for you. Next, we cut to a shot from the Antioch College library video cameras: This footage was not shot for you. This footage was shot to document a Homeland Security exercise directed by a private corporation. Then, we drop back forty years earlier to a 1967 Antioch student film that was staged in the same part of the library (with the same paint color it appears), featuring a group of young, black performers happily singing “My Girl…”

    The dominant footage in ANTIOCH CONFIDENTIAL is the staged hostage takeover of the campus, a military exercise that began in Antioch’s Coretta Scott King Center in the same month as the announcement of the closing of the college. Springer creates links between the Antioch SWAT team contractor, L3/Titan, the company that supplied the translators for Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison, and the university board. The video text describes how student enrollment dropped dramatically once Antioch University took over the finances and curriculum of Antioch College. The blame for the mismanagement of Antioch College is clearly placed at the feet of the administration of Antioch University, just as mismanagement of the Iraq war by private contractors lies with the Bush administration. Not surprisingly, Antioch University threatened Brian Springer and Tim Noble, the “Antioch Papers” website creators, with legal action for the release of “confidential attorney-client communications.”

    Library staff resented military exercises taking place in their building and refused to close the Antioch library. In the video we occasionally see students checking out books while the theatrical hostage takeover with actors and plastic machine guns goes on around them. We hear Homeland Security and library staff talking off-camera about the exercise. An off-screen advisor provides direction to the terrorist/actor, “Call them oppressors of the masses…!” The actor then yells the statement across the library at other students, as directed. Someone else off-screen references the fact that the Homeland Security leader for the Antioch exercise is assigned directly to the (Bush) White House. Text and a link with the video provide more information about this figure — Kevin Gates, Executive Office of the President, Office of Science & Technology Policy, Homeland and National Security Division — striding through the Antioch library. Springer inter-cuts this 2007 “hostage” footage with the 1967 student music film throughout the video, juxtaposing an earlier Antioch College — a place for diversity and singing in the library — with the more recent Antioch College — a place for Homeland Security exercises and the silencing of a faculty.

    ANTIOCH CONFIDENTIAL continues video art’s investigative impulses by highlighting the paranoid conservatism that has grown out of the 9/11 tragedy and its unfortunate backlash. ANTIOCH CONFIDENTIAL makes obvious how this backlash can dampen diversity, end economic transparency, and stifle colleges with vision.

    In order not to shut down the Antioch learning environment (or the Yellow Springs economy) entirely, Hill and other faculty have formed the Nonstop Institute, a liberal arts educational “project,” funded by Antioch alumni. The Nonstop Institute continues to educate students according to the participatory and inclusive mission of Horace Mann.

    Meanwhile, Antioch’s sprinkler system has frozen and water has drained into closed classrooms. Antioch College continues to crumble, just as it appears that the alumni plan is making more progress with the BOTs. The Great Lakes College Association together with members of the Antioch College Alumni Association and the Antioch University Board of Trustees agreed in June 08 to have “conversations,” which led to a “Letter of Intent” in January 09 about creating an independent Antioch College. They better hurry…

    Nonstop Liberal Arts Institute to be Featured Presenter at University of Minnesota Higher Education Conference

    Apr 6th, 2009

    On April 24-26, Nonstop will participate in the Reworking the University conference in Minneapolis, MN. The conference is given by the University of Minnesota and  “seeks to draw together academics, artists, and activists, to share and produce political visions, strategies and demands for building an alternative university in common.”

    Nonstop will stream live audio of its presentations from the conference so that communities in Yellow Springs and beyond can listen.

    Nonstop has been invited to organize two sessions at the conference. The first will consist of presentations by faculty member Jean Gregorek and staff member Tim Noble. Jean Gregorek will present her paper Strategies for Fighting the Corporatization of Education: Lessons from The Nonstop Liberal Arts Institute. Her paper discusses the closing of Antioch College and the efforts of Nonstop in the context of recent academic scholarship on the shifting landscape of higher education. Tim Noble will present his paper, Learning from Disaster: Building a Communication Infrastructure from Zero Using FLOSS (Free/Libre/Open Source Software), will share his experiences building Nonstop’s technology infrastructure and discuss the important role that this infrastructure has played at Nonstop.

    Nonstop’s second session will be given by Executive Collective member Chris Hill and Antioch College alum Michael Casselli ’87 and will be a ‘gallery talk’ held in the University’s Bell Museum, where Nonstop’s installation “Education & Community” will be on display. “Education & Community” is a multi-media installation that integrates art and journalism, including student work, pertaining to the ongoing efforts to revive an independent Antioch College. The installation has been on display at Millworks since February 6. Nonstop’s geodesic dome will also be on display at the Bell Museum.

    According to the conference organizers, “this conference is a chance to create a space for collective re-evaluation of the university in crisis as an opportunity for real transformation.” Given the challenges, crises, and ongoing re-evaluation on the road to an independent Antioch College, Nonstop is in a unique position to contribute to this conference.