Select Page

From the Bubble: When Life Gives You Lemons…

Home » Campus News Latest » A Buffalo Grazing » From the Bubble: When Life Gives You Lemons…

Perhaps commonly held descriptors for what decades of Antiochians have felt about the Antioch Campus can be found in two concepts, “transient-mode home” and “the Bubble.” We all have perceptions of what home should be; and the idea of “the Bubble” was that campus should be a safe enough place to put your Co-op and other experiences together with your studies in a relatively unbothered, although cognizant, environment.

More and more, the world has seemed to be increasingly wilder politically, climate-wise, and in an epidemiological sense. In the uncertain times of COVID-19 and polarized politics, it is good to have a “transient-mode home” that is sort of a protective, transient “Bubble” more than ever.

Before the term began and into the first week from these Google-Hangout or events in the Zoomiverse, it is clear to me that we are in exceptional caring, capable and hard-working hands. Before the students came, in a briefing, Mila Cooper, vice president for Student Affairs, Senior Diversity Officer, and executive director of the Coretta Scott King Center, stressed that we are in a fluid situation. A lot of careful planning was done, and at this point, as far as that fluid situation goes, well, things are flowing quite well.

Although this Buffalo is somewhat pasture-ized, there is still one foot in the door as a consultant and community member. I have asked several current community members for their take on how it is to make this “transient-mode home bubble” the safest and best place for which one can hope and possibly learn and enjoy life as part of each one’s own unique Antioch Adventure. What follows is several peoples thoughts in these most uncertain times.

As it is that transitional summer to fall moment campus is lovely, green, and it is great to have many classes outside. I first asked Luisa Bieri, assistant professor of Cooperative Education, a member of the Bieri dynasty which includes Bob and George. She wants you to know the following:

There has been a lot of anticipation and extensive preparation to welcome students back to campus this fall. After the exciting news of the large size of our entering class, the energy of moving them into socially distant and hybrid teaching was mounting. It took me longer to prepare the classroom than most years—making sure the circle of chairs were each spaced six-feet apart and connecting the extension code to the OWL, one of our new 360 degree camera/microphones so that online students were able to join us. I was holding the “Dialogue Across Difference” class, required of all incoming students, outside under the Sculpture Annex Pavilion, the site of many a DIV dance. It was 8:15 AM and I hadn’t been so busy this early in the morning in months. Looking up, I started to see a trickle of students make their way past the Arts and Science Building and the mighty stand of burr oak trees towards this outdoor classroom. Soon, it was a stream of students and light chatter, all with our masks on and at a safe distance. Not only had they found the spot but they were early! Soon even as we adjusted outdoor voices and new technology in our midst, I started to feel the familiar awareness rising at the start of any new class at Antioch–an earnest and thoughtful, and kind group of humans gathering to learn and grow with one another. And so it begins….

The OKLibrary staff Kevin Mulhall, Scott Sanders, and Sandy Coulter. Photo by Wakka Ciccone ’05.

At the OKLIbrary Scott Sanders quipped,”The library staff hasn’t been this small since the INTERRUPTION of 2008!” He said that during the first week he worked some Buffalo’s old evening shift. He took peoples’ temperatures as they came in the door, shelved books, and when he couldn’t find misshelved items, he told himself to “channel his inner Buffalo.” So something that might have been under RC77.9 could have been read as RC 779 and found on the opposite shelf once he summoned his “‘inner Buffalo.” Scott says:

I have all kinds of trepidation about having school in a public health crisis. Good thing I work with people I trust. We’ve stored a lot of library furniture to make quarters less close and Director Kevin Mulhall keeps a six-foot stick handy to measure distances between chairs. (And this Buffalo might quip that can work for people too.) I feel for our new first-years because this is not what going off to college is supposed to be like.

As far as indoor classrooms go Michael Casselli ‘87, assistant professor of Sculpture and Installation, the sculpture studio that he has designed can accommodate 10 students in these times of COViD. According to Michael:

Michael Casselli’s studio space reconfigured for safer learning during the pandemic.

All furniture was built by Facilities staff member Josh Miller, and I could not have gotten this done without the help of two recent grads Tom Amrhein ’20 and Teddy Pierson ’17. This will make it possible to hold face-to-face studio classes while protecting students. I developed projects to reflect our current reality “Shelter, Safe, Breath, and Good Trouble.” This is also the first quarter of Antioch Commons-tagged courses. Antioch Commons is a first-year requirement, and we have redeveloped it so that there are four courses that have this tag, one in each division. These are open to everyone, not just first years, so that the incoming students and others will be getting together at the end of the term to present and discuss the idea of the Commons, how it is initiating the first experience of thinking about what a self-design major.

Casselli notes that his picture did not have any students in it because the students were, at that moment, outside learning about bamboo from Farm Manager Kat Christen, working on their first project, “shelter,” experimenting with ways of weaving bamboo to create walls and other structural components.

According to Kim Landsbergen, associate professor of Biology and Environmental Science:

“Unprecedented” is an overused term these days; but it is accurate for the times we are navigating together. This term I’m teaching Intro to Environmental Science and Ecosystem ecology. The intro class (like Casselli’s) is an Antioch Commons class, which means it shares some core learning goals with other classes in Visual Arts, Literature, and Social Sciences. First years are required to enroll in one of these classes. As faculty, there are four who teach these Commons classes (me, Michael Casselli, Cary Campbell (French), and Dean Snyder (political economy).

We have collaborated to coordinate our classes and will have a common assignment and mini-symposium at the end of the term. Our classes have two main threads: what does the notion of “the Commons” look like through the lens of your campus? The “Commons” theme is everywhere and in sharp focus right now, because so many aspects of our shared society depend on valuing and protecting our common Democracy, our environment, our public health. My intro course has 21 students enrolled, a few of them attending remotely. I’m teaching this course as a hybrid, where I’m on campus once a week and we are online once a week. My advanced class has six upper-level students. I am using apps like “remind” to text students because our class is sometimes outdoors and sometimes on the Farm. Our Media and IT staff have been working hard to help faculty have the media and resources we need to connect and record our lectures. Meeting online has its benefits because I love to see the faces and smiles of our students online, which we can’t see in person because we are all masked and socially distant. I admire my colleagues and students for working to focus engagement in the middle of a whirlwind of climate change storms and fires, a pandemic, struggles for justice for Black and Brown Lives, and with an impending election with our nation on a knife’s edge. As we step into the classroom together, we are building our own Beloved Community, doing the hard work of learning about the environment as we find our way through the Fall of 2020.

Finally some thoughts from our newly elected Community Manager, Coco Gagnet ’19, as we head to a WELCOME BACK event this evening.

Today I noticed how many leaves there are on the ground. The breeze is different. This morning outside the ledge of the Olive Kettering Library, during COVID times, this is the only common space on campus. I have been plugging away at emails, enjoyed the morning, including seeing sleepy-eyed students and a windswept Kevin Mulhall (Library Director) arrive on his bicycle. I met with Kat on the Farm to talk herbs, interviewed students for Antioch Works positions, worked with nomination forms for ComCil and College Council with Michael Casselli, returned to the Farm to harvest herbs, and phone chatted with Chris Chavers ’22 who is on Co-op in the Bay Area.

A day in the life of a Community Manager. What does it amount to?

For weeks I have been planning a Welcome Back event: We will write fall “Intention letters,” build “Happiness boxes,” and drink lemonade (in a safe fashion). I’m most excited about lemonade. Done right, it is an incredible balance of sweet, tart, and salt. I imagine taking a sip, with another Antiochian, someone I don’t really know. I imagine that for a millisecond of a moment, we’re so wholly focused on how good it is, that we forget ourselves. We feel together.

Or is this a fantasy?

As Community Manager, I am plugging away, I am listening. Trying to hear what the Community wants to be in the here and now. Learning to be together is not static, and never fully determined.

Always a fantasy, sometimes realized when you’re drinking lemonade together (safely).

To those of you away from “transient-mode home” or “the Bubble:” Much love from a Buffalo with one foot into the Bubble. Let us all make some tasty lemonade and toast all the heroes at a place called Antioch College. By the way, Coco knows food and lemonade as her family owns a gourmet restaurant named Coco’s. If you miss like-minded folks like the above, maybe you’ll participate in this year’s virtual Reunion. You might make your own lemonade from any of life’s lemons and hold up a celebratory toast. I even hear that there is an event at Reunion where you can cook along with a master chef and then virtually go to a movie with friends. That sounds like some great aid or lemonade, and possibly some fine dishes too, in this age which has its share of lemons.

“A Buffalo Grazing” is a regular feature by alum Steven Duffy ’77, known to many as the Buffalo or simply Duffy.