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A Visit to Two Villages

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During these uncertain times there are two things that are certain. The Village of Yellow Springs and the Antioch College Campus (its own village or bubble) are two places that are small but mighty… yet far from mundane.

Although this Buffalo is mostly “pasture-ized”, fifty-some years of College and Village involvement makes it possible to feel mostly at home during any visit. You almost know everyone coming down the main drag (Xenia Avenue) and in many of the shops. The same is true on a walk across campus. There are more “Hellos” per square mile than most places in the universe. There are a few less hugs now (unfortunately) as we are in a pandemic.

Villagers and visitors are encouraged to mask up!

Downtown abounds with rainbow flags (Even Ye Olde Trail Tavern!) and posters announcing cultural and activist events. The Emporium window (a place for good coffee, spirited conversation, and “spirits”) with all its signs might make you think you are in a mini-Berkeley. A banner over the entrance to downtown YS reminds people that YS wants you to mask up! You know you you arrived at a place that is outside the normal normal.

The first years are now into their second fortnight and the returning students have settled in. It is great to see students and staff on the campus.

Thirteen years ago around this time of year (with assistance from the Carnegie-Mellon Foundation, the GLCA (Great Lakes College Association), and Earlham College) a 3-day weekend event was held at Earlham College about “Re-inventing a College.” We had just been closed down and many of us felt a terrible grief like a living being that we loved had passed. All kinds of folks in the area and around the country were working on reviving and bringing back something we all felt just about had its own soul. No matter what decade you talked to! So segments of all kinds of these “stakeholders” were invited to the conference sponsored by folks from the GLCA like Rick Detweiler. Among the stakeholders were Alumni Board Members, alums, some Board of Trustee Members. Also, those in limbo including faculty, students, staff. Also some prominent villagers. As the weekend sessions began there were some general statements about “the mission of a liberal arts college” from several passionate people in a giant room and then the multitude was broken down into about a dozen or more small groups of a dozen or so with equal distribution of the various stakeholders. People were schooled about budget, funding, tuition discounting, faculty and staff salaries, and other variables. Of course mission and vision were in the mix.

After three days each group selected a person to sum up their group’s collective work. Each group pumped its figures into a program and at the end of the workshop came the results. It was interesting to note that not one of the dozen or so small groups (some of which had educators and finance people from the outside world) came out with an institution that over some years forward in time ran in the black! Everyone’s challenge for those times (the beginning of the Great Bush Recession) and perhaps these times. The group I was in was blessed to have Larry Rubin ’65 in it to present the institutional pitch. He summed up in a thirty second elevator speech of the traditional college ethos in a few words and had everyone in the room laughing. He quipped “Antioch has always been a combination of Quaker consensus and Jewish arguing.” I think some of those Earlham Quakers in the room also had a good laugh as well. Larry was a pro at quiet deadpan delivery!

Thirteen years later and here we are. Hundreds and hundreds of people have passed through and more than the students probably got an education. And last year the College didn’t run in the red… better than all the hopeful groups at that 2008 conference. One of the tips of advice from the GLCA folks in 2008 was to find a common “heritage”or something to unite on, and look more forward than backward. Pretty hard to do when so many of us have such vivid and varying memories. Turns out experiential education is quite an experience and people tussle over their own legacy.

Rules of Engagement in Community, developed by the first year students during orientation, as seen in the Olive Kettering Library

Please note: Quite an amazing feat that in this time is that the College has had NO COVID cases on campus since the beginning of 2021. If the rest of the outside world could be like us this terrible time would be on the wane for sure. Although people are spread out on a large campus and it may seem lonesome, they are getting to have a great and safe education and in a community in which they are happy to belong. (And happy to return from Co-op.)

I had many great conversations on my sojourn today, and before I knew it the day was about done! I was amazed by everyone’s positivity. I almost had to pinch myself!

My day started by driving through the fields between Dayton and YSOH. At intervals, September is a most perfect time in YS. The humidity is down and sometimes even way down. The sky is deep blue with puffy clouds. There are signs that soon there will be much more yellow in Yellow Springs. The first hint is that the fields of soybeans turn into a bright yellow carpet (which they were today) and some trees are beginning to turn as some nights creep down into the fifties. Summer may try to return but in a fortnight or so the sun will be on the other side of the planet!

Upon leaving the Credit Union in downtown YS and heading to the parking lot by the market I bumped into Michael Casselli ’87 and congratulated him on his tenure. I said, “I hope to see you later.” He said, “I will be in classes all afternoon! I did manage to go to a Community Gathering in 113 McGregor where there was a hybrid set-up (in person and online) to interview a candidate for Vice President of Student Affairs, or as many of us remember in simpler times, Dean of Students. Same grueling work, just a fancier title.

College Archivist Scott Sanders

After watching the meeting with the candidate I talked with several students outside in the horseshoe, then walked around some and thought I would finish the day by passing through the OK Library. I bumped into The Record team, saw Scott Sanders checking out the latest copy of The Record (another will come out soon). Emily Samborsky (the new librarian) and Scott told me about a faculty member who was in the naughty zone by having too many late books; that makes computer systems freak out. But, faculty holding onto books for years was nothing new to me because I often would hound faculty like Louis Filler, Peter Townsend, Hassan Rahmanian, or Jean Gregorek. All great academics! What would one do without those scoundrels? A little love and some gentle nagging work wonders, some of the time!

Soon, before we all know it, September will have slipped by and it will be the start of ANTIOCHTOBER! An October Reunion and other events, mostly virtual. However, at this point, it does look like the Volunteer Work Project will be coming in-person for the first week of October. Their presence will be a great birthday present to the College as October 5th is the date of Founder’s Day, or the equivalent of an institutional Birthday. Events will rev up throughout October and the second half of ANTIOCHTOBER will rock out with a Virtual Div Dance (and perhaps a virtual Camelot Bike race?). There are some positive aspects to a virtual reunion in the Zoomiverse. Decade receptions last year were deep and meaningful without all the hub-bubbery of a loud crowd. Be sure to put the rake down, tape your football games, and join like-minded left-leaning company in many of the ANTIOCHOBER events.

And by next July we all hope the world will be more like the Antioch College Campus…. No COVID cases and sometimes NO FOOTBALL….and the hopes next summer for an in person gathering.

Stay in touch! Much love to all.

Photos by Steven Duffy ’77

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