And yet this did not go unchallenged. Steve Lawry, for instance, after two years of dealing with the Antioch University governance structure, had come to understand the lack of viability for the college within it. Immediately after the closure announcement, he publicly went on the record saying that the college would never survive without its own board of trustees. He also started working with the alumni effort to prevent the closure, up until Chancellor Murdock suddenly and unceremoniously removed him from his position.
Meanwhile, 200 students, more than half of the number expected to attend prior to the closure announcement, showed up on campus for the last year. One hundred of those were first-years who made the decision that one year at Antioch was worth it. A mass alumni and community movement to save the college began as well, raising millions of dollars in cash and pledges.
Antioch University’s behavior over the course of the next year is the clearest demonstration that it was the villain in the story of how Antioch College closed. Three distinct alumni proposals to keep the college open were considered by the Antioch University Board of Trustees, even accepted temporarily, but eventually discarded or rejected. Along the way, the Antioch University administration and board acted as the antagonists throughout these talks. For non-Antiochians, the question of “Why wouldn’t the people in charge do whatever they could to keep the college open?” was a confusing one, but in the end, the answer was quite simple: The leaders and structures of Antioch University had committed themselves to the belief that they were better off with Antioch College closed.1
In the final reckoning, the question of “Who killed Antioch College?” becomes quite easy to answer. It was killed by a governance structure that took away its autonomy, killed by a structure that imposed austerity yet demanded growth, killed by the imposition of a grandiose and damaging Renewal Plan, killed by the university’s short-sighted decision to let the flagship college close to try to strengthen its other parts.
The question of whether these policies were intentionally damaging or the result of difficult choices is endlessly debatable. But the results are much less so: Antioch College died as a result of consistently poor decision-making by its corporate owners at Antioch University.
Yet the closure of the college at the end of the 2007–2008 school term was not the end of the story. A fourth alumni push to gain control of the college succeeded, although this one could not keep the doors open. After months of negotiations, a group of wealthy and influential alumni succeeded in purchasing the school, and reopened it in fall 2011. Although many alumni and supporters of the closed Antioch have embraced the new school, tension exists between it and its past. As a non-successor institution, it has rejected job and admission applications from former faculty and students, and the lack of transparency from its Board of Trustees is worryingly similar to that same trait of Antioch University’s board. It remains to be seen just how much of the best and how much of the worst of Antioch has been inherited by the new Antioch College.