Ex-Antioch teachers launch school without campus

From the left, student Derrick Lane, professor Don Wallis, and students Dennie Eagleson, Ben Stringer, and Brooke Bryan, listen to a speaker during a journalism class being held in the basement of a home, Wednesday, Sept. 10, 2008, in Yellow Springs, Ohio. The unconventional classes are taught by former Antioch College teachers, who hope to keep the spirit of the financially strapped school alive until it reopens. (AP Photo/Al Behrman)
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YELLOW SPRINGS, Ohio (AP) -- In a wood-paneled basement filled with boxes of nuts, bolts and screws, a college journalism class is under way.

Naked wooden beams and ductwork hang overhead. The instructor's voice competes with the sound of the furnace, which kicks on from time to time.

This makeshift classroom is part of a patchwork of homes, churches and offices cobbled together to form the "Nonstop Liberal Arts Institute," spawned by former professors of Antioch College, which closed temporarily earlier this year amid financial problems.

Professors launched the institute this week to preserve the school's spirit and maintain its core of teachers.

"We want to keep the DNA alive," said Scott Warren, former associate professor of philosophy. "We want to keep the soul moving until we get the campus back."

Classes are being held just about anywhere in southwest Ohio, including a Buddhist meditation center and an office above a mattress store.

The institute, funded by Antioch alumni, has attracted about 60 students in its first semester, Warren said. Its pupils range from former Antioch College students to local villagers, including an 87-year-old woman and a 65-year-old man.

Its staff includes about 20 former Antioch College teachers, plus a handful of retired Antioch teachers and instructors from nearby colleges who have volunteered to teach for free.

The Yellow Springs institute is unaccredited and is not affiliated with Antioch.

Former Antioch College student Molly Thornton was planning to transfer to another school, but got caught up in the Antioch alumni's excitement about the institute this summer.

"I said 'Oh, this is really going to happen,'" recalled Thornton, 20, of Santa Fe, N.M. "My plan is to stay here indefinitely."

Tuition costs $1,500 per semester, and students must make their own living arrangements and provide their own meals.

Located about 15 miles east of Dayton, Antioch College is known for its pioneering academic programs that produce students with a passion for free thinking and social activism. The college is the flagship of Antioch University, which also has campuses in Seattle, Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, Calif., and Keene, N.H.

Trustees say they want the college to reopen as soon as possible, and they have asked alumni to propose a plan in which the college would operate independently of the university.

Toni Murdock, chancellor of Antioch University, has said she applauds the passion of the group, but questions whether courses taken at the institute can be applied toward graduation at other schools. Warren said the institute is seeking accreditation and believes that many colleges will give students credit for coursework they complete at the institute.

"It's not bad," said Derrick Lane, 20, of Cleveland, who attended Antioch College for two years. He said the institute has the same ideals as the college and many of the same teachers.

"I'm so liking the Antioch stuff that transferring somewhere else would be a major culture shock," he said.

Classes offered at the institute include such courses as "Revolutions: Theory and Practice," "The Art of Political Discourse: Critical Thinking," and "Visions of Suburbia."

"We're homeless," said Dennie Eagleson, who taught at Antioch College for 20 years and now teaches photography at the institute. "What we've tried to do is detach ourselves from that struggle - which was really heartbreaking and hard - into something we have control over."


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