June 30, 2007


Who killed Antioch? Womyn: The college went from liberal bastion to PC laughingstock with its sex and dating policy. (Meghan Daum, June 30, 2007, LA Times)Even though it was founded in 1852 and has a number of distinguished alumni, Antioch College, the flagship institution of a larger system called Antioch University (there are campuses in Los Angeles and Santa Barbara, among other locations) has an endowment of just $40 million. That's appallingly low — neighboring Ohio colleges Oberlin and Kenyon have endowments of $700 million and $165 million, respectively.

There's no lack of speculation as to how this happened. Many have suggested that the career choices of typical Antioch alums (think public servant or activist rather than CEO or law partner) do not lend themselves to generous contributions. Others see a more general problem with liberal philanthropy. In a podcast interview for InsideHigherEd.com, Bard College President Leon Botstein (who in the 1970s was president of the seriously far-out and short-lived Franconia College) came down hard on what he sees as a failure of liberals to support their institutions.

"One of the tragedies of the progressive liberal movement," Botstein said, "is that unlike at a conservative institution — such as Princeton or Dartmouth, where the alumni are deeply loyal and give it support and money — for liberals, higher education is not a strong enough cause. Their causes are social causes, and higher education is left for the conservatives to fund."

Whether or not contemporary Princeton or Dartmouth can fairly be characterized as conservative (though, admittedly, you have to declare a major at these places, and it can't be in roach-clip design), Botstein makes a good point. He also conjectured that Antioch, which he called "the founding college of the American progressive movement," had been "killed" by, among other things, its own liberalism.

Botstein's not totally wrong, but as members of his baby boom generation are apt to do, he equates "liberalism" and liberals with the demonstrations of the 1960s and 1970s, including a six-week campus strike in 1973 during which students firebombed buildings to protest racial inequality at the school. But it was the next iteration of liberal excess that really did the place in. To later generations, Antioch is famous for one thing: its Sexual Offense Prevention Policy.

In 1993, it suddenly became national news that Antioch required anyone engaging in sexual activity on campus to ask for and grant permission throughout every step of the encounter. Conceived by a group called Womyn of Antioch, the policy stipulated that consent could not be granted through body movements, nonverbal responses or silence. Furthermore, it stated that "consent is required each and every time there is sexual activity" and that "each new level of sexual activity requires consent." Translation: dorm room make-out sessions were being punctuated by steamy questions like, "May I kiss you now?", "May I remove your (Che Guevara) T-shirt now?" and "May I … " (you get the idea).

Admittedly, this was the early '90s, a time when many liberal arts campuses were so awash in the hysteria of political correctness that it seemed entirely possible a lamppost could commit date rape. But the attention to the Antioch policy, which got as far as a "Saturday Night Live" sketch, not only came to symbolize the infantilizing dogma of the new left, it turned an already obscure college into a laughingstock.
..there'd be no Ivies.

Posted by Orrin Judd at June 30, 2007 7:19 AM

Did those rules apply to lesbians?

Posted by: ratbert at June 30, 2007 8:27 AM

What rules ever apply to lesbians?

Posted by: John Barrett Jr. at June 30, 2007 10:23 AM

The so-called, self-proclaimed "progressives" do not contribute to their institutions because they are shallow, cynical hypocrites. Their mock dedication to "causes" is a foil for their neglect of decency to family and community.

I salute the LA Times writer for the "May I remove your (Che Guevara) T-shirt now?" line. Well done.

Posted by: Lou Gots at June 30, 2007 12:40 PM

It's not a surprise that few want to go to a very liberal college where it's hard to get laid. It's the worst of both worlds!

Posted by: PapayaSF at June 30, 2007 1:17 PM

I thought Bennington College in Vermont held the honors in PC gone mad.

Posted by: erp at June 30, 2007 7:05 PM