Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Okay, this is fucked up!

I hate to push down my post on Musician's Co-Op so soon (and if you haven't read it yet, scroll down one entry, read it now, and come right back up here -- those are my orders!), but I got this group e-mail from Andy Valeri with two alarming bits of news in it: (1) Antioch College may be closing its doors and (2) public radio station WYSO, currently an NPR station owned by the college, may become (hold onto your fucking hat) a syndicated Christian radio station. No shit.

For those who don't know, Antioch College has sort of been Ohio's little piece of Berkeley since its founding in 1852. Even before the '60s, it was an oasis in the midwest for anarchists, communists, crackpots (god love 'em all), and generally dissident thinkers of all kinds. Its first president was legendary educational iconoclast Horace Mann. Its distinguished alumni include civil rights activist Coretta Scott King, actor Cliff "Uncle Ben" Robertson, Twilight Zone creator Rod Serling, American poet Mark Strand, and (more to our purposes) deceased indie rock icon Mia Zapata.

Even before WYSO became an NPR affiliate in the '80s, the station was blazing trails in radio culture, sporting all sorts of local color and "anything goes" blocked shows that approached the current "freeform" programming of New Jersey's legendary WFMU. Since the late '80s (and perhaps before) the station has been an outstanding supporter of Miami Valley music artists, as documented in numerous entries on this very blog and other places.

Now, apparently, the long and the short of it is that Antioch is out of money, and the current powers that be want to carve up the college's assets and sell them piecemeal. WYSO's license is one of the prize items in this auction.

Okay, I have to admit something at this point: Antioch College students have always rubbed me the wrong way. I've met very few that I could even tolerate on a personal level. I have found that many of the ones I've known, while strongly committed to some cause or some form of artistic expression or whatever, seem severely lacking in the ability to feel compassion for other humans on a personal level. Put more simply, I've just known too many who care more about being an individual than they do about the individuals surrounding them.

Of course, that's my beef, and I hope I haven't made myself persona non grata in Yellow Springs (where I lived for two years in the '90s and have considered returning to when I begin practicing). But I have to say it because I want you to know that I mean it when I write that the loss of Antioch College and WYSO is a loss to the Miami Valley and the world. Even though I have a personal distaste for many of the Antioch students I've known, the world needs them. The world needs the kind of person that Antioch College produces -- as much or more as it needs the kind of person that Harvard or Dartmouth or Smith produces.

For more information on Antioch's current dilemma, read this article from the Dayton Daily News that Andy sent me.

And here are some postings he sent me from people involved in the Keep WYSO Local effort:
Recent articles in the Dayton Daily News raise a big red flag about WYSO. The University doesn't want to include it in the "sale " of the College. If the University keeps the station it seems unlikely, to me at least, that it is doing so because it wants to operate a community radio station. More likely it plans to sell the license to the highest bidder. I think we need to be raising the issue with friends in the College/Alumni community and encourage them to continue to push to have WYSO included in the sale of the college. The fate of the station is being decided now.

The most recent press release from the group (ACCC) that is trying to buy Antioch College from the University, reporting on the negotiations the ACCC, writes....

"In talks, the University's negotiating team spoke of its desire to "leverage the College's assets" and made clear that it did not want to share ownership of WYSO because it wants to explore the possibility of selling the public radio station."

---Ellis Jacobs

I am sounding the alarm loudly.

Antioch University shows every sign of wanting the college to fail, whereupon it can maximize return on various Yellow Springs holdings: real estate, WSYO license.

Over the past 10 months, it has dragged its feet in negotiations with the college alumni in order to realize the objective of closing the college. And the village has had to witness all this as a hapless bystander. If the University prevails in closing the college, this town is headed for a very uncertain future. In addition to loosing income tax revenue for at least 3-4 years while the University "redesigns" its Antioch College campus, village government would do well to plan for a future that sees no re-opening of the college at all. After all, the plans that have been outlined by Chancellor Murdoch are sketchy and rely on significant participation by Antioch College Alums. She really does seem to think that the alums will have amnesia in a dozen or so months and this whole flap will have blown over. Well, the village should NOT hitch its future to THAT wagon. And as for WYSO, the public radio station that this town helped to build, well, don't be surprised if it is sold off to help finance a new Antioch/Seattle campus.

Last June, when people were expressing shock and dismay over the announced closure of Antioch College, Glenn Watts was overheard saying "when we are done, you won't recognize the College." One should take him at his word and meditate long and hard about how central the college has been (and even in its current diminished state continues to be) the defining ethos for this quirky little berg of ours.

HEAR IT HERE, if you haven't already: the hope for the continuation of Yellow Springs as we know it is with the college alumni and their plans to keep the college in operation. With their plan, not only will village tax revenues continue apace, but the college, infused with alumni energy and support for the first time in decades will lead a renaissance for this town and among other things provide a true foundation for the emerging YS Arts Center.

As for the University and its crowd of administrators, do not be surprised if various key players make "career moves" in the near future now that there is a big mess that they might have to help clean up.

EVERYONE, be very careful about what representatives of the University say; the promises they make, A lot of what they say may well prove itself to be just so much smoke. And if serious planning is based on any of what they say, it should be backed up by serious alternative contingencies. To plan any other way when dealing with this crowd would be foolhardy.

---Michael Jones

Finally, here are links to the entries on this blog relating to Antioch College and WYSO:take care



Anonymous said...

Just what we need, more Christians hawking for Jeebus, feeding their sheep the usual pabulum of self-moralizing sermons and artistically-vapid music. Utterly sad.

Jeffrey said...

...pull the plug on WYSO and Dayton becomes even more sucky.

I hadn't been following the Antioch story too close, but I sure do listen to WYS0.

So Antioch University, not only do they want to screw over Yellow Springs and the 4 year college, they want to screw over the entire region by closing one of two full time public radio stations.