George Will

Steven Lawry -- Antioch's fifth president in 13 years -- came to the college 18 months ago. He told Scott Carlson of The Chronicle of Higher Education about a student who left after being assaulted because he wore Nike shoes, symbols of globalization. Another left because, she told Lawry, the political climate was suffocating: "They all think they are so different, but they are just a bunch of conformists."

Carlson reports that Lawry stopped the student newspaper's practice of printing "announcements containing anonymous, menacing threats against other students for their political views." Antioch likes to dabble in menace: It invited Mumia Abu-Jamal to deliver its 2000 commencement speech, which he recorded on death row in a Pennsylvania prison, where he lives because 26 years ago he shot a Philadelphia police officer first in the back, then three times in the face. Antioch's invitation was its way of saying ... what?

In an essay in the Chronicle, Cary Nelson, Antioch class of 1967 and now a professor of English at the University of Illinois, waxes nostalgic about the fun he had spending, as Antioch students did, much time away from campus, receiving academic credits. What Nelson calls "my employee resistance to injustice" got him "released from almost every job I had until I became a faculty member." But "my little expenditure was never noticed" when "I used some of Lyndon Johnson's anti-poverty money" to bus anti-Vietnam war protesters from Harlem to Washington.

Given that such was Antioch's idea of "work experience" in the "real world," it is unsurprising that the college never produced an alumni cohort capable of enlarging the college's risible $36 million endowment. Besides, the college seems always to have considered raising money beneath its dignity, given its nobility.

"Ben & Jerry could have named a new flavor for us," says John Feinberg, class of 1970 and president of the alumni board, with a melancholy sense of unfulfilled destiny. His lament for a forfeited glory is a suitable epitaph for Antioch.


George Will

George F. Will is a 1976 Pulitzer Prize winner whose columns are syndicated in more than 400 magazines and newspapers worldwide.
 
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