By: Steve Duffy
The Fall 2015 Issue of The Antioch Review has hit the mailboxes of loyal subscribers and perhaps some new readers have picked it up on campus. The Review, of course, has cover art done by local graphic-art designer David Battle. David always seems to come up with great graphic metaphors. He has done covers for The Review since 1975 and has won international design awards for those covers. He and The Review’s editor, Robert Fogarty are certainly great partners in crime, putting great imagination into print-form, in both text and art. David has added “colour, humour and glamour” to the covers of The Review. Those covers are well infused with David’s quiet British wit, of course! Mr. Battle even weaves into those graphics occasionally witty, sublime and artistic plays on words. A previous Antioch Review in Spring 2010 cover theme “From the ridiculous to the sublime” certainly put a twinkle in my eye! Its cover had a cartoon navy blue submarine with a bright lime floating directly below it.
The Fall 2015 Issue is about “The Educated Heart.” On the cover is a valentine-like heart as a face clad in traditional cap and gown. In a fun way it seems to beckon you to get inside the heart of the matter and also what “issues” might be inside the Fall 2015 issue.
When it comes to having an “educated heart” perhaps many Antiochians are a few heartbeats ahead of other humans. We all seem to share some adventures during our college years that were occasionally heart pounding. I have memories of flying into southern Florida for a winter co-op at a Boynton Beach Hospital and looking down at what seemed to be like an exotic blue-green ocean paradise. I also have memories of flying into a super verdant San Francisco Bay area after passing over the snow packed Sierras. Later that same day, which was another year’s winter co-op in an elementary School in Mill Valley at the base of Mt. Tamalpais and the Muir Woods redwood forest, I was awed by the first experience of smelling lush eucalyptus groves after a winter California rain (especially when I knew the places I would normally be in January would all be covered with ice, snow and gray slush).
You should know that current Antiochians still have similar experiences even in a world that has gotten a little more problematic than it was in some of our decades. I hope to give you a peek at a taste of some new co-op moments as I continue grazing some exotic places. Sometimes you can hear current students bring up their co-ops when they are in library studying or if you go to a “co-op swap” session at the beginning of a quarter.
I have been involved with a “virtual” Antioch College Alumni Chapter (AOC or Antiochians of Courage for Diversity). It was originally named the Alumni of Color Group (note the same acronym!). The original group was broadened to include spouses and allies that may have a different difference. This group is a geographically challenged alumni group. Although the group is composed of people from vastly different cities and decades we do share a common hope, that of helping Antioch College and its students. It also has an aim of reattaching alumni, most specifically those who don’t look, well, exactly like a “Buffalo.”
This chapter, which is basically an affinity group to help diverse humans, got its start at some picnic tables at the 2006 Reunion when Jewel Graham was given the J.D. Dawson Award for Support and Service to the College. Many people of course made a pilgrimage to that reunion to celebrate Jewel and her many years serving as a great professor and mentor. Throughout that reunion some of Jewel’s former students and Elaine Comegys, associate dean of students emeritus felt a need to continue what Jewel would sometimes tell us was “the good fight.” By Sunday, as reunion was winding down a dozen or so people decided to gather around two picnic tables by Pennell House (which had been a celebration location for the 70 through 90s decades and also many of the years that Jewel taught Social Work. Bradley Wilburn ’85, Athena Frederick Turner ’82 and Kenneth Frederick ’86, Charley Brown ’82, Eric Miller ’81, Duane Grier ’81, Alicia Williams (yr) Sidney Davis ’66, Maceo Cofield ’71 and some lurkers worked on a vision and a mission either at that table or later. The idea was to add small catalytic assists for institutional diversity. A Walter Anderson Award was imagined and also a first fund that might help students and alums of color stay connected or become reconnected to the institution.
During the College’s suspension the mission of the group remained on the back burner while we all fought for the College, but again regained energy as we began again. The group has had bi-monthly phone calls, has a Facebook page and sometimes holds an open meeting at Reunion. The fund, although small, had at one point grown to $21,000. During some conference calls one thing that everyone agreed might be most doable was to give co-op stipends from this first Fledgling Alumni of Color(s) fund. Although the larger group changed its name the fund remains its originally crafted vision and intent. Additionally, the group has helped send students to some Great Lakes Colleges Association conferences, A Mississippi 50th Anniversary Freedom Summer Conference and a 50th Anniversary Field trip to Selma, Ala. At this point, eight students have also received co-op stipends. As books are now astronomically expensive the group agreed that co-op stipends and field trips were still the most optimal use of funds. Although the co-op stipends have been for students of color the field trips have been open to all. Stipends toward conferences and field trips have been given to an entire rainbow of students. This way the original intent of the fund has been pretty closely followed.
I re-read Jewel’s 2006 J.D. Dawson Award speech “Adventures in the Real World” looking for some inspiration or wisdom. She talked about her long Antioch career, going to law school at age 50 and also her travels as the President of the World YWCA. She likened them to her own co-op experiences, and how finally as a senior faculty member realized she was the one responsible for some institutional memory in a Community of Life-Long Learners. She also asked in that speech “What do most Antiochians remember about their time here?” I suspect it’s the impact of the co-op experiences—the substandard apartment, the lousy bus schedules, the horrible supervisor, the challenging client, the wonderful colleagues, the stimulating locale…
As part of AOC co-op stipends students are required to write an initial proposal and then a follow-up reflection piece. In 2012 a Mexican-American student used the stipend to help her get through a co-op in India where they allegedly speak the world’s fastest language. What follows is a glimpse of that experience:
“My co-op in India was of the best experiences I have had in my life. I was able to immerse in a new culture in many ways. Indian culture is so different from the American one, but that’s what made me fall in love with India. When I would take the bus, there would be people latching onto to your arm or backpack in order for them to make sure they got on the bus. When making a line to buy something or get into a place Indians get to get very close to each other, there was not any personal space. The staring! Everywhere I went there was always someone looking at me as if I were from another planet. I found it funny because I thought I was going to blend in with the Indians, but I was mistaken. Although some Indians thought I was from Northern India, or wondered if I had ancestors from India. I honestly loved when they asked me, “Are you sure you’re not from India?” It was such a great question. Oh God, and the honking and spitting of Indians! In India, or at least in the south Kerala, there were no traffic signs, so in order for Indians to make sure they didn’t crash their cars, bus, motorcycle, or tuk-tuk they honk when they are turning left or right, going back, stopping, when there’s a curve or simply because they wanted to go in front of you. The spitting! I could not get used to this. Men and women, both do it all the time and everywhere.”
I came to appreciate things I take for granted back in the U.S. or Mexico. For example, not having air conditioning and being cold at night. Not having a comfortable/thick mattress and having neck or back pain because of it. Taking a shower with cold water in a bucket in the morning (It is expected for Indians to be clean before starting any task). Having to pour water from a bucket after using the toilet! Also having to do laundry by hand! I could never be sure if my clothes were entirely clean. All those things make me appreciate THIS culture so much more and value what I have at the tip of my fingers here. This experience would not have been possible without help from Antioch and the AOC. Being able to travel around Kerala and Tamil Nadu was crucial for my experience.”
The AOC has papers for as many as thirty or more students. Some are from those who have gone to conferences and as well as co-ops. Those papers may reflect the education of some hearts. When combined with classroom and Community experience the hope is that these will all be synergistic.
Co-op stipends have included co-ops in a Navajo Reservation in Arizona, an Arts center in New Orleans, a Theater in Santa Fe, working with terminally ill children in Las Vegas, a biochemistry lab in Penn State, and soon a Biology lab co-op in Chicago and a co-op in Nepal for Earthquake Relief along with some video documentary work. Students who have received these stipends include Mexican Americans, Black Puerto Rican, African-American, Mexican American and Afghani-American. Students who have gone to conferences also include White and Asian Americans to round out the rainbow. In addition to reflection papers there have also been a couple of Friday Fora to share with the larger community peoples’ stories from these field trips.
A possible future idea is also an Alumni Speaker Series maybe in conjunction with the Coretta Scott King Center. These things sometimes evolve in such manner as Jewel said about committees in her “Adventures in the Real World” talk. “They move at glacial paces.” Until then, co-op is still there along with conferences as the fund’s optimal use.
There is always much more to tell you than can fit. Sometimes it is good to tell you about the campus but sometimes it may also be good to graze the surface of some hearts as they travel away and back to this small and special Southwest Ohio oasis of a campus.
Long live co-ops in totally different places and please be sure, dear heart, to share some pieces of your heart when your return. We might be the ones to get the education!