Shock, Awe, and Antioch

In June 2007 Anitoch University’s Board of Trustees announced that the college would be suspending operations as of July 2008 and would try to reopen in 2012. Subsequently, more than half of the faculty filed a lawsuit in August 2007 to bar Antioch from firing the college’s tenured faculty or liquidating the college’s assets. At present, the Antioch College Alumni Association has raised $12 million in donations and pledges in an effort to keep the socially-conscious college from closing next year. 

For those unfamiliar with Antioch, it is known as a private, independent liberal arts college in Yellow Springs, Ohio (there are six other affiliated campuses in the Antioch University system, which are reported not to be affected by the closing in Yellow Springs). Founded in 1852 by the Christian Connection, Antioch began operating in 1853 with Horace Mann as its first president, who gave the school its motto: “Be ashamed to die until you win some victory for humanity.”  

Though adopting a policy open to racial integration in the 1850s, the school did not aggressively recruit African Americans until the 1940s, one of the first mostly white colleges to do so. The school faced down criticism for refusing to expel students accused of “communist” leanings during the 1950s red scare and provided a setting for growing activism from the civil rights to the antiwar, New Left, and Black Power movements of the 1970s. In 1993 Antioch became the focus of national attention with its “Sexual Offense Prevention Policy.” This policy was initiated after two date rapes reportedly occurred on the Antioch College campus during the 1990-91 academic year. A group of students formed “Womyn of Antioch” to address their concern that sexual offenses in general were not being taken seriously enough by the Administration or some in the campus community—their revised document later became a model for other campuses. 

Its educational approach blends practical work experience with classroom learning and participatory community governance where students receive narrative evaluations instead of letter grades. Always a small school, the 2007 enrollment dwindled to just over 300 students. 

Mysteries still surround Antioch’s rapid and poorly explained closing. The Board has bizarrely turned to the “marketing, branding and public relations firm” of Simpson- Scarborough to peddle the closing decision. SimpsonScarborough CEO Christo- pher Simpson previously worked as an editor and writer for the notoriously right-wing Washington Times— a newspaper owned by Rev. Sun Myung Moon. The dark side of Moon, a self-proclaimed Messiah, is well-documented in the public record. A 1977 congressional report placed Moon on the payroll of the Korean CIA. Moon also has financial ties to former CIA Director George H.W. Bush. Simpson previously served as press secretary for the infamously racist U.S. senator, Strom Thurmond. How did the planned demise of America’s most socially liberal and activist college end up in the hands of a marketer with such strong right-wing credentials? 

When the Antioch Board of Trustees made the decision to close, three of the former trustees had clear ties to U.S. military and security industrial complexes. A trustee who argued strenuously for the closing, Lawrence Stone, runs Metron Inc. whose objectives are: “Support our DOD [Department of Defense] and Intelligence clients with advanced, mathematics -based products for dynamic target tracking, threat activity and event detection, and large-scale war-fighting simulation and analysis.” 

The Metron website stresses that its Oasis Group, among other things, is “…working directly with the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) and the Space and Naval Warfare Command (SPAWAR).” Metron provides “war games support” and lists CACI as a client, the company that supplied the interrogators for Abu Ghraib. Pulitzer Prize winner Seymour Hersh reported that Major General Antonio Taguba wanted two CACI employees reprimanded for ordering military police to physically abuse Abu Bharib prisoners.  

Bruce P. Bedford, one of three trustees not a former alumnae, served on the board of Arlington, Virginia company GlobeSecNine in 2005. Bear Stearns, one of the largest global investment and security trading and stockbroker firms in the world, described GlobeSecNine as having “a unique set of experiences in special forces, classified operations, transportation security, and military operations.” Business Wire noted: “GlobeSecNine invests in companies providing U.S. defense, security, global trade management and supply chain solutions to the public and private sectors, and has a strategic alliance with The Scowcroft Group, a business advisory firm headed by former National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft.” Bedford served on the GlobeSecNine board of advisors with Scowcroft and Fred Turco, co-founder of the CIA Counter-Terrorism Center. Others affiliated with the company are tied to the prison industrial complex. 

On July 3, 2007, Michael Alexander’s name was removed from the list of Antioch trustees. Two days earlier, he had been sworn in as president of Lasell College in Newton, Massachusetts. In 1998 Alexander founded AverStar where he served as chair and chief executive officer, and did business primarily with NASA and the Defense Department. In 2000 Alexander’s AverStar defense company merged with the Titan Corporation, which in March 2005 pled guilty and paid the largest penalty under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act in history for bribery and filing false tax returns. 

L-3 Communications acquired the Titan Corporation in July 2005. As their corporate website describes the company, it “is a leading provider of Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) systems, secure communications systems, aircraft modernization, training and government services. The company is a leading merchant supplier of a broad array of high technology products, including guidance and navigation, sensors, scanners, fuzes, data links, propulsion systems, simulators, avionics, electro optics, satellite communications, electrical power equipment, encryption, signal intelligence, antennas and microwave components. L-3 also supports a variety of Homeland Security initiatives with products and services. Its customers include the Department of Defense, Department of Homeland Security, selected U.S. Government intelligence agencies and aerospace prime contractors.” 

The L-3 Communications Titan Group brags that 8,000 of its 10,000 employees have “security clearances” and that they are a leading provider of C4ISR, Command, Control, Communications, Computer, Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance—”developing and supporting the systems of today and tomorrow for the United States and Allied Militaries and defense-related agencies in order for them to carry out their assigned missions,” according to their website. 

On October 5, 2006, while Antioch board members Bedford and Alexander cozyed up with U.S. intelligence and Homeland Security, students at the university sponsored a national teach-in to expose the atrocities of Guantanamo Bay. In a June 28, 2007 Yellow Spring News article, Stone argued, “If the Board hadn’t decided to close the college, the budget shortfall could take down the entire university system.” The Dayton Daily News reports that a $5 million accounting error caused the college to close. Bedford, by the way, served as treasurer just prior to the decision to close the college. 

How a college targeted as a “vanguard of the New Left” by the FBI and its notorious COINTELPRO operation during the Cold War managed to place these “spook”-connected trustees on their board is a mystery worth exploring. Antioch alumni should be ashamed to allow their college to die until they get to the bottom of this spooky mystery. 

Bob Fitrakis is the author of The Fitrakis Files: Spooks, Nukes, and Nazis, on the role of the CIA in Ohio politics.