Antioch College and vast conspiracies redux

For some reason, I’ve been getting a relatively large amount of traffic lately from this post about two competing theories behind the demise of Antioch College which I made back on July 17. When I posted, it generated a trackback to the blog of Bob Fitrakis, who posted about one of those theories — that Antioch was deliberately killed off by agents of the CIA and the military-industrial complex who had infiltrated the Board of Trustees — also on July 17. For some reason, that post has been bumped back up to the top of his blog and re-dated August 19. That might explain the influx of referrals from the trackback and from related search engine terms (such as “Antioch College military industrial complex” which I got today).

The only reason I bring this up — because frankly, Antioch College was old news months ago, and I wonder where all the free publicity is for the dozens of other colleges who go under every year — is that I want to try and clarify my stance on this issue for people like the one who left a comment on my post today who might be reading. Here goes.

  • At issue here is whether it makes sense to believe one theory (that Antioch was done in by covert infiltration of the Board of Trustees by the US military-industrial complex) when there is another theory (that Antioch was done in by gross financial mismanagement in the presence of an already-tenuous financial situation) that not only has more evidence to support it but also makes more sense and explains the whole issue more thoroughly.
  • It is not about the political views of Antioch College, its supporters, or its detractors. You could write in the name of your favorite conservative Christian college in place of Antioch; replace “CIA/military-industrial complex” with “Hollywood” or “Code Pink” or somebody in place of the infiltrators; and still, if you have just a $36 million endowment and misplace $5 million of it, that is still a more likely explanation for your college’s demise  than some vast purported conspiracy.
  • When given a menu of options for explaining a phenomenon — one of which is strongly supported by evidence and explains things well and fully, and another of which is a wild-eyed theory supported by almost nothing concrete — it does not inspire confidence in one’s rationality to immediately jump to the wild-eyed theory instead of the strongly supported one.
  • It is disingenuous to call someone’s critical thinking into question because they dismiss an unsupported theory out of hand in favor of one that is supported. Sometimes things are dismissed out of hand for sound reasons.
  • When you believe a crazy conspiracy theory instead of simple accounting facts, you’re not bravely questioning the status quo or joining the camps of Galileo and other status-quo-questioners throughout history. You’re simply off the deep end, and Galileo wouldn’t be pleased.
  • I’m pretty sure Horace Mann would agree. He seems like a pretty reasonable guy from what I read.

I repeat what I said in the original post and my reply to the comment: Alumni who care about Antioch College should tell these conspiracy-mongers to knock it off and focus on fixing the simple, concrete problems — like especially finances — that they can actually do something about when they try to reopen Antioch in a few years. That’s called “good administration” and it is what distinguishes colleges that stay open from colleges that don’t.

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