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'Mysterious' academic accounting at Antioch University

By Gregory Flannery · October 27th, 2007 · Porkopolis
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  During a vigil at Cintas' annual shareholders meeting, Eleuteria Mazon, a Cintas employee in Illinois, talks about the company's safety violations.
Graham Lienhart

During a vigil at Cintas' annual shareholders meeting, Eleuteria Mazon, a Cintas employee in Illinois, talks about the company's safety violations.



The future of Southwest Ohio's most liberal college hangs in the balance this week. Although the Antioch University Board of Trustees says money is the problem, others are saying it's a case of political suppression.

The board meets this week to consider keeping Antioch open and will announce its decision Saturday. The board announced in June that, because of declining attendance and financial problems, the college would close at the end of the 2007-08 academic year with the intention of reopening in 2012. The Antioch Alumni Association responded by raising $12 million to head off the school's deficit, which is $2.6 million, and to manage future economic shortfalls. The association also developed a business plan to guide the recovery process.

Even so, that might not be enough. In journalist Bob Fitrakis' editorial "Shock, Awe and Antioch: The Bush Administration's Attack on Progressive Education," published in the Columbus Free Press, he argues that the board's ties to neo-conservatives might be the motive behind the closing.

"How a college targeted by the FBI and its notorious COINTELPRO operation during the Cold War as a 'vanguard of the New Left' managed to place two 'spook'-connected trustees on their board is a mystery worth exploring," Fitrakis wrote.

In June, Trustee Lawrence Stone, who runs Metron Inc., a company that works closely with the U.S. Department of Defense, was quoted in a Yellow Springs News article as saying, "If the board hadn't decided to close the college, the budget shortfall could take down the entire university system." It was a $5 million accounting error that caused the deficit, according to The Dayton Daily News. That error occurred when Trustee Bruce P. Bedford, another military services executive, was treasurer.

Gathered Together and Fighting Back
Workers, community leaders, clergy and labor activists held a vigil Oct. 23 outside Cintas' corporate headquarters in Mason as the company held its annual shareholder meeting. Literature for the rally cited the case of Eleazar Torres Gomez, a Cintas worker killed in a horrific incident at the company's Tulsa laundry (see "Dirty Laundry," issue of July 18).

The conditions that allegedly caused his death aren't isolated. State workplace safety regulators recently cited Cintas for failing to fix a potentially lethal hazard at its Stockton, Calif., laundry facility -- even after Gomez was killed by the same equipment earlier this year. The Stockton edict marks the fourth time in three months that federal or state safety inspectors have cited a Cintas facility for exposing workers to inadequately guarded machinery. In August, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration proposed an unprecedented $2.78 million fine against Cintas for similar violations.

The Stockton incident is prompting members of Congress to renew their call for an investigation of all Cintas facilities nationwide. The House Workforce Protections Subcommittee recently sent a letter to OSHA demanding action. The letter says, "With the tragic death of Mr. Torres Gomez and the discovery of repeated violations of machine-guarding and lockout standards in four different regions over three years, we feel that it is essential that OSHA uncover as quickly as possible other locations where workers may be at risk."

Records show that Cintas has been cited for more than 170 OSHA violations in its facilities nationwide since 2003. Of that number, more than 70 were violations that OSHA determined could cause "death or serious physical harm." Last year the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health listed Cintas as one of "America's 12 most dangerous employers."

Real monsters are the focus on Halloween at the University of Cincinnati -- people who perpetrate violence against women of color. Throughout the day Oct. 31 students, faculty and others will wear red as a sign of solidarity. At 8 p.m. various university organizations will gather at Bearcat Plaza for the Stop the Violence, End the Silence rally and candle lighting. Participants will wear red and transform the space with red objects as a sign of reclamation. The program will begin with the reading of a solidarity litany, followed by survivor stories and performances by SlamCatz, the University of Cincinnati's spoken word poetry slam and dialogue team.

"This rally is to let people know that they don't have to be alone and feel victimized," says Desirae Hosley, a UC Women's Center peer advocate and rally organizer. "We want people to know that there are people here that you can talk to, people that will understand and we will literally stand with you. Whether you are a woman of color or not, whether you have been a victim of violence or not, it is vital that we support one another and break the silence."

For more coverage of rallies against The Man, vigils against corporate greedheads and other good causes, check out CityBeat's Porkopolis blog at blogs.citybeat.com/Porkopolis.



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