Ever since Antioch Law School opened in Washington 14 years ago, the first thing its new students did before classes began each fall was spend a week living in the home of a poor family.
The experience was part of a program designed to introduce students not only to legal education but also to the social problems the school was committed to dealing with outside of the classroom.
"Antioch is for activists," its recruiting literature proclaimed, and the school proudly wore its ideology on its sleeve, seeking to use the law to change society.
But on Thursday night, after trustees of the University of the District of Columbia voted 8 to 4 not to rescue the troubled school by making it part of UDC, it was all over except for the shouting.
Richard Rubenstein, an Antioch law professor, berated the trustees, calling the vote "a disgrace."
"The ABA [American Bar Association] couldn't kill us. Reagan couldn't kill us. You killed us," Rubenstein said.
"How did you become our responsibility?" a UDC employe shouted back. "You killed yourself."
"It's our taxes," another woman in the audience yelled out. And, in a reference to the small town in Ohio where Antioch's parent university has its main campus, she added, "Why didn't Yellow Springs keep you?"
Yesterday Alan E. Guskin, Antioch's president, confirmed that the law school would have no first year class in the fall and would be phased out for its remaining 213 students by 1988.
"We will try to do it in as calm and humane a way as possible," Guskin said. "But we made up our minds last fall that the university just can't afford to carry on with [the law school]."
The ABA started the school's terminal crisis by threatening last year to withdraw accreditation for "deficiencies" in its facilities, funding and academic programs. After Antioch trustees voted in October to end financial support, the law school's backers in Washington, led by consumer advocate Ralph Nader and lawyer Joseph L. Rauh, mounted a fund-raising campaign.
But when the drive received only $170,000 in pledges compared with the $2.5 million the school said it needed to survive, the law school sought to become part of UDC.
Rauh, a longtime member of its governing board, has often described Antioch as a "law school for poor people." Yet, ironically, UDC, which also sees itself as serving the disadvantaged, rejected the law school's entreaties.
Joseph Webb, a UDC trustee who first favored acquiring the law school and then led the move to reject it, said UDC wanted a law school that had "more than public interest law . . . . Our students want to get ahead themselves."
Underlying the board decision, which came two months after a preliminary 10-to-2 vote endorsing a takeover, was the issue of money. UDC has its own financial and enrollment problems, and Antioch's clinical program -- in which students earn a third of their credits by handling cases under supervision for low-income clients -- is much more expensive than the large lecture classes of traditional law schools.
The projected cost of the law school rose from $2 million in city funds for the first 15 months after a takeover, based on data Antioch presented in March, to $7 million for the same period, estimated this week by a board committee. In addition, the law school would require $7 million to $8 million for a permanent new facilty to replace its current, inadequate classroom building at 2633 16th St. NW and its rented library in a mansion three blocks away.
The Rev. Raymond Kemp, a UDC trustee who strongly backed taking over the law school, said the high budget projections meant that UDC would have taken a "poverty-oriented law school run on a Volkswagen budget and rebuilt it into a BMW without looking at the Volvo."
But Trustee Nira Long, who eventually voted against a takever, said UDC needed to operate a "top of the line" law school in order to assure accreditation. Yesterday an expert in accreditation, who asked not to be identified, said the proposed budget "wasn't inflated."
An ABA evaluation report said Antioch "admits a fairly large number of students with fairly low academic credentials" and provides "only very limited remedial assistance to most students." The report also said the law school dismisses relatively few students for academic reasons and that a large number of its students fail the bar exam at least once.
The law school sharply disputed this report and successfully staved off final ABA action. But recently the federal Legal Services Corporation, which provides about $450,000 a year for Antioch's clinical program, threatened to cut off funds because of noncompliance with its standards.
In recent years, clinical programs have grown in the District's five other law schools. None takes as much of a student's time as Antioch's, but combined, they serve more clients because the schools are much larger. Overall, according to ABA figures, about 7,000 students, including 362 at Antioch, attended law schools in the District last fall -- a higher total than in all but three states.
UDC Trustee Concha Johnson suggested that the District government might establish a scholarship program to help low-income residents attend other law schools, but City Council members who favored UDC acquiring Antioch seem cool to the idea.
"I think the city has lost a rich resource," said Council Chairman David A. Clarke. "That was the issue here."