Dear AUSB Students,
As we approach the mid-point of the spring quarter and begin summer semester next week, I wish to thank you for your perseverance and commitment to your program of study at Antioch University in this relatively new remote environment. At times, it may be challenging to stay focused, keep momentum going, and to plan for a future that resembles a familiar way of being, similar to how we lived as recently as February. With this in mind, I have confidence that Antioch University will emerge stronger, prepared not only to manage well during a global pandemic, but also prepared for the challenges that are transforming the landscape of higher education.
I have several updates and resources to share with you:
- Remote Learning Modality and Campus Facility. Many in our community have inquired about University plans for summer and fall. In the context of reviewing evidence from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the State of California, County Public Health Departments, and in collaboration with University leadership, Chancellor William Groves has determined that all campus facilities will remain closed through this summer. This decision was not made lightly and is in direct response to the national COVID-19 public health emergency. In other words, the current adaptation of remote learning and instruction will continue through the end of summer.
- California Governor Gavin Newsom developed a six-pronged framework, with expected parameters that must be in place before restrictions are lifted to the state-wide “stay-at-home” orders He described how we have just entered “Stage One, Safety and Preparedness”, encompassing governmental, business, and individual actions/responsibilities.
- In consultation with university administration and local public health authorities, we will keep monitoring this situation to identify key factors that will help us decide when and how to eventually open our facility, with the required modifications. For example, a return to campus might be initiated where some classes meet on campus, and limited access to campus services and spaces may be available. In that scenario, we would need to decrease the campus population and reduce risks of exposure. In any event, the decision will be made with a focus first on health, and then on program needs and the quality of student learning.
- As we make progress, look for information from your academic program chair or program director. Our decision to continue with remote learning and instruction is one that almost every university is making in a similar way. I want to emphasize that we all value the experience of being together, in the presence of one another in our learning community. However, for the time being, concerns about health take priority. Remote connection and learning may not always be optimal for all activities, but it is a necessary step until we have contained the pandemic.
- Student Emergency Funds. The University is actively working on a plan for the distribution of the CARES Act student grants. The CARES Act is the Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Security Act, and the higher education funds are designed to support students who have been adversely affected by the COVID-19 crisis due to the transition to a remote learning environment. Unfortunately, the federal roll-out of the funding to universities has been fraught with complexities and we are working to determine the limits and how quickly the university can allocate funds. We anticipate that the Financial Aid Office, Assistant Vice Chancellor of Student Success Melissa Kirk, and Vice Chancellor of Enrollment Management Craig Maslowsky will be preparing a communication about this funding. We will get that out to you shortly.
- If you are not eligible for the CARES Act funding, please reach out to Financial Aid at [email protected] to make a request for assistance based on the financial disruption you have experienced from the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Resources. Locally in Santa Barbara, the 211santabarbaracounty.org website provides a range of available resources in our community, including information on accessing food, receiving assistance for utilities, child care services, free wifi, etc. I encourage everyone to explore this site.
- Student Services Survey. Last, you will soon receive a link to a University survey about your experiences related to student services and the remote learning experience. Please respond to that survey, as I will see those responses and can use them to make adjustments and to work with faculty to enhance our remote courses this term.
Our collective resilience in responding to this extreme public health disruption has provided the stability for our progressive academic community to not only adapt quickly, but to survive and thrive through innovation. An essential goal at this moment is to fully support your success and help you complete your education. I am proud of our academic institution and particularly of our faculty and staff for their resourcefulness and ability to support students in a difficult time. I hope you share my deep appreciation of their work.
Again, thank you for your continued support of Antioch University’s mission through the remarkable work you have accomplished in the community through internships, traineeships, practicums, participating in the California Health Corps, covering the workforce shortage in our local medical clinics, special projects such as delivering food and supplies to the homebound, working in crisis youth and homeless shelters, making and distributing face masks through the Santa Barbara Bucket Brigade, and other forms of community and public service.
As we move further into spring and summer, feel free to reach out to your faculty, chairs, directors, program coordinators, and advisors, knowing we all “stand together” on your behalf. We will all strive to create and provide the kind of meaningful engagement with learning that is the hallmark of an Antiochian education.
Kind regards and best wishes,
Barbara Lipinski, PhD, JD
Provost and Chief Executive Officer
Antioch University Santa Barbara