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A New Academic Year Begins

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A message from President Jane Fernandes sent via email to the campus community today

Dear Antiochians,

I want to welcome each of you to the opening of the 2021-22 academic year, and all the possibilities that it brings! Having spent my entire career in the world of education, I am now hard-wired for a surge of optimism and energy every time September rolls around. Each one has been more special than the last, and this one is particularly so.

I am excited to be participating today as both your new president and as a “first-year” member of the community, including new students, faculty, and staff. This is an ideal situation for us all to be learning about Antioch College together in the weeks and months ahead.

I am especially happy that we can convene in person; I have missed the wonderful energy coming from in-person gatherings, as I’m sure you all have in the last 18 months. And the extra burden that each of you has taken on during this confusing and perilous time only serves to make that isolation more acute. I want to thank the entire community for shouldering the strain of even stricter budgets, the pain of losing colleagues, and the extra work those decisions put on everyone, out of dire necessity. Though much of this work fell to the faculty and staff to undertake, I also want to thank the folks who worked so hard to bring the campus back to life and make it ready for our students. It is patently clear that you each undertook your roles while focusing even more intently on the welfare of each and every one of our students. That focus and dedication are some of the many reasons I chose to come to Antioch College.

We know that our incoming student class is like no other in recent memory. We have all heard from students who have pushed through their final year of high school without ever going to school, missing all of the rites of passage that are typical of a high school senior year; others became caregivers for family at home, and some worked in order to help their families survive economic disaster. And then there are our returning students, some of whom took classes remotely; many were impacted by family needs and losses, and some continued to thrive in that environment, but it would be unrealistic to assume they all did. Our previous expectations about where students are in their academic and emotional development are no longer valid — requiring ever more flexibility and compassion and creativity of us all. I know we are up to this challenge, even though we will need to dig deeper in order to meet that challenge.

Beyond the Antioch campus, there is much that is adding to the urgency of our global, moral, and social justice efforts.

  • The urgency to address climate change has never been more pressing, as evidenced by wildfires in CA, hurricanes in LA, and major sources of water drying up in the southwest.
  • There is deep-seated and misdirected rage and confusion reflected in the long war in Afghanistan and the departure of American troops amidst chaos and bloodshed.
  • The global pandemic is another matter we must address and we are paying very close attention to it — please ensure that you are briefed on all current policies and protocols. Thanks to everyone’s good work on this, there have been no positive tests among returning students!

In considering all of these seemingly insurmountable problems, I have leaned into the Antioch community for sustenance, for hope, and to find others who care deeply about these issues. And that’s a great start.

Following the mask policy is particularly important and we must all adhere to it. Since I am deaf, I want to share how impossible it is for me to understand anyone wearing a mask. When we are talking, there are some ways to help: using the services of Jennifer, our interpreter, will let us keep our masks on and let me see all the ASL grammatical features constituted in facial expressions. If Jennifer is not available, the fail-safe methods of writing or texting are other options.

Make no mistake, Antioch has a lot of work to do to turn the corner on enrollment and financial viability. More hard choices may be in front of us. But we will make them together. I am still building my leadership team, with searches for Vice Presidents of Student Affairs and Finance underway. Once the vice president positions are filled, with your help, I am confident we will have the right people, the right focus, and the commitment to do the hard work together. With all that is going on around us, the power of an Antioch College education is needed more urgently than ever; it is our jobs, individually and collectively, to make sure we keep graduating knowledgeable, ethical, committed individuals who not only want to change the world but are absolutely ready to do so.

Now, we are ready to begin learning and growing the college together. Though I have met many of you already, I look forward to a time when I know everyone on campus, and you know me. I am overjoyed to be here with you all and look forward to working with you throughout the years to come.


Jane K. Fernandes