Like for so many around the world, the COVID-19 pandemic has led to many changes in the daily lives of all of the members of the Department of Linguistics. Late on the Monday of spring break, Ohio State announced the temporary suspension of all in-person instruction. That announcement was quickly followed by announcements extending spring break by a week, extending the semester by a week, and extending the suspension of in-person instruction through spring and, eventually, summer semesters. Currently, all university travel and in-person research is suspended indefinitely, all events on campus are cancelled through July 6, and everyone is required to work from home for the foreseeable future.
The requirement to work from home has changed how we interact with one another, but it hasn’t changed our interactions or our collective mission to achieve outstanding teaching and research. Classes, discussion groups, department meetings, staff meetings, advising meetings, thesis defenses, candidacy exams, qualifying paper presentations, and even happy hours are all being conducted virtually. Faculty and students are working to transition their research from our labs on campus and at COSI to online platforms. The department hosted a virtual conference ((Formal) Approaches to South Asian Languages) in March. And we will host a virtual Summer Linguistics Institute for Youth Scholars (SLIYS) this summer.
The dedication, flexibility, thoughtfulness, and good humor that all of the faculty, staff, and students in the department have shown during this difficult time has been nothing short of extraordinary. A few members of the department are especially worthy of mention for their exceptional contributions:
- Faculty member Andrea Sims stepped in with only a few hours’ notice as the primary point person for the department over spring break, while chair Cynthia Clopper was out of town. Her communications to the department were a model of clarity in a time when new information was arriving every few hours.
- TA Coordinator Hope Dawson went above and beyond to ensure continuity in the department’s teaching mission. Within days of the announcement that all courses would meet remotely after spring break, she had compiled recommendations for best-practice online teaching, instructions for using Zoom, resource articles from the Chronicle of Higher Education, and other materials into a Box that everyone in the department has access to. She helped faculty publish their courses on Carmen, met individually with every GTA in the department to review their revised syllabus and continuity of teaching plan, and made herself available for individual meetings with all Linguistics instructors as they navigated online teaching for the first time.
- Undergraduate Coordinator Julie McGory has maintained regular contact with our undergraduate students, reaching out to them with reassurances and guidance as they adapt to online learning, many for the first time, as well as with clear communications about new policies related to grading options and the academic calendar.
- Hope Dawson took the lead in figuring out the logistics for maintaining our Linguistics Outside the Classroom experiment pool, so that students can engage in educational research-related experiences to earn necessary credit for their classes, despite the suspension of all in-person human subjects research.
- Julia Papke and Hope Dawson cleaned out the department fridge, ran the dishwasher, and unplugged the appliances, as soon as it was announced that Oxley Hall would be locked down and everyone would be required to work from home. Hope even took the garbage home with her so that it wouldn’t smell up the building in our absence!
- Julie McGory, Brett Gregory, and the student SLIYS team put together a proposal for a virtual SLIYS program this summer that has been approved by the College and is now under development. We are proud to be able to continue to offer this summer experience for high school students.
- Faculty member Marie-Catherine de Marneffe taught herself how to use Zoom and then led a Zoom tutorial less than 24 hours later for all Linguistics instructors over spring break so that everyone would be prepared to teach online when the semester resumed.
- Graduate student Antonio Hernandez, who has been teaching online for several semesters, made videos of his online Zoom classes available to Linguistics instructors who had no previous online teaching experience.
- Faculty member Ashwini Deo and her local organizing committee of graduate students converted the (Formal) Approaches to South Asian Languages conference to a virtual format with less than two weeks’ notice. By all accounts, the conference was highly successful with over 40 participants in each session!
- Andrea Sims provided support in developing research continuity plans for a visiting scholar who was recalled to Japan and had to leave Columbus on very short notice.
- Graduate student Shontael Elward made and distributed masks to everyone in the department who needed one.