April 2, 2020 at 5:30 pm

Dean’s Message | University Life Continues Off Campus

Dean Florenz Plassmann, portrait

Dean Florenz Plassmann

By Florenz Plassmann, Ph.D.
Dean of the College of Arts & Sciences

During its 216-year history, Ohio University has witnessed several major pandemics, including the Spanish Flu pandemic in 1918 to 1920, the Asian Flu pandemic in 1957 and 1958, and the H1N1 Swine Flu pandemic in 2009 and 2010. Looking through Ohio University’s annals, none of those earlier pandemics has had nearly as much an impact on the university as the Covid-19 pandemic.

Most of our students have left Athens, and the only living beings on campus are essential staff and faculty who keep the infrastructure running as well as countless birds and squirrels that enjoy their spots of freedom on the deserted College Green.

But with the help of modern technology, university life continues off campus. During the past few weeks, faculty have brought all classes into a long-distance educational environment. Although limited internet access and variable download speeds prevent students and faculty from making full use of all the bells and whistles that true online classes can offer, even those faculty who were in the past vehemently opposed to making full use of technology in their classes have risen to the challenge in very admirable ways.

Our students are also getting used to the opportunities that technology offers—for example, our English majors interning with our New Ohio Review journal are now completing their internships entirely online, and one of our plant biology Ph.D. students has shared his dissertation presentation via Facebook Live so that his family could watch. When the university transitioned to remote work on March 16, many university services moved online as well, including those offered by our Library, by Counseling and Psychological Services, by the Survivor Advocacy Program, and by the Career and Leadership Development Center. I am inviting all alumni—and especially our recent graduates—to take advantage of the CLDC’s online career coaching appointments that are part of the lifetime benefits for all Bobcats.

The way in which Ohio University has responded to the challenges of Covid-19 makes me very proud to be a member of the Bobcat Family. Ohio University was among the first universities to commit to finding meaningful remote work experiences so that we could continue paying student employees. If you are aware of Bobcats working to combat this global pandemic, we would like to hear from you. (Please reach out to Lisa S. Cohen, External Relations to share front line stories.)

The Faculty Senate devised a well thought-out alternate grading plan that allows students to choose “satisfactory” and “no credit” options instead of the pass/fail alternatives adopted by many other universities. (Unlike a “fail,” a “no credit” does not affect the student’s GPA.) Ohio University is offering all junior faculty on the tenure track the option of extending their tenure clocks by a full year; by accommodating research delays that result from closed laboratories and the impossibility of fieldwork and from postponed travel to archives and conferences, we will find it easier to retain great faculty. And the university has paused all personnel-related budget reductions to ensure that all faculty and staff can focus on providing a quality educational experience for our students, on creating new knowledge, and on serving our communities.

Most importantly, Ohio University has directed all advancement activities toward the new presidential COVID-19 Student Emergency Fund. This fund provides micro-grants to help students who are facing immediate financial hardships and supports our most affected Bobcats at every OHIO campus. Please show your support of Ohio University and our students by making a contribution at Bobcats Take Care.

And please continue to be forgiving and kind, as everyone is giving their best in trying to cope with the situation. Be well, each and all of you.

—Engage, April 2020


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