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The future of language science initiatives and the LSC

In our first two updates this semester we addressed steps we are taking to become a more inclusive and pandemic-proof community. In this third installment we want to update you on a major turning point that the Language Science Center faces. We are also requesting your involvement in a process that will determine our future as a community.

Immediate financial challenges force us to make tough decisions about what we want to achieve together over the next few years. It is essential for the broader community of faculty and students to play a role in these decisions. The small management team of the LSC has neither the right nor the ability to unilaterally choose and implement plans on behalf of the entire community. In the past we have relied on informal means of seeking input. We want to democratize those processes, to make them more systematic and equitable going forward.

Over the past two years many of you participated in a detailed self study and series of town hall meetings that addressed how LSC should transition from a start-up to a sustainable part of the university. There was great uncertainty over LSC’s future, or whether it even had a future. This uncertainty was compounded by the pandemic and the university’s ensuing financial crisis.

LSC reports to two lead deans (ARHU, BSOS) who oversee operations on behalf of a broader set of university leaders. After a financial planning process in Spring-Summer 2020, ARHU and BSOS made a commitment to supporting LSC through 2024. They have significantly increased their financial support compared to previous years, but since these are only two colleges, the total is far below previous levels. LSC has implemented a number of savings and staff have taken on additional responsibilities so that LSC can survive the current academic year. But LSC faces a financial cliff in the next academic year unless significant new resources are generated.

After the self study, we had intended to host an external review with the usual format: a handful of distinguished faculty from other universities would visit for a couple days to help evaluate what’s going well and what could be improved, and then advocate on our behalf to UMD administrators. Given the current situation, we came up with a different plan.

We’ll still engage the help of advisors from other universities, but we’ll use them to drive a several-month process of community deliberations. A number of prominent language science leaders have already agreed to participate: Janet Werker (U of British Columbia), Jim Magnuson (U of Connecticut), and Judy Kroll (UC Irvine). We are working to expand this team to represent the full disciplinary breadth of our community.

We need to set a course in five major areas:

  • Graduate education
  • Undergraduate education
  • Research
  • Diversity and inclusion
  • Leadership and shared ownership of LSC

We are establishing a committee in each area, including faculty and students, members of the LSC management team and Executive Committee, key UMD administrators, and at least one external advisor. They will each meet about 5 times between December and February to complete their charge:

What are the main goals in this area over the next 5 years? What would count as success for each goal over the next 5 years? (We already have many ideas in each area, but we have to decide what to prioritize and fund in the near term.)
What financial resources will be required to achieve the goals, and where will they come from? (There are a number of options, and LSC staff will help each committee understand what they are.)
What mechanisms for leadership, accountability, and community input will be established to ensure that the goals are achieved? (This could include committees, “czars”, and regular reporting or other transparency measures.)

We invite you to volunteer to participate on a committee. Please respond using this form by November 18. You can find more information about each committee here. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to contact shevaun@umd.edu.

- LSC Executive Committee