Letters to the Editor, Opinions

Letter: Culture of Computer Science department is inclusive, growth oriented

By , , , and
Thursday, April 25, 2019

To the Editor: 

While we acknowledge the concerns expressed in the April 23 article “CS department grapples with collaboration policy, diversity,” we, as Head Teaching Assistants for CSCI 0150: “Introduction to Object-Oriented Programming and Computer Science,” feel the article misdescribed current policies and failed to acknowledge the improvements the CS department has made to address feelings of isolation and alienation.

One PhD student quoted in the article claimed that the collaboration policy “silences (the) opportunity” to learn through teaching other students. In response, we would like to pull a direct quote from our collaboration policy: “You may absolutely discuss general … CS15 concepts with anyone, including other current students.” For example, students may together go over “CS15 lecture slides, our (non-assignment) handouts, Javadocs, discussing object-oriented programming concepts, etc.”

Although we appreciate the PhD student’s concern, we feel his quote was not completely informed — as this student has never taken any of the CS department’s intro sequences.

Further, as students and TAs who have seen CS15 and the department in general develop over the last three years, we feel this article misrepresented the culture of the department — which is centered around growth and self-reflection.

While the collaboration policy, particularly in a course like CS15, is by no means perfect, it is constantly in a state of revision. For example, in 2018, we introduced partner programming to labs for the first time, following the steps of CSCI 0170: “Computer Science: An Integrated Introduction.” Soon after, we added a mentorship program, which gave new CS students direct connections to faces in the department to supplement the students and TAs they work with during weekly sections. CSCI 0160: “Introduction to Algorithms and Data Structures ,” the next course in the sequence, offers “Clinic,” which is a time when students can spontaneously come together and discuss homework questions under the supervision of a TA. CS15 adopted this concept last fall, and we plan to entirely integrate it in the course alongside regular TA hours in 2019.

That said, there is a lot of room for progress in terms of accessibility and diversity in the CS department, and we are constantly thinking of ways to make our course more approachable to students of all backgrounds. We are open to all feedback and ideas about how we can make CS15 the best course it can be.

If you would like to contact us or discuss your concerns or thoughts about the course, feel free to email us at cs0150headtas@lists.brown.edu.

Julie Wang ’21, Angel Rodriguez ’21, Noah Korotzer ’20, Taylor Auten ’20, Lucy Reyes ’21

2019 CS15 HTAs