Letters to the Editor, Opinions

Letter: Public condemnation by CS HTAs further isolates students

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Sunday, September 8, 2019

To the Editor:

As a computing education researcher, a teaching assistant and, most importantly, an equal member of the CS community, I was deeply dismayed by the April 25 letter by Head Teaching Assistants for CSCI 0150: “Introduction to Object-Oriented Programming and Computer Science,” condemning The Herald’s April 23 article as a misrepresentation of the culture of the computer science department. The Herald’s article quoted several students (including myself) who felt isolated in the CS department.

While the CS15 HTAs are fortunate to have had such positive experiences as students in the CS department (and they are right to celebrate those experiences), their experiences do not erase, lessen or invalidate the pain and stress of other students. In all of my four years here, my office has been a center of “growth and self-reflection” in which my friends have come, shut the door to the rest of the CIT, sat on the floor and cried it out. In many instances, I have urged these friends to speak up about their experiences; they have been universally reluctant to do so. With the April 25 letter, I begin to understand their reluctance.

As teaching assistants, we undertake a special responsibility to listen to, affirm and support our fellow students. We must, as the CS15 HTAs do, assure our peers that we are open to their feedback — public or private. However, the consequence of providing feedback must not be an official repudiation by the course staff in a school newspaper. To do so undermines our credibility as allies to those who need us most.

John Wrenn, ScM ’18, PhD ’21