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Editorial: CS growth necessitates increase in resources

On a typical weekday at the Center for Information Technology, hordes of students can be spotted waiting patiently for a turn to access a computer science undergraduate teaching assistant. As recently reported in The Herald, increased enrollment in computer science courses has overwhelmed the University’s available resources. Computer science is one of the most celebrated and visible concentrations at Brown, and the department must be provided with the resources to meet rising student demand.

According to the article, the number of students enrolled in computer science classes has doubled in the past eight years. CSCI 0150: “Introduction to Object-Oriented Programming and Computer Science” has 279 enrolled this fall, a whopping 54 percent more than last year’s 173 students. Though these increases do follow a national trend, they also attest to the strength of the Brown Department of Computer Science. But if the department is to continue to provide the high-quality education for which it is known, it must increase its number of TAs — a task that presents distinct challenges. It is unclear where the department will find the additional funds necessary for more TAs.

Even with an increase in TAs, other logistical concerns such as room availability, time constraints and computer availability hinder enrolled students from receiving assistance. Given the recent projection that the CIT itself will be over capacity in the next five to 10 years, we worry that the University is not paying sufficient attention to the real threat of overcrowding the department.

Insufficient physical resources present a significant constraint to the computer science department. So far, we have not seen any significant proposal to address this situation in the long term. Expanding the number of TAs is only a temporary solution, as is creating new classes in order to lighten the load. The University frequently promotes the astounding innovations and research of the department, and in turn, the department deserves the resources sufficient to meet its rising demand.

The computer science department is known for its renowned faculty and commitment to undergraduate teaching, but it cannot create the resources it needs out of thin air. Computer science is necessarily personalized, and effectively learning the languages and programs requires individual attention. Students in these introductory classes need to have fair and reasonable access to the appropriate tools needed to fully implement knowledge gained from lectures. We hope to see the University soon address the department’s needs so that resources can match the growing demand for computer science.

 

Editorials are written by The Herald’s editorial page board: its editor, Rachel Occhiogrosso, and its members, Daniel Jeon, Hannah Loewentheil and Thomas Nath. Send comments to editorials@browndailyherald.com.

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