Hundreds of Yale University students have signed a petition calling for a “radical expansion” of the school’s computer science department, claiming the small size of the CS faculty “has made it increasingly difficult for Yale to compete with other top-tier universities,” student newspaper The Yale Daily News reports.
The petition follows a nearly identical letter released in February by a group of Yale CS graduate students; 25 of the department’s 33 students signed the original letter. The new petition — which can only be signed by Yale students and alumni — generated nearly 500 signatures by Monday afternoon.
“The petition and letter, which demand a ‘radical expansion of the computer science faculty’ note that the median faculty size of the top 20 computer science departments in the country is 48. Yale currently has 20 computer science professors — the same number of faculty the department had in 1989,” The Yale Daily News reports.
Yale’s comparatively small size CS faculty has made it less competitive in the field than some of its peer institutions, according to the petition.
“Yale is not seen as an exciting place for computer science. We have ceded the battle to Harvard, Stanford, MIT, Princeton, Berkeley, Carnegie Mellon, Cornell. The list goes on. Most alarmingly, Yale appears to be satisfied with this future,” the petition states.
Yale students have also left comments in the petition, further calling out the university for a perceived lack of emphasis on CS education.
“I took intro CS, and while I loved the topic, I hated the class,” Yale junior Eli Feldman writes. “It was so overwhelmingly difficult and understaffed that I never took another CS class.”
“Unless things change, I would not advise prospective undergraduates to come to Yale for a serious education in computer science,” writes David Hatch, a Yale sophomore.
CS faculty also appear to acknowledge the lack of university support.
“Yale needs a substantially bigger computer science department if it is to maintain its status as an elite university in the 21st century,” Yale CS department chairman Joan Feigenbaum wrote in an email to The Yale Daily News.
The petition highlights some of the challenges that both undergraduate and graduate CS students face:
With so few professors, Yale’s department has no choice but to ignore entire areas of computer science. Our ability to offer classes at an undergraduate level is minimal. Core computer science classes at Yale are seeing enrollment numbers higher than ever before, but we barely have enough faculty to teach the basics. Moreover, fewer faculty advisors means fewer graduate students, and the faculty shortage also translates into a shortage of teaching fellows.
The situation is even worse for graduate students. It is rare for the department to offer more than a single graduate-level course on any subject. Yale has become a risky choice for graduate students who often have to hinge their entire degree on a single faculty member. Fewer and fewer students are willing to take this risk; this year, only two students accepted their offers to attend Yale’s PhD program, compared to five last year and 10 the year before. Despite excellent faculty and students, the faculty shortage has made it increasingly difficult for Yale to compete with other top-tier universities.
We have reached out to Yale University for comment about the size of its computer science faculty and will update with any statement we receive.
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