More seats on 400 level CS classes at UMD

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To whom it may concern:

As students of the University of Maryland, we believe our school places a strong emphasis on the quality of education it provides. The University prides itself on these ideals and they undoubtedly contribute to the reputation of the University of Maryland as a prestigious university, and the ability of its students to achieve their goals after college. Because of this, we believe that all students should have the opportunity to pursue their academic interests. When students have been given permission to enroll in a certain major, they should have flexibility in the courses which they choose to take, and should not have to risk graduating late because of departmental issues. Any exception to this reflects poorly on the University, and does not promote the reputation that the University of Maryland has built for itself.

We have collectively written this letter to address an issue within the Undergraduate Computer Science Department. At the time of writing this letter, only a few of the upper level (400s) courses are open for registration. Of the classes which are full, many have long waitlists which are close to surpassing the capacity of the class itself.

Class selection is an even bigger issue when you consider the fact that students who choose to pursue a specialization within computer science are required to take upper level classes in specific areas, which further limits the number of classes available to them. Students can be left stranded in the position of not being enrolled in any classes required for their major, and instead paying for classes they do not want or need.

Additionally, we believe that there are too few lecturers and teaching assistants, and too many students. Most computer science lectures, even those for upper level classes, take place in large auditoriums. We do not have the benefit of learning course content in more intimate, small classroom settings. Moreover, T.A. office hours are generally overcrowded. Sometimes, students have to wait 3-4 hours to see a T.A., or sit on the floor because all the chairs are taken.

When students pay for differential tuition, we would expect the benefits to come to fruition. Many of the students paying this differential are left on the waitlist for their upper level classes, unable to pursue the topics that interest them, but are instead forced to take whatever is left over in an attempt to graduate on time.

We find this unacceptable, given that the University’s Computer Science program is regarded as one of the best in the nation, and that the department continuously encourages students to take classes they are interested in. The major should be something we are proud of, but instead we are left frustrated and disillusioned. Due to the lack of classes offered, the lack of professors, and the lack of sections, students who have pursued specific tracks within the major (e.g. Data Science, Cybersecurity) have been told by their academic advisors to drop their specializations – which in and of itself is bizarre and unprofessional. As the major continues to grow, these problems will increase in severity, while we continue to pay more than a traditional major.

In the short term, a compromise must be reached between students and the University. There are many options to be considered in this case. Online classes should be introduced into the upper levels, which could be done even with a lack of faculty within the department. Class sizes should be increased, in order to accommodate for all students who have been accepted into the program. If finding suitable teachers is an issue for the department, more teaching assistants should be sought out, and more class sections should be opened accordingly. It is simply not sustainable to continue hiring professors at the current rate while the student body of computer science students continues to grow rapidly. The effects of this oversight are being experienced by hundreds of undergraduate students currently unable to complete their programs not due to any error of their own, but due to a lack of vision by the University, incurring both explicit and opportunity costs of having their graduation potentially delayed. As of right now, students are at risk of not meeting their graduation date, and of being unable to enroll in any classes which they desire. The current four-year plan would suggest otherwise, as it does not take into account the current circumstances, which are deterring students’ ability to enroll in any 400-courses they wish.

In the long term, the Undergraduate Computer Science Department should increase funding for the program, in the pursuit of hiring more teachers and teaching assistants. In the event that sufficient funding cannot be allocated towards the Computer Science department, the major should be changed to a Limited Enrollment Program. Pursuing either or both of these options would prevent future students from being misled when choosing to enroll in Computer Science at University of Maryland. We believe that it is the responsibility of the department and of the University to take action, since the students themselves cannot do anything to mitigate this problem. Thank you for taking the time to address these concerns, and we appreciate your diligence in maintaining the growing Computer Science department at the University of Maryland.


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