When junior computer science major Heather Huynh sat down at her computer to register for fall 2016 classes, she didn’t think almost all the classes she needed to take would already be full.
Huynh said her experience with registration was ultimately very similar to the majority of junior and senior computer science majors on campus.
Over the past few years, the number of computer science majors has increased, yet the available amount of upper-level computer sciences has decreased because of funding for the department, she said.
This prompted Huynh launched a petition reading “we, the computer science students at the University of Georgia, feel that the university is not doing enough to provide the academic resources that are needed for a successful education,” April 18. The petition, located on Change.org, has already gained 938 signatures as of 7:43 p.m. April 20.
“While the big issue is that our department doesn’t get enough funding for the amount of students we have, the situation that prompted me to start this petition is the fact that there are so many juniors and seniors having trouble registering for classes that they need to graduate,” Huynh said.
Huynh said the insufficient amount of 4,000-level courses taught would set many students back a semester or two for graduation.
“This isn’t just an issue in the computer science department, but it really is unacceptable as a university to say your top priority is reducing graduation time where there aren’t any visible efforts in our department that will actually accomplish that,” Huynh said.
Jaicob Stewart, a senior computer science major, said the unavailability of classes had been a problem for as long as he could remember.
The department was doing a fantastic job considering the great number of students they were trying to accommodate, but the severe lack of resources hindered students’ chances to excel or even graduate on time, he said.
“Currently students are scrambling to register for classes, which were mostly if not completely filled before a typical junior’s registration window,” Stewart said. “The department is struggling to open more seats because of a lack of instructors and locations in which to teach classes.”
Brad Barnes, lecturer in the department of computer science, said though the exact seat counts were tough to calculate, the trends Huynh stated reflect the historical schedules of classes closely.
In response to the situation, Alan Dorsey, dean of the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, said the college is “working to resolve these enrollment bottlenecks.”
“What we want is transparency about what’s going on, more resources to create a few more sections of upper-level classes for students so they are able to graduate on time, and accountability for actions that both the department and the university are saying will happen,” Huynh said.
Dorsey said the college had hired five to six instructors for fall 2016, including two assistant professors, two lecturers and an instructor. It is currently working on hiring a third lecturer, he said.
“Hiring top faculty can be a slow process, so we’re not always able to respond quickly to changes in enrollments. Longer term, we’ll need to plan for the hiring needs in the computer science department,” Dorsey said.
The Franklin College will also work with the department’s administration on strategies to increase the seats offered in upper division courses, Dorsey said.
To target the courses that needed additional sections, Barnes surveyed students on which of the full classes they would need to take and sent the results of this survey to the dean and department head.
“The computer science department has experienced unprecedented growth over the last five years,” Barnes said. “It needs more resources such as faculty members, space and teaching assistants to accommodate the current number of majors.”
Huynh is cautiously optimistic about the petition facilitating changes.
“It helps our undergraduate coordinator get us more seats by making his case more compelling to the department and the dean. However, there is still more that needs to be done besides signing a petition. This is only the first step,” she said.