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Western Washington Univ. Considers Cutting Computer Science 298

Posted by timothy
from the what-the-quasi-market-will-bear dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Due to Washington State budget concerns, Western Washington University is considering cutting their Computer Science Department. The news comes even as local stations report a hiring boom in the tech sector. The WWU administration seems completely out of touch with the current state of the department. This story has gotten a lot of attention and support from local industry and the University of Washington professors."
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Western Washington Univ. Considers Cutting Computer Science

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  • It makes sense (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Billly Gates (198444) on Saturday May 14, 2011 @05:54PM (#36129254) Journal

    I am honestly not a troll here, but most of the big companies prefer Indian workers who can work for much cheaper and can't leave for better working conditions as easily. Many fortune 500 companies only have 6 or 7 employees that even deal with I.T. as they switch to salesforce.com and outsourcers and leave it very lean and barebones to satisfy Wall Street investors.

    This is similiar to obtaining technical certifications for factory jobs. Americans simply do not do them anymore in a global economy.

    If the university notices that students who graduate with these degrees do not find work compared to other majors then it makes sense to encourage these students to major in more profitable areas.

    • Re:It makes sense (Score:5, Insightful)

      by errandum (2014454) on Saturday May 14, 2011 @06:06PM (#36129328)

      There is a misconception here.

      Computer scientists aren't the code-monkeys. They are either the overseers of code monkeys or the guys doing research on various platforms.

      Everyone can be a code monkey, but if you want your plane to land, you need experts.

      • by errandum (2014454)

        *PS: That doesn't mean many won't end up as code monkeys, but they are overqualified to do so

      • by arth1 (260657)

        Everyone can be a code monkey, but if you want your plane to land, you need experts.

        This is obviously not true. They all land.

        That said, the experts are, in general, neither code monkeys nor CS graduates. It's the autodidacts, who more than anything has a strong interest in the field, combined with being smart. Sometimes they have too little time and money, and do code money jobs to pay the rent; sometimes they have too much time and money, and graduate from a school where they're bored out of their minds. With any kind of grades, depending on how how bored they were. More often, they

      • by Weezul (52464)

        All this depends upon what level people you're talking about, but ..

        An undergrad degree isn't "overqualified" for any vaguely related job. It might be that all MIT C.S. grads who want leadership roles in tech companies get them, but that's not true for the other high level engineering schools, like CalTech, Berkley, and Georgia Tech.

        There is even an "abstract thinking gradient" for above average but not necessarily stellar people where you want people trained for some higher level of abstraction than their

      • Not to sound cynical but most undergrad compsci grats in Florida where I live end up doing help desk for $13/hr after all that work. Programming ... thats for the master students or those with 5 years experience. Incredible!

      • If the overseer is expected to have a degree in Computer Science it's likely that they are expected to be a technical manager that understands the process and pitfalls of creating software. This requires years of experience and to get those years of experience you need to start as a "code monkey". Asking a recent Computer Science graduate to manage a team of Indian coders is a recipe for disaster.

    • Re:It makes sense (Score:5, Informative)

      by MaskedSlacker (911878) on Saturday May 14, 2011 @06:08PM (#36129344)

      If the university notices that students who graduate with these degrees do not find work compared to other majors then it makes sense to encourage these students to major in more profitable areas.

      I know, I know, you didn't RTFA, but that's the exact opposite of what's been noticed.

    • Re:It makes sense (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Jurily (900488) <jurily@NoSpAM.gmail.com> on Saturday May 14, 2011 @06:08PM (#36129346)

      This is similiar to obtaining technical certifications for factory jobs. Americans simply do not do them anymore in a global economy.

      The very idea of this comparison makes me sad about the state of modern software.

    • by MoonBuggy (611105)

      Your points seem more or less valid, but somewhat irrelevant to the situation: CS is not IT, and university is not vocational training. Even putting that aside, it strikes me as an odd choice of department to cut - I can't imagine running a CS department costs much, in comparison to engineering or physical sciences.

      • by perpenso (1613749) on Sunday May 15, 2011 @01:21AM (#36131308)

        Your points seem more or less valid, but somewhat irrelevant to the situation: CS is not IT, and university is not vocational training. Even putting that aside, it strikes me as an odd choice of department to cut - I can't imagine running a CS department costs much, in comparison to engineering or physical sciences.

        Cutting CS makes sense from a political point of view. Its equivalent to a city threatening to cut police, fire or K-12 teachers. The goal of the politicians, government or university, is to maximize outcry to get a budget restored. If a city announced cuts to administration, or a university announced dropping its Canadian Studies program, no one would care rather they would approve. This is all about restoring a budget or "punishing" those who called for budget cuts to prevent a second round.

    • Re:It makes sense (Score:4, Insightful)

      by deathguppie (768263) on Saturday May 14, 2011 @06:36PM (#36129520)

      You don't live near Microsoft (obviously) where they are generally known as the "Indian mafia" because of they way they only like to hire other Indians and generally make a hell of a lot more money than you espouse. The average MS software eng. starts at around $80k. Most of them I've known make around $120K.

      Yes you are right about there being a lot of Indians, but you are way off base on working conditions and wages.

      • by improfane (855034) *

        What makes me laugh is that if you subscribe to a software mailing list for software support, you'll find many poorly written help requests from Indians names and Westerners helping them.

        So basically the westerners are helping outsourced workers do the job they are not qualified for. The westerners are doing it for free.

    • Re:It makes sense (Score:4, Interesting)

      by II Xion II (1420223) on Saturday May 14, 2011 @07:49PM (#36129950)

      Sorry I don't buy that entirely. It's true that outsourcing IT has become more and more popular, but it's hardly to the point where "many Fortune 500 companies only have 6 or 7 employees that even deal with I.T." That's a pretty big hyperbole.

      I work at a Fortune 100 company helping maintain production code and working on transitioning development applications all the way to the production environment. We have no less than a thousand employees (with an employee total of over 30,000 people) who work directly or indirectly in I.T. in no less than a dozen different departments. I'm sure that number includes our outsourced colleagues in India (and we do have many consultants as well offshore employees, especially Indians), but we have many, many locally-based workers here in our main locations in the United States. Those include many who work in traditional Helpdesk roles, network engineering, environment moves, development silos, production support silos, business-IT liaisons, database management, host systems management & batch, incident management & escalation, etc. etc. who all help to develop and maintain a portfolio of hundreds of disparate and important applications critical to our infrastructural and business needs.

      Maybe I'm not as jaded about outsourcing as the next person because of this experience. Maybe it's because I see the critical role it serves in helping companies/consumers lower costs and Indians/others get better lives. Maybe my company is the exception (though I doubt it, all companies of this size have diverse I.T. needs that make I.T. staffs of hundreds probably needed). Regardless, I think that combining outsourcing strategies while holding onto valuable I.T. employees here in the United States and the Western world is nonetheless what needs to be done in order to facilitate the proper mix of cost-savings and quality service/employee morale.

    • by JAlexoi (1085785)

      I am honestly not a troll here, but most of the big companies prefer Indian workers who can work for much cheaper and can't leave for better working conditions as easily. Many fortune 500 companies only have 6 or 7 employees that even deal with I.T. as they switch to salesforce.com and outsourcers and leave it very lean and barebones to satisfy Wall Street investors.

      A) A lot of companies are starting to see that it's not cheaper using Indians in the long run. Not for all work, but for the work that requires a lot of analytical skills. Indian job market does not offer those kind of people.
      B) You really don't know how easy it is for an Indian guy to switch a job. A 50% yearly employee turnover rate is not uncommon in Indian companies. So they not only can leave, but do switch jobs very often.

    • thats what i call an 'efficient market'.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 14, 2011 @05:57PM (#36129266)

    In Modern America, there just isn't any place for science, mathematics, engineering, and anything else that's remotely technical.

    In Modern America, it's important to know about sports and Christianity. That is all that one needs to know.

    In Modern America, why is anyone surprised when universities start cutting technical programs? That's just not what American culture is about today.

    • by White Flame (1074973) on Saturday May 14, 2011 @06:27PM (#36129478)

      [From TFA comments]

      From someone who was present at a meeting discussing this:

      "This decision, apparently still potential, is a permanent statement of the University about the future of Computer Science. The impression conveyed in the meeting with the Provost and Dean was that we had reached the End of History. Now that everyone has a computer and a spreadsheet and a wordprocessor, the contribution of computing to the life of the mind has been exhausted. I do not write this sarcastically. This was the sense of the meeting."

      • by symbolset (646467)
        This is what happens when you offer 300 level classes in "Advanced data manipulation with Excel".
    • In Modern America, why is anyone surprised when universities start cutting technical programs? That's just not what American culture is about today.

      The university near where I live is cutting programs, but notably *skipping* the technical programs.

      Most of the science and engineering programs have good enrollment numbers, and they bring in a lot of grant money. Most of the programs being eliminated are the low-enrollment specializations of the fine and liberal arts.

    • by FSWKU (551325) on Saturday May 14, 2011 @07:01PM (#36129676)

      In Modern America, there just isn't any place for science, mathematics, engineering, and anything else that's remotely technical.

      In Modern America, it's important to know about sports and Christianity. That is all that one needs to know.

      I find it interesting that so many people seem to think science and faith are mutually excluseive. In my church we have medical professionals (doctors, surgeons, a medical examiner, and pharmacists), network engineers, broadcast engineers, etc. All very technically minded people, and all very much connected to their faith. I won't say religious, because there IS a difference. "Religious" people killed Jesus. People who have faith try to live their lives as best they can and leave the world better than they were brought into it. Do they always succeed? Of course not. But the whole point is it's something to strive for so you better yourself and have a positive impact on those around you.

      As for myself, I'm learning quite a lot about audio engineering just through my work in the church's media ministry. I've had the opportunity to dabble in both live sound and broadcast mixing during our services, discover various techniques for getting the best sound from a given space and group of musicians, and a TON of various functions found in modern audio equipment (the Yamaha PM5D is an easy thing to get into, but not so easy to completely master). On several occasions I've even gotten into a bit of applied psychoacoustics. Sure, you can adjust the gain and volume if someone isn't singing very loudly, but that introduces background noise. Sneak the volume down on their monitor, however, and they sing louder without even realizing it.

      Bottom line is, faith and science/technology do NOT have to be mutually exclusive. I'm sure there will be those who disagree with that statement as well as what I'm about to say, but it holds true for me. When working on a difficult technical problem, sometimes I get frustrated and can't figure out what to do next. Does God intervene and show me what I should do next? No. But I do tend to gain enough clarity to realize why a particular approach wasn't working, along with the motivation to try a different approach. And when I read about some unexpected result or novel discovery in any given scientific field, I can't help but wonder what else has been created just waiting for us to discover it. Science and faith are NOT enemies. God gave us scientific minds so that we could learn as much as possible (and that statement will probably irritate some of the more hardcore "religious" types, hehe).

      To put it another way, seeing something truly amazing in the world of science (from the depths of space to the incredible variety of life in the ocean) is, I believe, God's way of inspiring us to want to learn as much about what we've discovered as we possibly can. And if we've learned all we can with current technologies, to invent new ones to further the quest for understanding.

      • by IICV (652597)

        Bottom line is, faith and science/technology do NOT have to be mutually exclusive.

        That is not an issue that anyone is debating, and yet for some reason people keep on bringing it up. Clearly, science and faith are not mutually exclusive in the human mind - just look at the current Director of the National Institutes of Health, for goodness sakes. He's an evangelical Christian, and also was one of the leaders of the Human Genome Project. There is absolutely no debate on this point; you simply cannot argue it

    • When you look at corporations these days, the emphasis is all in management. People who rise in the hierarchy are "people people", they are managers, good at getting other people to do what needs to be done.

      That's all great and worked well while all the jobs had to be done by people. Now advance to a time when work is done by computers. Who gets computers to do what needs to be done?

      Managers today are just middlemen, they are there to get programmers to get computers to do what's needed. I wonder how long i

  • we do need a source of cheap labor.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 14, 2011 @06:00PM (#36129288)

    We're running out of money in WA. Nobody wants to pay income tax. You get what you pay for.

    • by rhook (943951)

      That's why the state has sales tax.

      • by arth1 (260657)

        Out of curiosity, how would Americans react if a US state raised its sales tax to the same level as in Europe?

        In Europe, a quarter of your purchasing power is lost to taxes.
        In the US, a quarter of your purchasing power is lost to pay for lawyers.

  • Makes sense to me (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Iron Condor (964856) on Saturday May 14, 2011 @06:01PM (#36129290)
    There may be a hiring boom in "IT folks", but what does have to do with computer science? A hiring boom in plumbing doesn't mean we should have universities teach more hydrodynamics.

    Let's face it: 97% of "computer science" graduates end up as code monkeys or cable stringers in jobs that a six-week trade certificate would be entirely sufficient to qualify for.

    • by bill_mcgonigle (4333) * on Sunday May 15, 2011 @01:22AM (#36131312) Homepage Journal

      There may be a hiring boom in "IT folks", but what does have to do with computer science?

      I do some of both. When I do IT work, I clean up, or often have to throw out a non-solution developed by an IT jockey who doesn't have a CS background because fundamental assumptions were impossible, the problem was never correctly analyzed, or the performance is abysmal due to knowledge deficits.

      You simply can't make intelligent decisions on how to structure, organize, and optimize IT systems if you don't know how they work all the way up and down the stack.

      CS is the MD for a sophisticated-level IT residency.

  • by Spazntwich (208070) on Saturday May 14, 2011 @06:03PM (#36129300)

    WWU isn't in business to educate kids; they're in it to stay in business, and liberal arts majors vastly outnumber technical majors. In trying economic times, the money sinks are going to be the first to go.

    As for the utterly irrational economic policies that have resulted in scores of directionless kids heading to college and picking the easier majors, distorting the market for technical degrees and leaving us with bottomless piles of college-educated baristas, well... I don't know where I'm going with any of this.

    America: We're getting what we deserve.

    • by chihowa (366380) *

      I also wonder if CS graduates are less likely to give back to the school as alumni. This usually doesn't represent a huge source of income (especially for public schools), but it can help a department out in trying times (like now). Graduating students is nice, but graduating students that donate to the school is better.

    • One thing that no one has mentioned here is that WWU is located right in the center of the UW campus area in the U district of Seattle. There are a lot of Universities here, so it stands to reason that some of them are better known for CS than others. If I were going looking for a CS degree right now, WWU wouldn't even be a consideration anyway. :p

    • As for the utterly irrational economic policies that have resulted in scores of directionless kids heading to college and picking the easier majors, distorting the market for technical degrees and leaving us with bottomless piles of college-educated baristas, well.

      I hate to break it to you, but at my college a CS degree IS one of the easier degrees. Physics, math, biology, even history and music were much harder, more intense in depth studies. Literally anyone could get a CS degree. I don't know where I'm going with this either, but most IT professionals I know do not have CS degrees.

      • by AuMatar (183847)

        IT!=programming. IT doesn't need a degree, it would be like getting a degree to be an auto mechanic. Programming does take years of study to do efficiently and well. That's what the majority of the graduates go into, and the number of non-degreed people in it is low and dropping. Probably because most of the non-degreed people I've met knew the basics, but never bothered to learn the underlieing concepts of discrete math, complexity, or data structures- they just learned enough APIs to limp along.

      • I'd have to agree with you. I went to an institution with a top 10 CS program. I did dual majors in CS and Physics, and I'd have to say CS was a cake walk compared to physics.
    • by hey! (33014)

      There are no easy majors; only easy departments.

      In some places Economics is an easy degree. Not everywhere. I had a friend who taught one of the introductory level Economics courses for majors. He shocked his class by giving them one week to finish "Wealth of Nations" at the start of the course, and it didn't get easier from there. His position was that the world didn't need more half-assed econ grads. I had another friend who taught the anatomy class that washed out many jocks who wanted to become certifi

      • by umbramei (1817502) on Saturday May 14, 2011 @09:18PM (#36130382)

        Not that I'm saying this department is weak; as far as I know it's a terrific department. But the decision to cut the department isn't purely a matter of whether the subject is important. It's a matter of whether the department is economically successful, or successful at serving a public need.

        The CS department at WWU is, in fact, quite strong. (For instance, as with most ABET-accredited CS programs, graduating majors are required to take the ETS Major Field Test; their scores put the program at or above the 95th percentile among all institutions that require this test.).

        As far as economic success, the cost-per-student is right about average among academic departments at the school (it pays for its own equipment through lab fees), and enrolls a sizable number of students. Moreover, the program's record for new-graduate employment and salary ranks first or second among all programs in the university. Not only does this bode well economically for the university in terms of alumni donations and loan repayment, but it's one indicator that the program is "successful at serving a public need."

        Other indicators are the regional hiring boom in CS-related positions, and statements and reports from Washington businesses, industry organizations, and the government. For example, the state's Higher Education Coordinating Board recently released a report showing that the state's need for computer science majors outstrips all other higher-education needs in the state, by far.

        This story isn't about a school making a tough, but necessary economic decision in the face of a budget crisis. (Since already-enrolled students are guaranteed the chance to graduate, eliminating the department would have little economic impact for several years, and the cost-per-student would go up enormously as the number of students dwindled. Besides that, tenured CS faculty would, except in a financial emergency, have to be allowed to teach in other departments in which they were qualified, such as Mathematics.) What this story is about is out-of-touch members of the administration who profoundly fail to understand the role of computer science in modern society, both academically and economically.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    A longer story with more info can be found in the WWU student newspaper:
    http://westernfrontonline.net/top-stories/13487-westerns-budget-balancing-act-rumors-of-elimination-shake-up-a-trio-of-academic-departments

    They say nothing's been decided yet, but at a minimum Computer Science has been singled out as a candidate for elimination or at least "restructuring" (and not in a good way).

  • The tech industry should be giving us money if they want the program to continue. Lots of money. We purposely started talking about cutting the computer science program because we know the demand for that major is so high, we figure that the easiest extortion opportunities lie there.

    We all know that when publicly funded institutions face budget cuts that the first thing they cut is the thing everybody actually wants them to do because then they pony up like good little tax payers and we can continue spending money on all kinds of ridiculous things that don't actually matter to anybody in particular at all. Why are you all so surprised about this?

    Seriously, that's exactly what I get out of reading this. "Forging ties with local industry." sounds an awful like to me like "Shake them down for some money.".

    • we can continue spending money on all kinds of ridiculous things that don't actually matter to anybody in particular at all

      It has to benefit someone in some way unless the people who spend the money are total idiots. Then that looks like embezzlement to me.

    • by couchslug (175151)

      The purpose of most education is job training, so if companies want domestic workers they can shit a few bucks to train them.

      Many community colleges do training for specific industries, which can "locally outsource" any training they wish.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 14, 2011 @06:20PM (#36129430)

    I am attending Western Washington University as a Computer Science major. Thankfully, this report may be jumping the gun, as there hasn't yet been any confirmation to the future of the department, but it is certainly on the chopping block.

    The students and the faculty have no idea what actually is going on. In an attempt to ensure that the students in the department can graduate, professors in our classes have told any premajors (including myself) to declare immediately. We've pushed 70 new applicants this week. The department involved in making the budget cut decisions have not been forthcoming in their intentions, and there is fear that they may be attempting to push this beneath the door, so to speak, so any publicity, especially here on slashdot, is very welcome.

    We're speculating that this may be a public relations tactic to try and get some external funding, which the university desperately needs. Unfortunately, our fate is still undecided at this point, and I'm awaiting news just as earnestly as my professors are.

    • We're speculating that this may be a public relations tactic to try and get some external funding

      This could be a semi bluff. If graudates from this university would often end up as QA (testers), then it would be very difficult to compete with cheap Indian workers (In the company I work even Indians are being replaced by indians in india). I think in the long term in the US only high quality engineers will survivie and correspondingly only high quality departments will survive.

    • by Sangui5 (12317) on Saturday May 14, 2011 @07:45PM (#36129934)

      Speaking as somebody who has seen what sort of things can happen in campus politics, I see three reasons for what is going on.

      1) The department of CS has become... clogged... with under-performing faculty..
      2) The administration is playing a brinkmanship game with those above them.
      3) The administration is incompetent.

      Now, I've listed these in order of most likely to least likely. The administration could be incompetent, but do you really believe anyone could be that stupid? There may be a lot of liberal arts majors, but those are the money sinks; the smart money on alumni donations is still engineers, doctors, and lawyers. Rather than the administration being stupid, there are other explanations, which are far more likely.

      They could be playing a political brinkmanship game. I wouldn't be surprised if the plan to close the CS department is just a threat, and nothing more. It would make sense; in a time of mild to moderate budget crisis, it is not uncommon to threaten to cut something popular in order to garner more money for other things. If the threat was to cancel the history department, would there be a big stink? Absolutely not (unless there are a bunch of history buffs in the state senate... who knows? Maybe sports psychology, or sociology, or some other useles.... I meant, less practical... major).

      It is very unfortunate, but I think that the most likely reason for this is that the faculty in the CS department are not up to snuff. It could well be that they are, collectively, getting older and tireder, and just not putting the effort into teaching that they could be. It could also be that they just weren't that good to begin with. But, what I think may be the case, is that the CS department is populated by... faculty from an older time. Faculty who, when they were hired, it was a rock solid CV if they had a single top-tier publication. When they got tenure, a solid case had 1 top tier publication plus a smattering of lesser accomplishments. WWU's faculty could think a wonderful accomplishment is a single pub a year.

      That is to say, WWU could possibly be staffed by professors who would be laughed out of the room if they tried to defend a thesis today. It isn't that they weren't worthy when they were hired; it is just that standards have gone way up. I personally have a better publication record now than Randy Pausch (famous for "The Last Lecture") had when he was made a full prof; I don't even rate an interview at top schools today. WWU may simply be looking at what they have, and then looking at what the supply of desperate fresh grads are, and deciding that the logical thing to do is to wipe the slate clean, keep maybe one or two of the old faculty, but to otherwise start fresh with, talented, sharp, bright-eyed, and coincidentally desperately eager, newly minted faculty. I've seen it happen at much more prestigious institutions.

      • by Nethead (1563)

        And UW is right down the road.

        Very insightful comments. I wish I hadn't used up my daily allocation of mod points.

  • University level innovative work has little to do with a perceived threat from cheap wage places like India or Brazil.

    A far greater problem is the thread from a lack of entrepreneurs and risk-capital for novel high-tech projects.

    And Universities, like politicians, see more reward in training IP-lawyers, because the accountants have decided 'content' is the US industry of the future.

  • Bull$@!+ (Score:4, Insightful)

    by rsilvergun (571051) on Saturday May 14, 2011 @06:54PM (#36129640)
    the media has been doing this for years: declaring a hiring boom anywhere our rulers want to depress wages. They did it with engineers, they did it with tech, and they're starting in on it with nursing. As has already been pointed out most of the jobs are meant for H1-B visas, and the only reason they're listed is to meet the legal requirement. There's tons of ways around hiring Americans.

    Said it before, will not doubt say it again: stop voting Republican, put a majority of Dems in office. At least the Dems have to pretend to be pro-labor. It puts a limit on the crap they can do. The Republican's core philosophy boils down to: screw labor, the free market
    • There was a big shortage in nursing about a decade ago. My wife was able to walk into an interview about 15 minutes after filling out the application and hired on the spot with a retention bonus after 1 year.

      Now? If you don't have experience you are fighting with about 100 applicants per open position. Student nurses can't even find jobs as exturns.

  • by dbc (135354) on Saturday May 14, 2011 @07:08PM (#36129728)

    Provost@wwu.edu
    address of the Provost's office. Of course, your thoughtful comments will be handled by one of her staff. Or... maybe more than one :)

  • by RobinEggs (1453925) on Saturday May 14, 2011 @07:26PM (#36129832)
    Western is only 90 miles away from the University of Washington, which has one of the best public Computer Science departments in the country, so any Washington resident smart enough to deserve a subsidized education in CS has a *way* better option just down the road.

    I see so many comments here on slashdot to the effect that recent computer science grads are perhaps 10% excellent, 35% trainable, and 55% total morons, yet when someone suggests closing a computer science department you all rush to criticize. I think it's the right thing to close this department, especially if it means making the department at UW a little bigger. Less duplication of resources, fewer incompetents admitted to CS programs in Washington state, and those who go to UW rather than Western will get a much better education.

    There's no need for every basic discipline to have a degree granting department at every school, either. What's wrong with downgrading the department at Western to a non-degree granting teaching department, offering a minor and specializing in synergy classes for other sciences?
    • by natet (158905)

      Western is only 90 miles away from the University of Washington, which has one of the best public Computer Science departments in the country, so any Washington resident smart enough to deserve a subsidized education in CS has a *way* better option just down the road.

      That sounds great, until you realize that UW is cutting the numbers of in state students that they're admitting because out of state students bring in more money in tuition. WWU cutting it's CS department reduces the options that in-state students have for getting a technical education.

    • by westlake (615356)

      There's no need for every basic discipline to have a degree granting department at every school

      Western has about 15,000 students - 100 in CS. It is not unfair to ask if this is where the school's strength or focus really lies.

    • by JAlexoi (1085785)
      Those 45% deliver so much positive results, that it overshadows the 55% of morons out there.
  • The university's statement [wwu.edu] (referenced by the article) is remarkably poorly written, especially given its source. Consider, for example, the first paragraph under the heading 'Academic Programs', which begins thus: "Rebasing does not mean, exclusively, looking at the programs we will have. And, those we will no longer have."
  • Actually, state spending in Washington has gone up 80% in ten years at the same time population growth and inflation have been less than 40%. We don't have a revenue problem in Washington, we have a spending problem. If the State were spending at the same rate it did ten years ago, allowing for inflation and population gowth, there would be no budget issues. But instead, the legislature and governor went on a spending spree and added state workers by the thousands, added spending programs "for the children"

  • by Nimey (114278) on Saturday May 14, 2011 @08:31PM (#36130176) Homepage Journal

    I graduated in '03 and they just cut the CS program this year. I'm not privy to the reasons for it, but I suspect:

    1) the dept was too small to be really good, and it's at a smaller university anyway
    2) most of the CS grads didn't go on to be computer scientists, but rather programmers and IT monkeys.

    The program's been split into the College of Business for an Information Systems-type degree, and the College of Technology for an Electronics Engineering-type degree.

  • by Toasterboy (228574) on Saturday May 14, 2011 @08:32PM (#36130180)

    Western's CS program is one of the ones that grew out of a math base. It's pretty hardcore on the theory, but you're sort of on your own for learning the stuff that business wants. Which is fine.... even if the program focused on exacty whatever buzzwords corps want these days, corps don't generally hire CS grads straight out of school. The stuff you learn in the 400 level classes is great for senior developers to know....but you're not going to start out as one. It wasn't till my 3rd job out of college (which I'm still at) that I actually got to touch source code at work. For long term personal growth, I'm really glad that I had my ass kicked with the theory; I find that the rigorous methods that were drilled into me really help me tackle the hard problems I work on every day. (debugging nasty kernel mode race conditions in code written by others for example). Besides, if you can handle the proofs and algorithm stuff, you can handle anything else, though you'll sure as hell not enjoy writing silly business apps over and over.

    You know what the job finding foks at Western tell you about finding a job once you graduate? They tell you to forget about finding anything remotely in your field. The real difficulty in getting hired after college has less to do with your skills and what you're taught and more to do with risk aversion for employers...they don't like hiring green kids who don't understand corporate politics yet. You have to persevere in order to get to do what you love.

    Computer science is supposed to be hardcore...unfortunately there is a huge variation in what different universities consider to be computer science, let alone what the business world thinks. For some, any old programming is CS, for others, they focus on software engineering methods, and some hardly touch on theory and math at all; others still consider web page design to be CS. CS is about understanding the extreme limits of what computers and software are capable of and pushing the limits of what's possible....it's not supposed to train you for "IT" (which most businesses consider to be the guys that fix their computers).

    You really should not be doing a computer science degree unless you are going to be some kind of developer and you get off on things that require in depth knowledge of how to design and compare the performance of different algorithms, want to fix bugs no one else can, want to write really hardcore software (such as doing speech recognition, computer vision, or 3d rendering) at the bleeding edge, and need to be able to prove why your design is better than someone else's design. The industry is already full of very experienced, very compentent people who don't have CS degrees. In fact, many of them started before such degree programs even existed. They know how to code, but they generally don't have any exposure to the more advanced theory stuff and are therefore not inspired by it, nor do they generally value it. The degree is MUCH more a long term investment for your career than a credential to get your foot in the door, as you'll eventually get to apply the theory and start doing things that wow. After you've taken your lumps that is.

  • by plopez (54068) on Saturday May 14, 2011 @08:38PM (#36130216) Journal

    I'm serious. Should a Uni, and yes I am aware of what the root meaning of "university" is, be all things to all people? Or should they be a bit more specialized, e.g. some be more focused on the Liberal Arts, others Science and Research, other on Engineering, and others on Athletics (I was just joking about that last one ;)

    Specialization may make a school better at what it does. That does not man a couple of technology courses will not be taught at a Liberal Arts school, or Liberal Arts at a SMET school. I think diversity is important. But I think a more focused mission may make a school better at their mission.

    Who agrees or disagrees?

  • CS is not IT (Score:3, Insightful)

    by brillow (917507) on Saturday May 14, 2011 @08:59PM (#36130294)

    A degree in CS is not prepping you to be a sys admin. CS is an academic discipline, not a vocation. Also, going to a University is not a vocational move. Universities do not teach you job skills. They disseminate and create knowledge.

    If you think students should have the opportunity to learn IT skills, it should not be done in a CS dept at a University. It should be done in a vocational school.

    • by Cysgod (21531)

      It has been pretty obvious from the communication coming from the Provost at WWU that she hasn't the foggiest idea what Computer Science is or how students apply what they learn when they leave.

      Top tier employers and startups don't really want vocational school IT folks. Some of the best system administrators I know have Computer Science degrees and use the knowledge that came with those degrees to kick ass, take names, and automate the crap out of systems they manage. They're over an order of magnitude mor

  • Clearly, Provost Catherine Riordan is trying to extort the CompSci department to bring in some dough, or else she's going to cut the department.

    Seriously - go back & read the "completely out of touch" article (http://www.geekwire.com/2011/western-washington-provost-were-respect-computer-science-department), and it's all there.

    The ONLY concrete criticism she's offering of the computer science department is that they're not "engaging the business community and other people to a sufficient degree". She r

    • by Cysgod (21531)

      However when the school repeatedly engages in shenanigans like this, it makes the tech community and well place alumni a *lot* less likely to give money to the school. Instead donations from alumni are being targeted at the department itself and related student activities since it appears the school doesn't have the best interests of the CS department at heart.

  • At WSU the university is set to expand an additional 1,000 students in Pullman, WA and and additional 2-4k statewide in the branch campuses. Become a traditional Engineer and pick up a Minor in CS. You'll be better off. Of course, if you want to do heavy research WSU is the state's lead land grant university. Besides, Bellingham is f'n boring, even with beautiful Mt. Baker nearby. It's not nearly as interesting as a place like Port Townsend, or any of the small harbor cities on the Sound, while being just a

  • Marshall did the same thing years ago.

I judge a religion as being good or bad based on whether its adherents become better people as a result of practicing it. - Joe Mullally, computer salesman

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