School of Computing to hire first tenure-track professor in 10 years

Student leaders celebrate collaborative advocacy role with faculty and administration.

The School of Computing has been in desperate need of professors.
Credit: 
Julia Balakrishnan

Max Garcia loves the Denver Broncos, and earlier this year he watched them win the highest accolade in the NFL. For him, that kind of joy isn’t easily topped.

However, in early September, Garcia — the former president of the Computing Students' Association (COMPSA) — told The Journal he’d received news of an even bigger victory than the Superbowl.

“It felt rewarding. The hard work from a lot of people had finally paid off. I jumped for joy when I first found out,” he said. After 10 years, the Queen’s School of Computing will finally be receiving a new tenure-track professor.

Since 1995, only one faculty member was hired in 2006 and one half-time professor in 2014. In 2007, faculty retirements started to take a toll, with seven members of the 28-person faculty leaving between 2007 and 2015, and seven more expected by 2017.

None of the 14 retirees had been replaced. The student-to-faculty ratio went from 11 to 1 in 2011 to 19.5 to 1 in 2014, with enrolment in Queen’s Computing steadily rising each year.

As of the end of September, the applicants for the new full-time position have been narrowed to a short-list. For students, this means that starting in the next school year there will be a professor focusing specifically on Big Data, Machine Learning, and Cognitive Science.

After seeing the collaboration between students and faculty come to fruition, Garcia, CompSci ’17 says that one of the strongest feelings he has is that of pride. 

“I’m proud of all the people who were involved in this movement, both students and faculty, who through their time, effort and advocacy were able to help in the cause,” he said.

To him, the success of their advocacy demonstrated how valued the views of the student body are within the School of Computing. After the initial wave of excitement, Garcia paused.

“In that moment, I was able to fully grasp the whole reality of what this all meant. I was able to see that this long-standing goal had now been achieved, and that we had all made IT happen.”

Max Garcia is the former president of the Computing Student's Association. Photo by Julia Balakrishnan.

Looking back on her time as COMPSA President in 2014-15, Erin Gallagher, CompSci ’16, recalled the evident struggle within the faculty.

According to Gallagher, in September 2014 the faculty faced a serious issue with having too many students for the number of tenure-track professors.

Without enough professors, she recalls many students having to take an unwanted Game Architecture class when there weren’t enough professors with the desire or capability to teach the alternate Software Architecture class.

“Throughout the course of the year, the COMPSA Executive had meetings with the Director of the School of Computing, Dr. Selim Akl, in order to determine why we lacked tenure-track professors,” she told The Journal via email.

“Dr. Akl shared our frustrations, and explained that Arts and Science would not provide Computing with the budget to hire another tenure-track professor.”

At the time, Gallagher noted that a number of Computing staff were unable to work full-time due to disability or serious health issues. In an article published in The Journal last year, Akl noted that the average age of tenured professors was 54.5, increasing to around 58 if continuing adjunct professors were counted.

“So in summary, Arts and Science did not have the budget to provide the School of Computing with more professors,” Gallagher wrote. “Because they already had a sufficient amount, assuming that each of them were present and capable of working full time.”

It took Gallagher nearly her entire year as COMPSA president to gather this information, at which point she passed the role on to Garcia.

When she found out the good news, she admitted her response was one of disbelief.

“After two years of investigating and writing letters to professors and administration, could it be possible that we actually made a difference?” 

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