Students and faculty in the School of Computing say a shortage of funding is causing enrollment issues in required courses and preventing the recruitment of high-quality instructors.
The Computing Students’ Association (COMPSA) brought the funding issue to light in December 2022 when they launched a petition imploring the Faculty of Arts and Science (FAS)—within which the School of Computing lies—to allocate more funds to the School of Computing.
The petition highlighted the size of the incoming class nearly doubled from 250 students in 2021 to 460 students in 2022—which Yuanzhu Chen, computing undergraduate chair, confirmed to The Journal.
“We had no proportional increase of staff to handle that giant uptick in students,” COMPSA President Jagrit Rai said in an interview with The Journal.
He recalled a meeting where faculty in the school was concerned about the “inevitability” of supervising professors being stretched thin when current first-year computing students reach their fourth year and begin their capstone projects—a prerequisite for graduation.
Students have struggled to enroll in several key courses required for many computing degrees.
“I was immediately rejected by four out of five of the courses I needed to take as they were full and so were their waiting lists,” Mayy Mounib, Comp ’24, said in a statement to The Journal.
“I was upset to hear that so many of my fourth-year friends were taking Game Architecture as an elective when really it should have been reserved for third-year students first.”
Students also said fourth-year students are spilling over into certain third-year courses due to capacity issues last school year.
“Because of that, there are fewer spots for [third-year students], and that’s just creating a ripple effect,” Daniel Dickson, Comp ’24, said in an interview with The Journal. “Then next year’s third-years won’t be able to get in.”
Dickson, who was an Orientation leader last September, said his first-year computing students grappled with waitlists even when registering for Introduction to Computing Science, the most fundamental course offered by the School.
Chen said the School of Computing must expand its roster of permanent faculty members. He commented on the discontinuation of artificial intelligence courses like Deep Learning, as well as the absence of a course dedicated to natural language processing.
“To have the expertise to teach it, we need the best on the market,” Chen said. “The best on the market could also go to Facebook, to Google.”
“We will need support from [FAS] so that we can have more permanent, more attractive positions, not just limited term teaching positions, because those are usually not the first choice of the strongest applicants.”
“We can’t bet on using these kinds of secondary positions to attract the strongest applicants if they have better choices, whether it’s industry or other universities. Why would they settle down with us?”
Both Chen and Rai said a tuition increase was not in the cards.
“We have an increase in class size, and money is coming directly from those students in the form of tuition and student fees,” Rai said.
“However, we’re not seeing a proportionate amount of that money going to support the School of Computing, at least not in staffing. If you see that kind of growth of the student body without the same growth and support for this body, then the result is that overall, the quality of the program will fall.”
Rai said he attended a School of Computing meeting last summer where faculty briefly floated the idea of a model similar to the Computer Science Department at U of T, where lower-performing first-year students are denied entry into the program. However, the idea was not popular among staff and was considered a last resort.
Rai said neither the FAS nor the University have commented on COMPSA’s concerns. He and his executive team plan to bring their petition, which now has over 400 signatures, to the FAS dean this week.
“The [FAS] is aware of the concerns expressed by the Computing Students Association and are committed to providing an excellent education experience,” FAS Associate Dean (Academic) Jenn Stephenson wrote in an email to The Journal.
“The faculty office continues to work closely with its departments to understand and consider specific needs and concerns.”
Budget, budget cuts, courses, enrollment, funding, Instructors, Professors, Queen's, School of Computing
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