Section: News

Computer science hampered by lack of faculty, courses

If it were up to Professor of Mathematics Noah Aydin, Kenyon College would begin offering a computer science minor right away. He has not even proposed it to the Curricular Policy Committee (CPC) due to his perception that administrators are concerned with the program’s capacity to meet student demand.

According to Aydin, who has an interest in theoretical computer science, a member of the administration expressed caution towards starting the minor at this point. 

“Computer science is a popular subject and discipline, and I am sure there would be a lot of demand for it — I am not sure if it will exceed our capacity,” Aydin said in an interview with the Collegian, “but also I am not sure if that is a reason they should keep us from offering it.”

In 2016, Provost Joseph Klesner arranged a task force of a dozen faculty members and Ron Griggs, vice president for library and information services, to look at computer science at Kenyon. They unanimously recommended that the College begin developing a computer science major.

While President Sean Decatur says the College would need to hire at least two more faculty members before it could begin offering this major, Professor Aydin says that the College has enough classes and resources to offer the minor.

Currently, the College offers a scientific programming concentration, but only has one full-time computer science professor, Visiting Professor of Mathematics and Computer Science James Skon.

Professor Aydin emphasized that scientific programming, an interdisciplinary program, is not a substitute for computer science. The number of scientific programming concentrators is usually 10 students or fewer. Professor Aydin suspects that computer science would attract more students.

He characterized the lack of a computer science program as a major hole in the College’s curriculum.

“We are virtually alone,” he said of Kenyon’s lack of a computer science program. “Not just peer institutions, but take any liberal arts college and you’ll find computer science.”

This gap, Aydin argues, sets back Kenyon students who are interested in computer science fields.

“They are disadvantaged,” he said. “They can still do some things, there are still some students who have entered computer science fields, even graduate school in computer science … It is still possible, but you are disadvantaged.”

President Decatur confirmed this concern, saying Kenyon does not offer enough intermediate or advanced courses necessary for graduate programs or careers in computer science.

Aydin credited the school with hiring Professor Skon but expressed frustration at what he perceived as the administration’s reluctance to take the next step.

“Personally, I am not sure if I agree with this argument,” he said. “If it was up to me I would go ahead and offer it.”

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