Section: Letter to the Editor

Letter to the Editors: 12/8/16

To the editors:

I was somewhat dismayed when I opened my Collegian on Nov. 17 and saw the headline “College developing compsci major; available in 5-10 years.” This is misleading at best, and certainly not reflective of the current state of affairs. I did not assert in my interview that the College is currently developing a CS program.

The facts are that a purely advisory task force was assembled at the Provost’s request to consider whether a computer science program would be appropriate for Kenyon at this time. Having endeavored to approach the question with open minds, we submitted a report to the President and Provost a few weeks ago, recommending that (1) CS would be a very appropriate and desirable addition to the College’s curriculum, and that (2) the administration and trustees consider the feasibility of adding this program, taking into consideration costs and budgetary priorities. That is as far as things have gotten, as far as I know.

In the article, Ms. Amos wrote, “Davidson College … and Whitman College … initially resisted adopting the major, Milnikel said, but both will be adding computer science to their curriculum next year.” I did not intend to characterize either Davidson or Whitman as resisting a computer science major. They were two of the last of our peer colleges to adopt a computer science major: Whitman established its program two years ago, and Davidson is adding a major next year to the minor it has had for many years.

The article also referred to “Kenyon’s current computer science concentration.” Kenyon does not have a computer science concentration; we have a scientific computing concentration. This is a real distinction. Scientific computing focuses on applications of computing ideas and technology to problems in science, mathematics and statistics. Computer science might be characterized as the study of algorithmic approaches to information, and is not principally about applications.

While I appreciate the attention to the work that the task force on computer science put in over the course of the past nine months, I also think it’s important to understand where we are in the decision-making process.

Bob Milnikel

Professor of Mathematics


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