Jan

31

ESC: Deans and Transfers Edition

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No more two to a desk

Sean Zimmermann reports from last night’s ESC meeting.

SEAS Dean Pena-Mora attended last night’s ESC meeting. The Dean began by thanking ESC for their letter in support of his administration, which the council sent to the Spectator last December. Pena-Mora pledged to “continue to ensure that you [all] have the best education experience that anyone could have.”

The Dean announced that a committee on undergraduate education (the same group that revamped Gateway last year), is looking into ways to make it easier for students within SEAS to take classes outside their major for credit. In general, SEAS is considered more restrictive than the college about classes can be taken outside your major track for credit.

In response to a question about class crowding, the Dean responded that this year the school has done a better job of pairing class sizes to specific classrooms, and, as a result, the crowding issues have been partially resolved. He commented that the hardest classes to accommodate are the 4000-level classes, which include both undergraduate and graduate students. He also said the school may have to discuss breaking the graduate and undergraduate students into separate classes, though he stressed that this is just one idea, and nothing has been decided.

Logan Donovan, ESC VP Policy, announced that the transfer student acceptance date is being moved up so that decisions are mailed out before final exams at other institutions. Logan explained that, as a transfer, she was accepted after her own finals at UVA ended, so she never had an opportunity to say goodbye to her friends at her old institution. She also announced that she is trying to institute a chat system for prospective transfer students to speak to current transfer students at Columbia.

Very close children via Wikimedia Commons

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19 Comments

  1. Alum

    Wait, Gateway got revamped? Did they get rid of Jack?

  2. Anonymous  

    He also said the school may have to discuss breaking the graduate and undergraduate students into separate classes

    Please do this. Faculty at other decent schools are shocked that this is the case at Columbia.

    • Anonymous  

      I was just talking about this. It might be fun as an undergrad to be in those classes but as a grad student it must be annoying as hell to sit through classes that don't suppose a certain level of qualification.

      • Jacob  

        Can't speak for other departments, but in CS it's exactly the opposite: the admissions standards for the master's program are now so low undergrads are typically better prepared than graduate students for graduate-level courses. If Feni genuinely believes that the only way to raise money for SEAS is to let anything with a pulse and a savings account enroll in the MS program, and if he do it without pissing off the faculty (oops---too late!), he must be prepared to offer remedial classes to graduate students.

        I've complained about this to him in person, and judging by this article he's still saying what he told me then---that they're looking into fixing the issue but it will take time to figure out.

        This will no longer do. There's been a surge in the number of undergraduates declaring CS; this, coupled with a series of unfortunately-timed sabbaticals (I'm looking at you, Tony Jebara) mean that class sizes will be out of control by next year. It's already happening in some of the sexier-looking courses in the department: computational learning theory, which is utterly useless unless you're planning to study theoretical computer science for a living, had nearly a hundred people in it at one point last semester, many of whom wouldn't have passed the introductory discrete math class that undergrads take as a pre-pre-requisite.

        The worst part is that the grad students compensate for their incompetence (and often, lack of basic English proficiency) by cheating outrageously and conspicuously. It's an embarrassment to the department and to the university. I've been very happy with the quality of my computer science education (particularly w/r/t access to faculty and class size in 6000-level courses), but I fear I'm getting out just in time. SEAS must either change its admissions requirements or hire adjuncts to deal with the master's program, so that the faculty can devote their attention to students who are actually equipped to learn.

        • True that

          Actual conversation with my master's student partner for something low level:

          *Pointing to section of code* "What's that doing?"

          "It checks to see if the address is in the current page but not in physical memory."

          "No, I know, I meant the stars."

          "Oh, see here you can treat it as a pointer since --"

          "What's a pointer?"

    • Caveats  

      As an undergraduate that has taken 4000 level courses I see a couple hurdles with this.

      Undergraduates are usually in the minority by a wide margin in these courses so their sections could end up very small if this was implemented across the board.

      The more sections that exist at columbia the harder all things become to schedule.

      The grad student body is as much of a mixed bag as the undergraduate one. You can take classes with grad students who've participated in industry in the topic (while they get graded on the same curve unfortunate) and you can enter courses more prepared then them based on your experience. Which is to say a separation based on assumed skill wouldn't be a good fit.

  3. Another Alum

    "is looking into ways to make it easier for students within SEAS to take classes outside their major for credit. In general, SEAS is considered more restrictive than the college about classes can be taken outside your major track for credit."

    if this comes true, they can count on my donation. my biggest peeve at CU was that i couldnt take a journalism or visual arts class. they can also start by cutting down the credits on some of these courses, most of them you never really use. atleast in majors like comp sci and applied math, there is no reason for SEAS students to take 7 more major classes than their counterparts in the college. we're human too.

  4. Transfer  

    This is actually probably the biggest problem with the transfer program (yes, I didn't find out I got in until I was home for the summer, and that was frustrating, too). Financial aid for transfers stipulates that, after your initial financial aid offer, it will never be reevaluated, no matter your circumstances. So even if your family loses everything, Columbia won't give you a single dollar more! What is that?

  5. ...  

    people in columbia cs tend to treat pre-requisites like the russians treat traffic signals, mere suggestions. the resulting wreck is exactly the situation you describe.

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