Meeting with the Dean Recap

For anyone who wasn't able to attend the Friday May 8th meeting with Dean Jayanth Banavar.
By Alex BenDebba

After a tense week following the surprising news that the University of Maryland would be implementing differential pricing, Dean Jayanth Banavar held an impromptu meeting on Friday May 8th to listen to student concerns. 

The main concerns addressed in the meeting were where the money will be going and how to avoid springing news like this onto students in the future.  For where the money is going, Department Chair Dr. Samir Khuller explained that it would go to funding more TA support, bringing in more lecturers, and expanding faculty.  Right now, it costs $1.5 million to pay for all the TAs needed for the current enrollment rate -- where it was $900,000 just a few years ago.  If there are any sudden drops in enrollment, the TA budget will act as the buffer so none of the new faculty will be affected. 

In order to keep students in the know, junior Amelia Malone suggested creating a student board to see how the money is spent.  “Students feel left out of the conversation, and this would be a great way to bring us back in,” she said.  Junior and president of the ACES student board Christian Johnson echoed Amelia’s concerns, stating that many students were worried that they could easily be left out of major decisions again, since the student Board of Regents did not get a say in the vote.  Both the dean and the department chair agreed that a student advisory board should be created, and that the work for it would begin as soon as finals ended. 

Many students, especially those who are coming from out of state, have expressed concern about being priced out of the major.  This is a major concern for everyone, including President Loh himself.  So about 25% of the revenue will go towards increasing need based financial aid.  As Brandi Adams put it, “If we lose one student because they were priced out of computer science, that’s too many.”  The extra money would expand need based aid opportunities to those with up to $8000 family contribution.  All in the hopes that this will offset the costs to the needier students.

“I want you all to be very successful in your careers, and I am so truly sorry for how short notice this is,” Jayanth Banavar said, apologizing not only for the tuition hikes, but for how the news got out.  The proposal for differential pricing had been tossed around for years, but never taken very seriously until recently.  And even though it was coming to the forefront as a possible plan, the department was told that it would not be discussed this week, and wouldn’t be brought up until the next Regents meeting.  Dr. Banavar explained that although it was short notice, he still advocated strongly for this plan because of just how much the department needed it.  In 2009, there were less than 1000 Computer Science students.  There are now over 2000 Computer Science students.  Having so many students with so few instructors would only drive down the quality of an education we would receive.  “Our goals are to improve your experience,” Dr. Khuller explained.

Other miscellaneous topics included where the Computer Engineering students’ extra tuition would go, why it costs so much to hire new faculty and professors for Computer Science, and how other schools dealt with the overcrowding and/or differential pricing problems.  In order, the extra revenue from those students will flow into the Computer Science department, since the Engineering school has more students overall and will thus be getting much more in the long run.  The reason hiring computer science lecturers and professors is more expensive is due to the how valuable their skillsets are in the economy.  Many professors could leave the department easily make twice or even three times their current salary at a software company, so there needs to be enough incentive for professionals who want to teach, to stay here.

At the end of the meeting, Dr. Khuller said he was very grateful for the “unprecedented levels of support from President Loh and the Provost.”  The Computer Science Department was in dire need of help, and help has finally come.  Brandi Adams also wanted to let students know, “the office is always open to people who want to talk openly about the new plan.”

The Department welcomes comments, suggestions and corrections.  Send email to editor [-at-] cs [dot] umd [dot] edu.