The CS department is underfunded

Within the Computer Science Department classes are often taught by graduate students, or GTs as the university calls them. One such GT, as Georgia State calls them, told my entire class point-blank that she’d “rather be doing research.” And why shouldn’t she?

GTs, especially in computer science, are being unfairly asked to fill in talent vacuums that shouldn’t exist in a department of our size. In the fall of 2019, a staggering 38% of Georgia State’s computer science staff were grad students, compared to an average of only 20% across all other departments on the Downtown campus.

In the wake of the massive growth of the Department of Computer Science in recent years, Georgia State has demonstrated a remarkable apathy for providing it with the resources that it needs. Total staff for the department has only grown 34% in the last 10 years, while undergraduate enrollment has increased by 75%.

This can essentially be broken down into one depressing statistic: Faculty doubled, but enrollment quadrupled. With such lackluster attempts to hire real professors, it should be no surprise to anyone that the number of unexcited graduate students teaching often difficult classes is excessively high.

Associate Chair of the Department of Computer Science Rajshekhar Sunderraman attributed these dismal statistics to a trend that is not specific to Georgia State.

“While the computer science department has seen a large growth in undergraduate enrollments putting a strain on resources, this is not unique to [Georgia State],” Sunderraman said. “It has been a trend seen across the nation.”

He’s right: 83% of Computer Science Departments reported that the effects of enrollment growth made management more difficult compared to just three years ago, according to the Computer Research Association.

But Georgia State seems less willing to support our department than other institutions. According to the CRA’s annual report, the average public research university with a department our size has approximately 39 tenure-track or full-time teaching professors for computer science; Georgia State’s department only has 24, as of fall 2019.

In other words, we’re not keeping pace even with other underfunded departments. This comes at a critical time when intradepartmental diversity and enrollment are expected to continue increasing. 

The fundamental issue, as is often the case, is money: The department needs approval for more highly paid faculty positions in order to retain them. It’s not surprising that recent personnel losses are often due to a lack of competitive pay. Without immediately resolving this issue, the problems that plague the current system will continue to metastasize until students begin to flee.

The department has done an admirable job attracting talent and a diverse student body in recent years, but now, it’s time for the university to ensure that all members of the department have the support that they need and deserve. It’s time for Georgia State to acknowledge the hard work that the department leadership has put in and throw in the proper financial support.

A commitment to computer science represents a commitment to the future of the university in its entirety. Year after year, every major will become more technologically dependent. By denying our computer science department the funding it desperately needs to keep pace with the influx of new students, Georgia State is implicitly undermining its own mission.