Connecting Courses: Sharing Funds & Space


Jason Nideffer

After two full weeks of instruction, the waitlists for CSE 100 exceeded 25 students, a large number that excludes those who dropped from the waitlist, rationalizing their near lottery odds of winning a seat. More than likely, if you were able to enroll in CSE 100 this time around, it’s because you’re a computer science major and you were fortunate enough to reap the luxurious benefit of priority enrollment. Otherwise, if this is not the case, it’s probable that you’re a cognitive science major who’s been here for four years with just a couple more to go, having beaten the waitlist by virtue of your many credits. But, it’s not your fault! After all, the enrollment process can be quite nefarious, perhaps so much as the devil himself. At its core, the enrollment challenges that so many cognitive science, mathematics-computer science, and bioinformatics majors face stems from an over-admission of students and a crippling insufficiency of resources to meet their needs. For those who study economics, this is a prime example of high demand and relatively low supply.

As it stands, the computer science and engineering department provides ample opportunity for students studying CSE-associated majors to take computer science courses. However, after these students are escorted into the lecture hall, the free-for-all brawl ensues as cognitive science, mathematics-computer science, and bioinformatics majors vie for the remaining five or so seats. But, if the CSE department took into consideration those students affiliated with the cognitive science, math, and biology departments when admitting students into CSE, there would be much greater opportunity for students seeking to enroll in CSE classes, particularly those whose major coursework requires said classes. Of course, cooperation is a two-way street, and this solution places the entire burden on the CSE department, as the department’s administration would necessarily have to make greater cuts with respect to the number of students it admits. So, in order to establish a mutually beneficial, cross-departmental relationship that serves a diversely educated student body, financial contributions from the cognitive science, math, and biology departments are essential.

By contributing financially to help provide CSE courses, the cognitive science, math, and biology departments would effectively increase the number of seats offered per quarter and minimize the necessary reduction in CSE admissions. In exchange for their support, the cognitive science, math, and biology departments would receive equal representation for their students who require enrollment in CSE courses. Notably, the accessibility to these courses is a crucial necessity, as many fields progress toward greater computer science dependence and the demand for programming know-how increases, even in fields that were once entirely distinct from computer science. Thus, interdepartmental cooperation centered around the vision of making courses in computer science more available to students ought to be UC San Diego’s newest upcoming renovation.

In the 2015-16 fiscal year, UCSD raised $213 million in private funding, $46 million of which was allocated for departmental growth and support (not specifically for research or campus improvement, which separately received $142 million of UCSD’s private endowment). This money was generously donated exclusively for departmental use in addition to the money that was sufficiently allocated by UCSD to pay the salaries of professors and administrators. Thus, it is grossly improbable that departments require this endowment to retain their employees. So it would seem that a project aimed at facilitating students’ interdisciplinary educations by making computer science more accessible is well within the budget.

No progress has been made yet, however, and the fact that greater interdepartmental cooperation has not been established portrays departments’ neglect for preparing students to enter a modern workforce. For, if the computer science department has acknowledged its students’ enrollment congestion but done nothing about the issue, it appears to students as though the problem’s solution is not worth the financial and logistical stress that must be made by department administrators. On the other hand, if the department has failed to even consider a solution, students might feel as though administrators do not perceive their disadvantaged education as an issue in the slightest.

But it is an issue. Fields in science, math, and technology are moving toward a greater interconnectedness that necessitates interdepartmental understanding and communication. Furthermore, tasked with preparing young minds for the world of the future, UCSD must not only foster its students’ interdisciplinary understanding but also set an example with effective interdepartmental cooperation.