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Comments by Faculty Senate Chair to UVA Board of Visitors

Alfred C. Weaver — June 9, 2017

Good afternoon. I’m Alfred Weaver, and I speak to you today as both a UVA veteran and a newbie: I’ve been a Professor of Computer Science here for the past 40 years, but my Senate Chair’s job is just 8 days old. I know I have a lot to learn but I assure you that I am eager to do so. I appreciate your invitation to speak to you for the next four hours about the Senate’s plans….

But really, today I just want to brief you on two points:

  1. Senate plans for the 2017-18 academic year
  2. Proposed response to the need for undergraduate access to Computer Science courses.

SENATE PLANS

We anticipate having six full Senate meetings this coming academic year as well as monthly meetings of our Executive Council. Topics to consider:

  1. how faculty benefits work, how they get defined, and how they get paid for;
  2. how our institution can help forestall the spread of malware and cyberterrorism, and promote cybersecurity;
  3. “How to Retire”— what are the procedural issues for faculty facing retirement, and can we offer a gentler path that just termination. Engineering is offering a step-down plan that shows promise.
  4. review the impact of the federal government’s increasing number of non-renewals of visas for non-citizen faculty and staff;
  5. contribute to the celebration of our Bicentennial;
  6. 6. assess the prospects for faculty raises; [I was encouraged by this morning’s budget discussion!]
  7. 7. discuss UVA Finances as they affect our academic program in an era of reduced state support;
  8. welcome a new UVA President when the time is right;
  9. hold a workshop to teach the faculty how to give a TED talk. At your last meeting you saw Professor Silvia Blemker in action, and she was incredible. I would like more faculty to be able to explain the importance and impact of their research and education projects in a 10-minute setting.

UNDERGRADUATE ACCESS TO COMPUTER SCIENCE COURSES

Also at your last meeting you heard your student representative Phoebe report that the number one complaint she heard during the 2016-17 academic year was about students’ inability to register for Computer Science classes. In my 30 seconds of introduction during the March meeting I pledged to work with the Board to solve that problem, so today I am reporting on what CS has done.

But before I explain about our proposal, let me just give you some background about CS at UVA. We are a high-growth department. We support three undergraduate majors: the BS in Computer Science, the BS in Computer Engineering, both in the Engineering School, and the BA in Computer Science in the College. In May 2015, our total enrollment of undergraduate majors was 770. One year later it was 930. As of last month, it was 1,081. Transfer students will add another 90. This next academic year we expect to confer 413 undergraduate degrees.

All of our graduates get jobs. For the 2016 graduating class, the median salary for CS graduates was $89k. 48% of them went to Northern Virginia, 19% to Seattle (home of Microsoft and Amazon), 15% to New York (to work in finance), 10% to Silicon Valley to work at Google and new start-ups, and 8% stayed in Charlottesville.

We also operate a vibrant graduate program. Over the past three years, graduate enrollment for the master’s and PhD has grown from 91 to 235.

If you count all of our teaching faculty (tenured, tenure-track, non-tenure-track, lecturers, adjuncts, and post-docs), our faculty total 41. We are growing our faculty as fast as we can, but the competitive pressure in the academic job market is tremendous. By the way, I salute the Provost’s plan to move lecturers into the general faculty ranks; this was an important factor in our hiring this past year.

In academic year 2015-2016, CS students collectively generated 20,000 student credit hours. This makes us the fourth largest producer of student credit hours in the University, after commerce, economics and psychology. Our eight lower-division courses alone generated 3600 student credit hours

So, what are we doing about this overwhelming student demand?

  1. Demand for the major: We enrolled 100 additional majors this past academic year than we did the previous year to respond to the demand for the CS major, even though our faculty hiring did not keep up with our student growth. Last week we expanded class sizes in our introductory courses so that we completely eliminated the wait list. But of course this will not last; engineering alone will bring in about 600 first-years for whom CS classes are required.
  2. Course demand from non-majors: We have proposed a three-phase expansion program. Phase one will enlarge the enrollment in our five introductory courses. This will create a choke-point in our 2000-level courses, so phase two is to remedy that. That in turn will create choke-points in our upper-division courses, so phase three will fix that problem.

In summary, we requested the obvious resources: more faculty, teaching assistants, computer labs, and space. But I think that with those resources we can achieve a goal that your Computer Science department has now adopted: we want to provide computer science education to every UVA undergraduate who wants it.

That’s my report; thank you for your time.