Computer science department powers down

Next semester will be the computer science department’s final one at Geneseo. The program began closing in fall 2010 due to a budget shortfall of $7.2 million, in which Geneseo lost around 40 percent of its state funding.

The decision to cut computer science was made simultaneously along with the decision to cut the speech-language pathology department and the studio art department. Interim President Carol Long explained that the decision to cut three departments, rather than make cuts in all departments, was the less detrimental course to take. By making across-the-board cuts, they felt it would weaken campus education in all departments significantly.

Associate professor of computer science Doug Baldwin said that since the announcement to end the program was made, there haven’t been many changes to the curriculum, although there have been some consequences. He said one such consequence is that there are far fewer programs and activities for the students, which is due to the limited number of students remaining in the computer science department.

Other than that, the department has continued its work as it has in prior years, focusing on getting all the students who major and minor in computer science to finish their degrees on time.

Baldwin said that after graduation many students are looking for jobs as software developers and engineers.

Although the computer science department is ending its run at Geneseo, the school is working with remaining departments to keep some aspects of this field intact.

“I distinguish between the computer science major and computational skills of different types. Some of our other departments require, as a related requirement to the major, computer science 119 and 120. So, we’ve been working with the science departments and the math department, who depend on those courses, to work out other ways to identify what’s important to the particular major in that course work and to find other ways to support that,” Long said.

Another effort tied into this decision deals with what to do with the unused equipment. Long said that, while the process hasn’t been completed yet, the materials will either be repurposed at the school or will be returned to State University of New York Central through the SUNY property system.

As the program embarks on its final months at Geneseo, those closely involved hope it leaves a strong legacy behind.

“I hope it is remembered as a good program for its students. We had a lot of opportunities for student research; I think that was something really valuable, and I hope that that’s remembered. I hope the faculty that are staying are able to keep doing some of it,” Baldwin said.

While Baldwin does not want to see the department go, he said he understands it was a necessary decision to make.

“I think it’s certainly sad to close the department. I think the college made the decision to do so following the right procedures, and under the financial constraints of the time, I think the decision to close a couple of programs rather than weaken all the programs was the right one to make. It’s too bad that computer science was one of the programs to be closed,” he said.

“The important thing is to say is that these decisions were not made because the programs were of low quality or anything like that,” Long said. “We had to make some sort of decision to move forward, and this was the one we took based on numerous criteria. It saddens us to lose all of these programs.”