We’re in the middle of the second week of the winter quarter, and I’ve had a great start. I have two wonderful groups of students, so much so that I’m not even sure I have a favorite this quarter. They’re dynamic and engaged, and I look forward to going to class every day. And in a great surprise, I have a record number of female students. In the accelerated Python class I have 9 women out of 29 students. I don’t think I’ve ever had a class that was that close to an even gender balance.
In the bigger picture we’re having record enrollments in the majors that feed the introductory sequence and the computer science core classes in general. We had a huge increase in computer science and gaming majors last year, and they’re saying that we’ll see another big increase this year. Unfortunately, at the same time we’ve also had a large number of computer science faculty retire. Because of budget issues, it’s not clear that we will be hiring anyone to teach computer science core classes either this year or next, and as a result, we can’t cover the number of sections we need for all the new majors.
Several colleagues of mine just suggested that we consider capping the computer science and gaming majors as a way to get a handle on the situation. While I understand that the suggestion is logical and reasonable, it has me beyond frustrated. I teach at an enrollment-driven institution that focuses on teaching. History suggests that limiting enrollments in computer science has the largest impact on underrepresented minorities, including women. And yet here we are, about to turn away enrollments because we can’t find faculty to teach students. I know there are no good choices. But this is an extraordinarily bad one.