Computer science programs to merge

Two separate programs at Saint Louis University will soon be
combined into one.

There are currently two computer science departments at SLU: one
in the College of Arts and Sciences, and one in Parks College of
Engineering and Aviation. These two programs will be meshed
together over the next year, with the department being moved to the
College of Arts and Sciences.

The current structure requires multiple program administrators
and has caused course duplication.

The move is an administrative consolidation, a transition that
Bjong Wolf Yeigh, Ph.D., dean of Parks, said will be “transparent”
to students in the departments.

While the department will no longer exist under Parks, students
who enter SLU through Parks and major in computer science will
graduate with a bachelor of science degree. Those who enter through
Arts and Sciences will graduate with a bachelor of arts degree.

The Arts and Sciences program will still have a liberal arts
emphasis, while the Parks program will have a more concentrated,
engineering-based emphasis, Yeigh said.

“The current structure is confusing, costly, inefficient and
does not provide the opportunities for students and faculty that a
larger, stronger department would afford,” stated a letter to
students in both programs, dated Jan. 23, 2004.

Three faculty members from the program will move to Arts and
Sciences, while the other two will remain in Parks, joining the
electrical engineering department.

“Having the faculty together will be more effective,” said
Michael May, S.J., interim dean of the College of Arts and
Sciences. No faculty members will lose their jobs during the
transition, and the administrative staff in the Parks program will
be relocated within the University, May said.

Though both deans said that discussion about the consolidation
began in September 2003, Yeigh said the University’s recent push
for budget cuts “prompted” the discussion.

The consolidation would create a significant savings,
eliminating the actual operating costs at Parks, Yeigh said.

The money saved from combining the programs will allow for new
classes and improvements to the program in the coming years.

“It is worthwhile to invest in one substantial program,” Yeigh
said. “It is a chance to come together to promote the University, a
win-win situation.”

Current students in the Parks computer science department,
however, are concerned with how the transition will affect their
programs of study.

“There was confusion and shock on part of the students,” said a
Parks sophomore who wished to remain unidentified. “There are many
differences in the two programs, and most students in the Parks one
would rather leave the University to find another engineering
school than switch to Arts and Sciences.”

Students in the program were made aware of the possible
consolidation on Thursday, Jan. 22. A day later they received the
letter from both deans announcing the decision. There are
approximately 80 students in the Parks program and approximately 10
to 15 students in the Arts and Sciences program.

“In the long run, it will be good for the program,” the Parks
student said. “(Currently) we’re not sure how things are going to
work out. We’re concerned about the quality of our education.”