Computer Science at WCC: Real Programmers Don’t Die, They Just GOSUB Without RETURN

A SINGLE universal truth — With two years spent as a Computer Science major at Westchester Community College, I have come to find that there are two ways to write bug-free code… BUT, only the third way works here.

At its core, Computer Science is about creating and theorizing fantastic solutions to problems most people never contemplate.  The major demands much from it’s students; requiring them to be both masters of algorithms and artists at the same time. However, for the administration of the Computer Science Department, this already daunting field is not hard enough.

“Students come with high aspirations, but ultimately fail because they cannot cope with the teaching method.” said Al’Ain Antoine, Computer Science major.

The department’s policy can be summed up as survival of the fittest, taking the concept of ‘Weed-Out classes’ (as they are called in STEM majors) to a whole new level.  Starting as early as Computer Programming II (second course in), you can expect multiple labs, major projects, major exams, and sometimes even lectures to ALL coincide on the SAME DAY, on a constant basis. To quote one of my former classmates, in regards to workload, the day of the midterm, “Is the professor trying to kill us?”

“You go to class, you give it your all, and you should expect that effort should be rewarded. This is a HARD major!”

– student who wished to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation

“You go to class, you give it your all, and you should expect that effort should be rewarded.  This is a HARD major!” remarked one student who wished to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation.  The workload and difficulty, however, are not the only deterrents to continuing. Students often become isolated, as seeking help from others is often HEAVILY frowned upon.  Ingrained into the students, from day one of Data Structures, was the specter of plagiarism. The act of simply sharing your “idea,” let alone discussing your solution to a problem, caused many-a ‘No, no! We can’t talk code, we’ll get in trouble!’

And Heaven help you if you consider going to the Academic Support Center for assistance! In the eyes of the department, the Support Center has been a breeding ground for plagiarism.  This past spring semester saw days where there was standing room only in the small corner our major is provided (about the size of a public restroom). Most days there was only one tutor, a student himself, who’s schedule only allowed for a few hours on the days he could come in, greatly limiting availability.

However, the overcrowding problem is a thing of the past, because very few students come anymore… Which is good because the SOLE tutor this semester would likely be overwhelmed.  Why students no longer come could be because the hours are extremely inconvenient this semester, or maybe for fear of being accused of the unthinkable: “plagiarism.”

Of the twenty-eight people to register for my CP2 class, last semester, to my knowledge, only six of us passed.  In the words of Michael Matthews Jr, former Computer Science major turned Liberal Arts, “Some Students get it, some don’t… and ‘some’ professors need to change their teaching styles.”

The course following Computer Programming II is Data Structures.  The prior semester’s three CP2 classes saw so few survivors, that the department determined a SINGLE Data Structures course would suffice this semester.  In other words, two of the three people who registered for CP2, found themselves pursuing other ‘activities’ this semester.

This past week, the sole Data Structures course had a head count of fifteen students remaining; an 85% casualty rate between CP2 and Data Structures.  This isn’t just a hard major, this is calculated decimation.

Editor’s note: Professor Robert Sciabbarrasi, head of the Computer Science department declined to comment for this article.

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Joe Schmo
Joe Schmo

This is surprising to me and disconcerting! Thank you for this enlightening article that gives insight into the CS academic world of WCC. It is surprising to me that there is an issue with so-called ‘plagiarism’ since my experience as a software developer in the industry is that it is… Read more »

Herbert Landoe
Herbert Landoe

For a state run university, this is disgraceful. If less than 20% of your students are graduating, then the faculty are simply a waste of tax payer money.