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Krejci responds to CS students

Minutes before Provost Mark Krejci arrived, the room was buzzing with frustration and concern. Students were sitting at tables, in windowsills, on the floor, and bringing in extra chairs so everyone had a place to sit. As the room grew humid, bits of laughter came from some students, while others sat in silence, looking anxiously at their notes, planning on what to ask Krejci.

Feb. 16, Provost and Dean of the College Mark Krejci, met with Computer Science majors and minors to discuss the decision to phase out their major. In the past two months, Concordia College has had to make the difficult decision to cut the Computer Science major.

Krejci arrived to the meeting with an attempted warm welcome to the awkwardly silent room. The distant click of cameras while students took pictures was the only noticeable sound.

“What I’m going to do tonight is just tell you the rationale behind this decision,” Krejci said. “I am not going to try to change your opinion.”

Krejci said Concordia is faced with having to make academic savings and cuts worth $700,000 this year. Every year, students pay tuition, but not all students pay full price; net tuition ends up being about $14,000 per student. One student wondered if 40 students are Computer Science majors, at $14,000 a student, how the nearly $500,000 of revenue from tuition would not be enough to fund a department.

“We don’t take a look at tuition and say ‘take a look at the number of majors in your area and see how much money we have to spend,” Krejci responded.

Krejci then went on to break down how funding actually works: If you take the hypothetical $14,000 in net tuition revenue, about 40 percent must go to institutional overhead—heating, electricity, etc. About 30 percent goes to the core, as core curriculum classes make up about that portion of your studies. This leaves about 30 percent of the original net tuition to be devoted solely to your major, which Krejci called a generous number, as there are other things that must be paid for as well. If you disregard students who are double majors, this would leave about $4,000 per student to go to the department, which multiplied by 35 Computer Science majors would equal roughly $147,000. According to Krejci, the Computer Science department costs about $250,000 a year to run, leaving a deficit of more than $100,000 a year.

Although this math is less than favorable for the department, Krejci said it wasn’t the only factor in the decision.

“We looked at enrollment and the interest in Computer Science,” Krejci said. “We take a look at the number of courses in the curriculum; the list goes on and on. There were a variety of factors that led to the decision. Because we have only two faculty members in that department, we didn’t know how we could keep up that major.”

Krejci also said that he’s not only making cuts in the Computer Science department, as six full-time faculty and several part-time faculty have also seen their positions cut recently.

According to Krejci, once the decision was made, the notification process was supposed to begin with with telling department chair. Following them were the tenured faculty members, and then the entire faculty was to be notified. According to Krejci, that’s not how the process went this time.

“It got out a lot quicker than that,” he said.

There were many comments from concerned students who felt Concordia is getting rid of such an important major that is pertinent to the growing future of the college.

It was also said that Computer Science is the fourth fastest-growing major at Concordia College in the past four years. Krejci was quick to point out that this statistic is correct, but only if you use percentages. For example, if you add five majors to a field with only 35 majors, it will show a lot larger gain than if you added five majors to a field with 150 current majors.

Even though Computer Science will no longer be a major, students will still be able to take courses in Computer Science. Krejci said that students will be able to take the courses they want through Tri-College and the Business School, where Concordia will set up a Management Information Systems minor.

Krejci also mentioned because Concordia isn’t known for a specific Computer Science niche, taking away Computer Science won’t exactly take away from the meaning of the college. Part of the change to the Management Information Systems minor is an attempt to create that niche.

Students and faculty wondered why they had been notified sooner rather than later. According to Krejci, the delay in the announcement was an attempt to shelter faculty from the public scrutiny that may come with an early announcement.

“We didn’t want to get them into a meeting and say ‘You may or may not have a job here in the future, so you maybe want to start searching for another job,’” Krejci said.

Some students and faculty question Krejci’s authority to take the action before consulting the curriculum committee or the faculty senate. According to the faculty handbook, it is recommended—not required—that the curriculum committee gets approval of changes in major/minor programs to the Faculty Senate.

“The senate has the ability to establish area of instruction,” Krejci said. “I have the ability as provost to make decision to cut.”

Krejci was given a petition signed by 700 students stating a desire to keep Computer Science on campus. He politely thanked the students, but added he would have liked to be at the next table explaining the other side to the story, in order to see how that affected the petition.

Krejci understands the disappointment from students as shown by the petition, but said if more students were so concerned about the major, they would be studying it too, rather than just signing the petition.

Doug Anderson, Chair and Associate Professor of the Mathematics and Computer Science Department, was devastated by the news.

“We were told in meetings with admittance officials,” Anderson said, “We asked for clarification on the decision, but have received nothing. We have heard different things in faculty senate, but we don’t know if there will be a Computer Science minor.”

Anderson says they have not been involved in any decision making. The department was told the major would be phased out over the next few years as they graduate current major and minors.

Anderson recalled uncomfortable tours with prospective students who toured Concordia for the Regent Scholarship who wanted to come to Concordia for Computer Science. He, as well as a couple other faculty members, had to tell the students and their parents that they would not be able to study the major if they go here.

Anderson is worried about the lack of transparency in this entire process, as well as what is to happen next.

“I was literally given a meeting the day before with no more information,” Anderson said, “I had no idea that was the agenda of the meeting. Their jobs were either being eliminated or changed. We weren’t told what the meeting was about, just ‘show up.’”

After the announcement, Anderson decided to contact Computer Science Alumni regarding the drop of the major and minor.

“I contacted a few friends of the department who I thought should know about this change,” Anderson said. “They work professionally with Computer Science, or were involved in their profession.”

Several rumors quickly circulated about secret fundraising, but both Anderson and Provost Krejci said they had not heard such rumors.

Not only faculty members are being affected by the change. Sophomore Adam Kordowsky, who is one of the organizers of the petition, believes there has been a great deal of dishonesty and miscommunication. Kordowsky believes the board is eliminating the major and minor when it is most significant. He sees the eliminating of the program is robbing students of future opportunities.

Sophomore Corbin Rapp believes Krejci has truly thought about the decision, but won’t change his mind now.

”He knows we are concerned, but there is nothing he can do about it,” Rapp said. “It is slightly disheartening. I personally feel someone should have been consulted before this decision.”

As Krejci said several times over the course of the meeting, he isn’t exactly happy with this decision either.

“Every decision was a painful one,” Krejci said, “Every department is hurting because of other cuts. I know it is a rich major that will benefit for years to come, but we just cannot finance it.”

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