Denied students say they were promised admission into computer science major

Mary Huber

A handful of students claim they were promised transfer admission into the University’s increasingly popular computer science department as long as they maintained a 2.5 GPA and have taken to social media in protest.

Senior Italian major Eduardo Gamba Jr., applied to the College of Liberal Arts with hopes of transferring into the computer science department, within the College of Natural Sciences. He said advisers assured him repeatedly in an April information session and in subsequent advising appointments that his GPA would guarantee him a space.

“I have spent four application seasons patiently applying and waiting, while maintaining a 3.8 GPA, just to get my foot in the door,” Gamba wrote in a letter to Sacha Kopp, associate dean for undergraduate education in the College of Natural Sciences, in May. “This is my dream, and without it, I would be lost.”

Gamba is not alone. Dozens of computer science hopefuls have formed a Facebook group to share their struggles entering the department.

Economics sophomore Andrew Currie said he has a 3.86 GPA and he was given the same assurance by advisors at a March session. After being denied from computer science, he decided to study economics and apply to McCombs School of Business for an management Information system degree, his third major choice since he transferred to the University from ACC for the spring 2014 semester.

“If denied from McCombs too, I will leave the University,” Currie said.

On the transfer requirements, Kopp said he believed there was a “misinterpretation” or “miscommunication” during those information sessions, and the computer science department could not accommodate students claiming they were unfairly misguided.

“I’m a big fan of documentation that spells [transfer requirements] out clearly,” Kopp said. “I don’t want anyone to bank on something that’s not a guarantee.”

Kopp said the minimum 2.5 GPA is the requirement to move from lower to upper division courses within the computer science major. For internal transfer into the major itself, students must be in good academic standing, as well as gain approval from the department, according to Kopp. 

Every year, students drop out of the major, leaving anywhere from 50 to 100 spots for transfer students. This year, 380 students applied for just under 100 spots.

Kopp said accepting all of those students would require doubling the size of the department, which is already struggling to provide resources for current students hoping to graduate in four years.

Computer science sophomore Zack Misso said he could not get a seat in a required operating systems course.

“I have to apply to take the honors version or else I’ll basically be a semester behind all my classmates,” Misso said.

The computer science department has nearly tripled in size in the past 15 years, with enrollment growing from 700 undergraduates in 2000 to more than 2,300 students today, according to a letter posted on the University this week from department chair Bruce Porter.

Kopp said students are welcome to reapply, but the 2014-2015 catalog will have stricter admissions criteria.

This is Kopp’s last semester at the University. He has accepted a position as dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Stony Brook University beginning in August, according to the Stony Brook website.