Burn Rate


NYU should merge its CS departments into one department. By keeping the two departments, NYU is diluting every single aspect of NYU Computer Science. Everything from courses to clubs to recruiting will improve if we merge the two departments.

I’ve talked about course and professor allocation before. Right now Courant CS has too many students, not enough professors and as a result, absurdly long waitlists. With one CS department, we can potentially alleviate some of this pressure. Core CS classes such as data structures can be taught in large scale lectures while niche courses such as compilers can have a single section for both schools. Sure, it won’t solve all the issues, but it’ll help.

Recruiting is another classic issue. From my anecdotal experience, Tandon appears to have a respectably strong recruiting scene. They hold a solid career fair and seem to have a good reputation in industry. By merging the CS departments, we can capitalize on that reputation. NYU could also centralize its career programs for CS and potentially hire someone to help students get jobs.

I’ve complained about the quality of Courant CS students before. There’s not a lot we can change about this in the short-term. But if we merge the departments, perhaps this will give an opportunity for the top students in Tandon to interact with the top students in CAS. I know that I’ve met some impressive students in Tandon. If NYU CS was a unified program, if CS clubs were just NYU CS clubs and not Tandon CS clubs vs CAS CS Clubs, we’d have a lot larger and a lot richer of a community.

Where should this department be located? Simple: Brooklyn. Depending on your affiliation and home borough, you either reacted in absolute horror or joy. I’ll admit that for the longest time I was not enamoured at the idea of NYU CS moving to Brooklyn. It felt like a downgrade or an exile.

What changed? I visited the new Tandon math department. And guys, it’s beautiful. It’s in 2 Metrotech Center, a really nice building with sunlight, high ceilings and modern furniture. It felt like an engineering building in a modern, well funded, top tier school. I highly recommend going there and checking it out. Compared to Courant with its grim, beige banality, I’d take it in a heartbeat.

I knew NYU was investing a lot of money into Tandon, but I didn’t appreciate the extent until now. It takes a lot for me to praise NYU, however truly, NYU seems to be doing a great job in revitalizing Tandon.

Not to mention, there’s something sensible about locating your CS department near the engineering school. Students will be a few minutes away from the MakerSpace, from HackNYU, from the most exciting new developments in NYU.

And finally, this merger will allow Courant CS to crawl out from under the influence of math. Courant CS has been beholden to math for too long. The department has skewed extremely mathematical, to the point where a lot of its members could be called computation/applied mathematicians. That’s great from an academic perspective, but it also means there’s a severe lack of professors who code on a continual basis, which in turn means a lack of professors who can teach undergraduate coding-heavy courses effectively. It also means the professors who end up in charge of the department and the curriculum may not have the necessary experience to best run a CS program. Yes, yes, CS is not programming, but it just so happens that a CS degree involves a lot of coding.

Tandon, as an engineering school, has these more practically inclined professors. They can collaborate with the existing systems professors and build up a more practical, well run CS program. The merged department will also hopefully have more independence from Courant. I’m no expert in NYU politics but I’d imagine that there could be some way for the CS department to get funding from both Tandon and CAS.

If we’re talking big big ideas, I’d have NYU spin off a specific institute for Computer Science and find some rich donor to underwrite it. Perhaps the Jim Simons Institute of Computational Sciences? That way NYU CS will finally be a first-class citizen. Yes, it will mean NYU CS will lose the prestige of Courant, but the prestige of Courant was never for its CS, it was for its math. By building a new institute, NYU CS will be able to create its own reputation and its own legacy.

I’ve done enough complaining about NYU CS. You all know my stance; it’s time that I advocated for a solution. Merging the departments will not solve all of NYU CS’ problems. But it’s a start.

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