UC Berkeley computer science proposes major declaration process

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UC Berkeley's College of Letters and Science computer science department proposed a potential major pre-approval process for incoming class of 2022.

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UC Berkeley’s College of Letters and Science, or L&S, computer science department proposed amendments to its computer science major declaration process for incoming students.

While the proposal has yet to be finalized, the potential pre-approval process allows for incoming L&S students, starting with those admitted for fall 2022, to know their eligibility to declare the major upon receiving their admission letter, according to John DeNero, associate teaching professor and computer science vice chair of undergraduate matters. Pre-approved students are not limited to the computer science major and can declare any other major they choose.

The proposal seeks to address several issues with the current computer science declaration process, including the unsustainable growth of the major, stress around the process of declaring and the lack of diversity within the department, according to John Canny, professor and chair of the computer science division.

“We do offer a lot of support now, but it can feel like the department is just trying to push people out as opposed to bringing them in because of the GPA cap,” DeNero said. “(The proposal) could really have a positive benefit to the culture, and the culture that is established and cultivated in the first year or two really does maintain through the rest of students’ experience.”

While the current declaration process only considers grades received in three prerequisite courses, the proposal aims to mirror the College of Engineering’s direct-to-major admissions process and take a more holistic approach by looking at a student’s college application materials, according to Canny.

Canny added that L&S intends to implement admission process changes similar to the electrical engineering and computer sciences department, which also had “historically poor” diversity but more than doubled their numbers last year due to these changes.

“Cheating and stress are probably the biggest issues with the GPA cap,” said Rahul Shah, a freshman computer science major. “Even with the GPA cap, so many people are declaring. … There’s a lot of demand for CS classes. There isn’t enough supply.”

The amount of computer science degrees earned have more than doubled in the last five years and course capacities were increased to keep up with the major’s “massive” growth, according to DeNero. The number of students pre-approved to declare the major will largely be decided on course capacity.

Though he believes the proposal requires more detail about the pre-approval process, campus alumnus Mason Haberle expressed support for how the new proposal introduces a fair process for all students.

“I think that the new CS declaration policy presents the opportunity for students to take some risks and have healthy learning experiences during their first year, without the looming threat of declaration,” Haberle said in an email.

Current students will not be affected by the proposal, according to DeNero. DeNero added that the department welcomes feedback from its students on the issue.

Contact Cindy Liu and Katia Pokotylo at [email protected].