For the first time in 50 years, the UC Board of Regents approved the creation of a new UC Berkeley undergraduate college: the College of Computing, Data Science and Society, or CDSS.
Since its inception in 2018, the data science major has quickly become one of campus’s most popular offerings, with more than 6,000 students enrolling in data science courses each school year. Similarly, programs such as computer science and statistics have consistently been labeled as “high-demand,” “capped” or “impacted” majors within the College of Letters and Science.
While this college promises an emphasis on these growing fields of study, we believe the proposed funding formula by both investors and UC administrators has the potential to undermine students, faculty and other degree programs that already find themselves at a financial deficit.
Even with the detailed budget proposal outlined by the UC Systemwide Academic Senate, many questions remain as to whether or not UC Berkeley has the financial backing to create an expanded curriculum that meets the CDSS demand while still supporting other academic programs.
For example, many humanities majors continue to suffer from underfunding. Political science only allows enrollment for two upper division classes during phase one of registration, as there are simply not enough classes to suit an entire schedule. Similarly, the anthropology department is in the process of being stripped of its one-of-a-kind library due to budget cuts.
Further doubts are also cast on the creation of CDSS when examining existing problems regarding funding, such as those addressed in last year’s UC academic workers’ strike and the outstanding electrical engineering and computer sciences crisis.
Additionally, much of the CDSS funding depends on external support, meaning that lofty financial goals are reliant on outside donations.
As it currently stands, CDSS hopes to raise ten $6 million gifts for professorships as well as up to $5 million in funding for academic support. While these ambitious goals seek to prevent graduate cuts that both the data science and computer science departments saw with bumped wages following the strike, failure to meet these benchmarks will result in losing far greater numbers of prospective students.
Additionally, these monetary goals mainly seek to support tenure-track faculty members, which leaves little room for hiring new professors, instructors and teaching assistants.
At a time when CDSS is still very much in the planning stages, we believe all involved parties must reevaluate financial decisions by taking into account the needs of students, staff and faculty. With the ever-growing number of data science, computing and statistics students at UC Berkeley, providing an academic experience that can cater to as many people as possible is paramount.
Funding is undoubtedly an issue all too familiar to UC Berkeley. However, the administration must ensure that old problems don’t plague the new college. A new beginning is only beneficial without strings attached from past mistakes.