Alumni, faculty urge saving of program

Faculty from Suffolk’s Department of Mathematics and Computer Science are fighting to save the Masters in Computer Science (MSCS) program, which, starting next year, will be phased out in an effort to curb tuition costs at the university.
The students currently enrolled will be able to complete the program, but it is not accepting new students. Those that applied for next year were told that applications are no longer being accepted, according to Paul Ezust, a professor and former department chair.

“It’s definitely been a very strong program,” said current Department Chair Edith Cook. “The computer science faculty is committed to have an accessible program, in the Suffolk tradition,” she said, explaining that unlike most schools, an undergraduate student doesn’t have to major in computer science to join the graduate program.
College of Arts and Sciences Dean Kenneth Greenberg, who made the decision to terminate the program, echoed the same sentiments, but said the MSCS program has too few students to sustain it.

“Frankly, it’s a great program,” he said. “If we had more student interest,” the program could continue.
The MSCS program currently has 21 students, with eight new students joining in the fall semester and one joining in the Spring, according to Cook.

Math and Computer Science faculty, including Cook and Ezust, as well as alumni of the program, believe that despite the low enrollment numbers, it is worth keeping around. Several alumni wrote letters of appeal to Greenberg and President McCarthy to keep the program.

“I am desperate to hire computer programmers with either a bachelor or masters’ degree…desperate!” said Janey Levine, Chief Financial Officer for Top Dog Solutions, a “Boston-based developer, providing out-of-the-box business intelligence solutions for small to medium size distribution organizations,” according to the company’s website. “I am more partial to recent graduates rather than seasoned programmers as I find that the recent graduates are ‘hungry’ to learn new skill sets and more innovative in approach.”

“Your outstanding academic standing is supported by your MSCS program and of course by your CS program. Failing to provide an avenue for a masters degree not only weakens Suffolk University but also is a blow to the software industry,” she said. “The very heart and soul of Computer Science is found in schools just like Suffolk University and your lack of support of the computer science industry is shameful.”

Sara Spalding, senior director of the Microsoft New England Research and Development Center, wrote, “Suffolk plays a key role in offering opportunities to ambitious students, and your master’s program in computer science has been very successful. We have hired five of your graduates to work on our application virtualization team, which seeks to transform the way business IT support works.”

In addition to the success the MSCS program has brought its students, Ezust added that MSCS faculty have acquired nearly $900,000 in grants from the National Science foundation.

Greenberg said that while faculty members from the program “occasionally get grants, that doesn’t sustain a program.”
“In the interests of keeping the costs down for the whole college, we can’t run a program with virtually no students in it,” he said, explaining that the tuition costs from the relatively few students are not enough to foot the bill for the program, so it falls on students from other programs.

According to Ezust, the number of applicants for next year was more than double from last year. The program was “canceled just as things were beginning to turn around.”

He argued that while there haven’t traditionally been many students in the program, it has and could continue to produce successful alumni that could be potential donors to Suffolk, at a time when the school has had a hard time obtaining alumni donations.

He also said that “having a masters is key in the high-tech. It’s not a great time to be killing programs like this.”