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Archive for Tuesday, March 3, 1992

COMPUTER CONCERNS

March 3, 1992

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The embattled computer science department at Kansas University should be saved if possible, the dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences said Monday.

"We would much prefer to keep computer science in the college," James Muyskens told computer science students in a question-and-answer session in Snow Hall.

He promised 80 students at the meeting that he would decide by May how to reform the department to correct personnel and academic problems.

"We're going to solve it this time and that means there will be some pain," he said.

Consultants recommended in a six-page report that the department should be disbanded if faculty disputes and academic deficiences couldn't be resolved.

UNDER THAT option, computer science faculty would be divided between the computer engineering department in the School of Engineering and the math department in the college.

The two consultants, hired by Muyskens to review the department's strengths and weaknesses, recommended that it would be wise to separate the chief rivals in the department professor Zamir Bavel and chairman William Bulgren.

Since a story about the report was published in the Journal-World on Feb. 23, Muyskens said he had received a lot of advice about how to deal with the department and disputing faculty.

Muyskens said he viewed longstanding disputes among Bavel, Bulgren and other computer science faculty as "petty and foolish."

Muyskens said many options for reforming the department remain under consideration. He said the goal was to find a way to reconcile conflict in the department and restore vitality to the university's computer science programs.

"I'M AN optimist about people," he said. "If they said, `Let's be a community of computer scientists,' the problem would be resolved in 15 minutes."

Muyskens said the leak of the report to the press came at a bad time. The Kansas Board of Regents recently ordered KU to assess its academic programs this spring, and the review could help determine which programs could be eliminated, he said.

Publicity about problems in the computer science department would place it under greater scrutiny, he said. Even if Muyskens decided to keep the department, regents might order its elimination, he said.

"This is serious business," Muyskens said.

Muyskens said he planned to devote the next month to deciding what was right and wrong with the department. With student and faculty input, he intends to settle on a strategy for fixing the department in April, unveil it to students before the end of the semester in May and implement it this summer.

MUYSKENS SAID undergraduate students in computer science would be able to complete their degrees regardless of what happens to the department. Computer science courses scheduled for fall 1992 would be taught, he said.

However, no doctoral students would be admitted into computer science this fall. It would be wrong to make promises to a prospective doctoral student before decisions are made about the department's future, he said.

He said the department might begin limiting undergraduate enrollment.

Some students expressed concern that publicity about the consultants' report would damage the value of their KU degree.

Muyskens said the university had a good reputation throughout the country and that it was his job as dean to maintain it. However, he couldn't guarantee that the value of a computer science degree wouldn't be tarnished.

"I WISH I could give you a guarantee," he said. "And I can't."

Muyskens said news of the report had spread to the East and West coasts.

Muyskens said he gave copies of the report to computer science faculty and instructed them not to distribute it to others. Violation of that directive amounted to a personal affront, he said.

In response to a question, Muyskens offered to allow students to read a copy of the consultants' report in the dean's office. Many students at the meeting already had a copy because someone left copies outside the meeting room.

He advised students to be skeptical of rumors about the department. He also asked students who favor retention of the department not to organize public protests.

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