More than a year after the Computer Science Department received two anonymous gifts for a total of $20 million, the department still has yet to hire the majority of faculty members promised by the donation.
The department sent a final list of candidates to Faculty of Arts and Sciences Dean’s Office on April 5, department chair Joan Feigenbaum said Tuesday during a departmental town hall. The push for faculty hiring stems in part from the $20 million gift, which has been designated for three faculty positions in computer science at the cost of $5 million each and a $5 million start-up package for the new faculty members. With the decision in March 2015 to move the Computer Science Department to the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, the department was also promised two additional joint-hires between computer science and other engineering departments.
Before the donation, the computer science faculty size had not grown larger than 20 faculty members since 1989, a year when just over 400 undergraduate students were registered for computer science courses. Meanwhile, from 2011 to fall 2014, the number of undergraduate course registrations for computer science classes has grown from 600 to 1,400 undergraduates and the number of junior and senior computer science majors has doubled.
While the department has released little information about the hiring process and timeline, FAS Dean Tamar Gendler confirmed that the department had successfully sent the candidate list, which includes at least one female faculty candidate, to her office for approval. She added that no formal offers have been made but that the department expects to hire two or three additional faculty this year.
As the Computer Science Department continues to hold discussions about climate and inclusivity for female and minority students, diversity has become an increasingly important factor in the department’s faculty hiring priorities and strategies, according to students and professors present at Tuesday’s town hall on the topic.
“Hiring is underway, we made decisions today for [the list of potential offers] but we don’t know who will accept,” Feigenbaum said Tuesday. “There is a female candidate to whom we will make an offer. We deserve some credit for hiring women.”
That announcement was greeted with applause from an audience of computer science majors and professors, who have pushed for a more diverse department. There are currently six women out of 20 ladder faculty members in the department.
Still, the department had “not been very successful” in finding racially diverse candidates during the search process, computer science professor Holly Rushmeier said at the town hall meeting.
Because candidates are not identified by their race in the hiring databases used by the department, it can be difficult to identify top minority candidates and beat the “intense competition” from other schools and companies looking to hire the same candidates, Rushmeier said.
“We know we are not doing well in this, and we know we need to do better,” Rushmeier said. “We are not happy with it. We have got to work harder.”
But the underlying issue, Feigenbaum said, was that there were not many minority applicants.
Saran Morgan ’18, events chair for Float, a student organization that supports women in computer science on campus, said some of the potential candidates had been interviewed and had given talks in the department, which students were invited to attend.
Rushmeier also hinted at the town hall Tuesday that the department might hire a computer scientist who had given a talk at Yale in recent months.
In the month of March, four individuals gave talks in the department — assistant computer science professor at USC Minlan Yu, visiting researcher at Carnegie Mellon Michael Nebeling, Ph.D. candidate at Cornell University Ji-Yong Shin and computer science professor at Georgia Tech Magnus Egerstedt.
Yu and Nebeling declined to comment for this article. Shin and Egerstedt did not respond to requests for comment.
Computer science is now the sixth-largest major at Yale.