Oxy’s first faculty meeting of the year occurred last Monday. It was the first time I’ve been to a faculty meeting, and it was interesting to see the things that go on, especially since these were college level meetings, that I assume rarely or never happen at larger schools like Michigan. As a result, the issues that were announced/discussed were college-wide issues. What I noticed during the meeting – and really, during the new faculty orientation as well – is that I am starting to care about things I didn’t before.
Take, for example, issue of diversity. Oxy is currently looking for a Chief Diversity Officer, and my first thought on hearing that was whether the position would also be available as a resource for helping individual programs and departments address diversity issues. I was curious enough about the position and the hiring process that I went to the town hall meeting later in the week. While diversity in computer science is something I paid attention to before – it’s presence in my head has grown in the last several years – I don’t think I would have taken quite so active an interest even a year ago. Similarly, at the new-faculty orientation I learned about the office responsible for keeping track of student demographics, and I actually called them to see if I could use them for data about students in my own classes instead of collecting it myself. We ended up having a short conversation about FERPA concerns (I’m still confused about the extent to which FERPA applies to faculty of the school), which is definitely something I now have to keep in mind.
A similar thing happened when the various student resources are mentioned on campus, including the Career Development Center that is currently under renovation, as well as the Academic Excellence Center (AEC) that offers peer tutoring for a wide variety of subjects with the help of faculty. My immediate thought on hearing about these resources is whether computer science is represented (unlikely, given the scant course offerings), and whether I can help them develop resources for people interested in or working on computer science.
Then there are entirely student-run organizations, like Oxy Open Source and Oxy Engineering Club, that I would at least like to check out and see what they do. I almost feel like a freshman going to college.
I think the point here is that there are a lot of places to which a computer science department can reach out and build a relationship with. I know the AEC has peer tutors for a number of subjects, but I wonder about the degree to which other departments are involved in selecting those people – I assume that is at least some involvement. On the other hand, I would be mildly surprised if faculty work as closely with the job search process, especially for students not looking to stay in academia or research. I do think computer science is different in that academia has closer ties to both big companies and the industry in general (eg. startups), and so we may have a bigger role to play there.