Second, I'd like to encourage you to not describe recruiting and admitting women as "lossening admission rates". That's the kind underhanded, unconscious sexism that we're trying to avoid here. Even if I accept as true that a higher percentage of men are qualified to be admitted to HMC's CS program (which I don't, but for the sake of argument...) the absolute number of people -- men, women, and otherwise -- who qualify is so much larger than what HMC can support that it could admit a class of 0 men and not have to worry about "lowering its standards".
It sounds like you've lost sight of the forest for the trees. Sure, a larger school might be able to have a larger impact. Sure, maybe Mudd isn't doing as much as it could, or is spending more money than it should. But it is still doing something demonstrably effective, which is more than most places can say.
I'm interested in facts, not political correctness. Were admission rates loosened to accomplish the goals, or were they not?
>It sounds like you've lost sight of the forest for the trees.
Or have you? To me, the forest is graduating the best CS students, regardless of colour, race or gender.
They were not. The class of 2014 (admitted in 2010) consisted of 101 women and 95 men, having more women than men for the first time in the college's history. The following year it swung back the other way, with only 42% of the incoming class being female. In both years, the same percent of admitted students were valedictorians or salutatorians at their high schools. In both years, the 75%ile SAT and ACT scores remained the same. Admittedly, I don't have access to all of the data, but the numbers I have show that there was no loosening of admission rates.
> graduating the best CS students, regardless of colour, race or gender.
I maintain two counterpoints to this argument:
* Especially when you're talking on the scale of admitting 200 students a year (only ~40 of whom will be CS majors) the difference between the best 200 men in the country and the best 200 women in the country is exceedingly small, if it exists at all. So given that the school is going to admit 200 equally qualified people no matter what, it might as well admit them in the ratio that it chooses.
* That statement has an implicit assumption that individuals are the best CS students. With a few notable exceptions, this is not true in the wider worlds of academia or professional industry. Teams with diverse skill sets, view points, knowledge, and experience perform the best in both academia and industry. So rather than trying to produce the 40 best individual computer scientists every year, Mudd tries to produce the 40 best team players who will succeed and make their chosen teams better by a multiplicative factor, rather than just an additive one.
EDIT: s/colleges/highschools/ when speaking of valedictorians
The only thing I found is the acceptance rate for women is higher than for me. BUT! The application numbers are skewed, with 3x as many men applying as women. The SAT scores of both genders are similar.
If it's admitting women it would not otherwise in order to meet its CS quotas, then it is lowering the standards. The only question is how much. By the way, if you believe that, that also implies that if they are changing or lowering standards, then you will have a hard time showing it with the very coarse statistics that elite universities tend to report, especially given the ceiling effects (things like the median or 75th percentile are not very informative when you're that far out on the tail of applicants).
> Sure, maybe Mudd isn't doing as much as it could, or is spending more money than it should.
They are spending an enormous amount of money. When I looked at other coverage the last time I saw a self-congratulatory puff piece from Harvey Mudd, the raw numbers implied they were spending something on the order of $100k per additional woman in their CS program, a number so high I couldn't understand what they could possibly be spending it all on (taking scores of students to conferences is clearly part of it, but even conferences can't soak up that much money).
Success based on enormous per capita expenditure and changing admissions criteria is not something that could be rolled out on any kind of national scale, and is consistent with primarily poaching from an existing static pool of women, in which case their example proves nothing of interest to anyone, and the burden of proof is on them to show that this set of methods will get "more women into technology careers" and we do in fact "need more initiatives like this in academia and industry" and "We can" "change things". Instead, what we get from OP is a paucity of any kind of rigor like randomized experiments (who is better placed to try that than Harvey Mudd?), heavy reliance on anecdotes and correlational results, non-discussion of budgets and admissions, and emotive rhetoric.
I disagree. Say your standard is "I will only date people that are over 6 feet tall". Statistically, there is a smaller percentage of women who meet that standard than men. However, there are more men over 6' tall than you could date in a single lifetime. There are also more women over 6' tall than you could date in a single lifetime. So if you choose to date 50% men and 50% women, you're not "lowering your standards". You're just using additional criteria -- like the idea that you might want more variety than only dating people of one gender all the time -- to weight your decision making beyond drawing random lots.
You can say that the analogy doesn't apply. "I don't want to date people over 6' tall -- I want to date the tallest people". I challenge you to apply "the best" to academic criteria that are available during the admissions process. There's simply not enough resolution available to construct an absolute ordering over all applicants, so you have to bucket people somehow. And the top bucket contains more than enough people to select from without having to lower any standards.
You're right that I can't conclusively show that standards weren't lowered using coarse statistics. I'm working with the numbers that I have, and with the knowledge that Maria Klawe and the professors of the HMC CS department are acting in good faith. Their end goal is not "get more women into our CS program". Their end goal is "make the CS profession a welcoming place for everyone", and bringing more women into HMC is a stepping stone towards that goal.
> spending something on the order of $100k per additional woman in their CS program
I would love to see that piece. It goes against my expectations, but honestly you might be right. Can you try to dig it up again for me?
> randomized experiments (who is better placed to try that than Harvey Mudd?)
Actually, Mudd isn't well-placed to do randomized experiments. The population is too small. Also, you're suggesting conducting sociological experiments on sentient populations without their express knowledge or consent. That's something I -- and the school, I expect -- would like to steer clear of.
It is an obvious approach that Harvey Mudd would be foolish to not consider if their aim is to increase the ratio of female students.
More than 50% of CS majors in my graduating class were women. And far from having admissions preferences in favor of women, Pomona actually does the opposite. The college's bylaws require an even distribution of men and women, leading to a higher admission rate for men (given that substantially more women apply for admission).
Women in our department definitely benefited from the same kind of efforts as Harvey Mudd: hiring women as faculty, providing summer research opportunities, and sponsoring participation in the broader community of women in CS (eg. through the Grace Hopper conference). I can't speak for my classmates, but I'm sure the things that attracted me to the field - it's fascinating and leads to good career opportunities - also attract women. If you could reduce the sexism I hear is endemic in the CS departments at many other schools I'm sure their graduating classes would also include more women.
There is extreme political pressure to hire females at all levels, from undergraduate students to professor, heads of department, head of school etc. Females at all levels get massively an easier ride in many ways from admission standards to scholarships and research funding.
This is an easy way to meet the quotas for hiring.
Citation fucking needed, pal.
The college that I advise at took another approach to grow the pool while also recruiting better from the pool. They encourage profs to work with Girl Scout troops on science projects, to get students to tutor junior high and high school kids in general, and build relationships long before the normal "I have to think about college" thoughts begin.
When someone can communicate better, it tends to make an impact on all of their other skills.
But it's commendable your place is actually trying to grow the pool, I have a feeling you should start 10 years earlier. Help children feel CS is a natural place for women to be, you'll be getting somewhere. This sounds like the correct approach.
That seems crazy that `colleges` are engaging in such a long sale cycle.
As the parent of a teenage boy and pre-teen girls here is what I do/can do.
Start/Coach/Mentor a FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC) Team for your teenager. I coach an FTC team.
Start/Coach/Mentor a FIRST Lego League (FLL) Team for your pre-teen kids. I am in the process of forming an FLL team.
Have them recruit their friends/classmates into the team.
It can be a mixed gender team or all girls team.
Training to compete in these events force you into being part of a team, apply STEM principles learned in school into actual practical engineering applications. Build Robots and have fun doing so.
The FLL teams eventually feed into FTC or FRC teams.
I think this will give them very early experiences into what engineering is all about and give them the confidence to take up these streams in later life.
What is important is that at the earlier ages they are not yet peer pressured into gender specific expectations and is exposed to these topics in a positive way.
The question is, why do you want to increase the ratio of women? Is it just for the sake of increasing the ratio? That's not the way to go then.
I think the developer community should try to not perpetuate the stereotype that those with experience programming necessarily don't have social skills. This type of thing is what pigeonholes us as "nerds" who are incapable of being involved in the business side of projects.
I would add that in my own experience (took CS61a at Berkeley with no prior programming and little math) those guys who already had a lot of knowledge were inspiring and a great asset. Working with more knowledgable people is a fundamental feature of industry and academia, and if you view it from the right perspective, it doesn't have to be intimidating.
Quit perpetuating negative stereotypes.
As someone who's suggested moderately overcomplicated solutions to introductory problems: that doesn't sound like social awkwardness to me. It sounds like people trying to be helpful who don't have any experience thinking about questions like "how can I help this other person solve this problem without introducing twelve entirely new concepts and four calls to an entirely new API?"
Anyway, the bit about (comparatively) experienced programmers intimidating the other students in freshman classes is a real and terrible thing. I thoroughly support shoving all those students into a different class; it is disruptive to have them in an intro course.
But, this course was also required for ALL engineers, so there were many separate sections/classes, and probably 80% or greater weren't interested in CS as a degree/career.
I think '95 was the first or second year for campus-wide high-speed internet at UVA. VT was a year ahead and one of the first in the nation, if I remember correctly.
All that said, the approach of splitting the introductory class up by previous experience makes some sense. I can't think of too many other subjects where the experience level would differ by so much at such an entry-level stage.
For me, the course wasn't exactly hard but it certainly wasn't trivial and, had I never written a program (or touched a command line), I'm sure I would have been completely and utterly lost. Sign up for any MOOC in this vein and there are obviously lots of people for whom it's a totally bewildering experience.
By comparison, when I took my first computer class in college, it was a truly introductory FORTRAN course that really didn't assume any prior knowledge. I did have a little BASIC in high school but that wasn't very common at the time.
I had the most advanced programming experience my high school offered (Q-Basic baby), but 100 level programming classes were pretty insane. Would have helped to maybe have a few more new to programming type classes with others in the same boat...
What exactly does the first sentence mean? What is an example of an increased focus on problem solving, and on what was focus decreased?
Are team assignments really just a way for weak performers to glide? I know in my own college career that was my experience.
Is computer science about fun and benefiting society, or is it, y'know, the science of computation? Is it better to build a population of computer scientists who find the science of computation fun and self-evidently beneficial, or one of computer scientists who don't?
The intro courses don't consist of homework like "write a function which does X", and they aren't graded like "your function produced the correct output".
Instead, the homework consists of week- to two-week-long projects in which the student produces a moderately complex piece of code. Depending on the point in the semester, this could be anything from a collection of pure mutually-recursive functions, a self-contained class with a nice api boundary, a collection of classes to draw some graphics format, or something else entirely.
The homework is always done in pairs, and you're not allowed to work on it unless your partner is present for pair programming. During official lab timeslots, students are told to trade off "driving" (using the keyboard) every 15 minutes to half hour.
Finally, the assignments are graded both on whether they produce the correct output and the clarity and efficiency of the code.
Student pairs are switched up multiple times throughout the semester, and the graders/tutors ("grutors") spend significant amounts of time working with each pair and making sure that both members understand what's going on.
On another note, why does everything have to be about benefiting society all the time? When I was an undergrad, I wanted to learn how to write a red-black tree, or how logic gates worked, not choke on force-fed activism. But I hate people, so...
Ultimately, the beauty of coding is that it's just you and the machine. The machine is objective, it has no mercy, it demands that you be correct, and you be exact. You can't bullshit it, you can't hand wave it. Your idealistic O(nLog(n)) algorithm wilts in the face of the harsh reality of constant factors and memory access patterns. The machine doesn't care if you're black, white, or purple, nor whether you have bits that go in or bits that go out.
What exactly does the first sentence mean?
Indeed just yesterday, my head of department suggested that I move from programming exercises to essays in my operating systems course, so as to have fewer students fail.
The problem with math/programming is that there are fairly hard and objective and measurable criteria for how good a student performs. So let's get rid of programming ...
If you present people with highly abstract material that they haven’t seen the like of before, without developing the intrinsic motivation to study it, you can end up weeding out even very smart and capable students.
There’s no harm in taking some of those first-year college students who don’t a priori “find the science of computation self-evidently beneficial”, and showing them its benefits first-hand. Even the ones who go on to concentrate their studies in biochemistry or structural engineering or pure mathematics will surely benefit.
Project-based group work doesn’t have to be easy. Indeed, I suspect the new curriculum at Harvey Mudd is objectively harder than the standard curriculum at most schools.
1) separate experienced from inexperienced programmers in intro classes minimizing intimidation effects where it feels like you are behind from the start.
2) early research programs. Get students involved in applications of CS rather than just theory and fundamental programming for 2 years.
3) "share what works" and "demystify success" are communication with other colleges and moocs about what works in teaching cs along with giving more clear guidelines of what successful performance looks like.
So. These have the added benefit of improving the gender gap, but really these are items that will help EVERY CS student. I don't think they corrected for impact of girls who code movements and increased encouragement in HS (eg increase if they had done nothing), but then it isn't a scientific study just a case study.
The problem is, there are undoubtedly a large number of young women out there who have the potential to become great programmers and love their careers, but for whatever reason, they're ending up becoming average doctors instead and feeling just so-so about their career choice.
In the latter case, it's better for both the women in question, and society in general, to support their becoming computer scientists.
The skew is indicative of a problem. We should fix it.
It isn't for many of them. Not really. Not as a great career.
I'm on ~$160k total comp as a senior software dev working full time. I want to move to a part time 20-25 hours and yet nobody wants to hire me for $80k/year part time.
emphasis on group work,
While I definitely experienced an unfortunate amount of "Pareto Groups" throughout my schooling, none of them were in the CS department at HMC.
It's not academic - but it definitely improves coding ability.
I'll take exception to the first example: group work. I loathed and hated group work in college. It was simply and solely a way for people who couldn't hack the course material to manage a pass anyway. This might, of course, be good experience for life, but it's terrible for education.
Research projects could be really, really good if they demand concrete results; they could be really terrible if they are just a way to reward effort without results.
Splitting classes by experience might be a decent idea, although I've heard folks speak positively of one-room schoolhouses as well.
My issue is that sometimes instead of fixing the underlying problem(s), some people want to apply a patch that ends up not helping (or maybe making things worse).
All of these things should be fixed, if applicable. Because they are patently unfair to half the talented pool of candidates. Any school that pretends to understand mathematics would understand that puts the school at a disadvantage.
Maybe it isn't. But we should approach this maturely. Often, there is no evidence for systemic discrimination and the stories are anecdotal and vague feelings of oppression. For example, it is often said that women are pushed out of CS courses because they are hostile environments to women, but when I attend uni I see that everything is completely technical and gender just doesn't play a role. You sit in the same lectures, do the same exercises, the same exams. Absolutely fair. When I ask women why they don't study CS, pretty much nobody says "Well, I tried uni but I was discriminated against", no, they say "Oh. It just doesn't interest me." The biggest issue, however, is when force enters the picture. Women quotas, affirmative actions, and the like. This is the true face of discrimination, and what an ugly face it is. I am in strict opposition of such actions because they distort the market and harm the freedom of choice and the development of talents.
We detached this subthread from https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=11183903 and marked it off-topic.
It's called survivorship bias: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Survivorship_bias
But most of all, how did those Indians and Chinese acquire those superior STEM skills without access to the educational resources that are given to all US citizens?
Now the specifics:
> STEM tests at the border?
You don't need STEM tests to cause this filtering effect, you just need to make immigration contingent on an employer or university wanting you to be in this country. That's what H1-B and student visas do.
> why would not the same effect play out with hispanics?
1. The H1-B and student visa program isn't what brought them into the country.
2. There are fewer of them in the world.
> why do 2nd and 3rd generation asians so utterly dominate STEM subjects at elite US universities that there are de-facto quotas to limit asians?
STEM proficiency is inherited, and the 2nd and 3rd generation Asians are the children of 1st and 2nd generation Asians.
> But most of all, how did those Indians and Chinese acquire those superior STEM skills without access to the educational resources that are given to all US citizens?
Most US citizens do not get a good STEM education. Most Indians and Chinese also do not get a good STEM education, but we don't see the ones who don't.
Not all cultures, not all parenting styles, are alike and produce the same outcomes. Some cultures have more affinity towards academic achievement than others.