Computer science department begins hiring professors after staff shortage, firing of professor in December

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Allen Taylor is a faculty member from the Registration and Academic Services. The RAS has been assisting the computer science department and others with adjustments serving students on Lehigh’s campus. (Simona Shur/B&W Staff)

After firing former professor Jason Loew in December, computer science department chair Daniel Lopresti has begun the search for new professors, including two tenure-track faculty members.

Computer science classes have been in tremendous demand in recent years, putting a strain on the student-teacher ratio even before Loew’s firing as class sizes continue to grow every year. While Lehigh boasts a 9-1 student-teacher ratio and an average class size of 29 students, the computer science department is dealing with a 25-1 student-teacher ratio and an average class size of 50-70 students.

“The faculty has to work that much harder, and they are overwhelmed,” said Lopresti. “I don’t think that’s the way to teach computer science. If it was up to me, I would love to have many more faculty. We are hiring like crazy right now. We successfully hired two professors of practice in the fall. One just started this semester.”

Lopresti is very optimistic about the department’s future despite the recent loss of faculty. He said four faculty members left Lehigh for other universities last year, which really caused the department to suffer.

Qualified candidates will be interviewed in the weeks to come, according to Lopresti. He said at least six new faculty members will probably be hired, though the department could expect as many as nine new faculty members.

While the computer science department begins to rebuild, some students are still reflecting on Loew’s departure back in December.

“I can’t help but feel bad for him,” said Evan Choy, ’20, a former student of his. “I feel like Loew, morally, was trying to do the right thing.”

Professor Michael Spear took over for Loew’s classes after Loew was fired. While the transition process and the translation of the grades was not an entirely smooth process, Choy said he believes Spear did his best with the time he had.

However, Choy thought that Spear was more effective in his teaching method. Choy said Spear’s lectures were more useful, which resulted in better grades for the students.

“I passed, so it’s over,” Choy said. “For me as a dual student, I don’t have the option to retake classes. I have to move on. Would I take it over? Absolutely not.”

Throughout this ordeal, Lopresti has received advice from offices across campus such as the office for Registration and Academic Services. The office has been helping not only the computer science department, but also helping departments all over campus handle the ever-growing student body.

“The most recent initiative this office had involves the Calendar Committee, which is composed of faculty, students and staff,” said Allen Taylor, a faculty member who works in RAS.

The Calendar Committee drafted a plan which would urge growing departments to provide students with more time slots of certain classes, such as large introduction courses, in the afternoon. This plan will go into effect starting in fall 2019.

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