Read of the Day: “Struggling for Wellness in Computer Science”
6:00 pm, June 10th | by Weiyu Li
The field of computer science is booming yet there is a dark side of the industry that few talk about. In today’s Read of the Day, Kyla Cheung, a Columbia University student studying computer science and creative writing, discusses health and wellness among computer science majors, suggesting that there is a whole community of students on the verge of burnout.
This is a snapshot of programming at Columbia, where, as in many universities across the country, computer science is booming and hackathons like the one described here are springing up with unprecedented speed. Here, the number of students projected to graduate with a degree in CS has risen 50 percent in the past two years. So has the number of students registered for the introductory class, W1004 (commonly referred to as “ten-oh-four”). On the national level, the Computing Research Association reported an “astonishing” 29.2 percent increase in new computing undergraduate majors.
CS and programming have more widespread appeal than ever before. Startups are frequently acquired for millions of dollars—and sometimes, as in the case of Instagram, for $1 billion. Starting salaries for graduates of top schools are commonly close to six figures. CS has gained cultural appeal through The Social Network, which grossed more than $220 million worldwide. “We’re treated more and more as if we possess superpowers,” explains Sam Aarons, a School of Engineering and Applied Science junior studying CS and the owner of Print@CU. “I can’t even be at a family gathering without somebody asking me if I have any ideas for companies I want to start or if I want to be the next under-25 billionaire.
“There is the idea that because I’m black and female, I’m probably not that good at CS,’ says Stephanie Aligbe, who graduated from Columbia last year. Quispe echoes the sentiment: “People don’t look at me and expect me to be smart. They certainly don’t expect me to be a CS major. I literally don’t looklike a CS major.”
While this article isn’t meant as an exhaustive study, it is intended to raise questions as to what isn’t working. The administration and faculty seem to misunderstand, if not exacerbate, the stressful life of the average student. The psychological resources and wellness organizations don’t seem to penetrate deeply enough. The issues of specific communities can go unheard when experiences common to all students are prioritized in the name of ‘inclusivity,’and discussions split along pre-existing divisions in the general student body.
To read the rest of the essay, click here.