Perhaps a direct effect of living adjacent to Silicon Valley, a good number of UC Berkeley students recognize the value of having some computer science knowledge under their belt. As a result, CS 61A is one of the most impacted classes and its enrollment is on track to outnumber the seats in the biggest hall on campus within the next few years.
This semester, a whopping 2,000 students signed up for the introductory programming class. Professor John DeNero even offers evening lectures to provide students with more in-person resources. It’s not too much of a stretch to expect growing interest in programming classes in the near future.
As heartening as it is to see so many students interested in learning the fundamentals of programming, the tech industry largely remains skewed toward male-identifying students. Only 28.6 percent of the College of Engineering student body identifies as female. Students and faculty alike have voiced concerns about how the unbalanced population affects the way that female students feel in the classroom.
To combat this, campus has a plethora of resources for underrepresented students, including the Center for Access to Engineering Excellence, in addition to several groups on campus dedicated to women in tech, such as the Association of Women in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. FEMTech provides tutoring support for women in computer science, and the Society of Women Engineers offers a tightknit community of female engineers.
UC Berkeley’s Girls in Engineering program intends to help middle school girls become more interested in engineering. But despite its positive impact — and the fact that the program was open to all genders — campus was recently hit with a gender discrimination lawsuit for allegedly increasing computer science opportunities for middle school girls. This proves that to this day there still exists individuals who oppose methods that help increase the number of women in the industry. Although disappointing, this is just more of a reason to actively invest in educating underrepresented students, especially in STEM fields.
Those who want to take a CS or data science class at Berkeley should not be held back in any way, shape or form from doing so. If class sizes continue to grow, as they clearly have been, campus must consider enlisting additional teachers to enhance the learning experience given that certain students might not have as strong of a grasp on computer science concepts. No lecture hall on campus can currently support a 2,000-person attendance — even Zellerbach Hall is capped at 1,978 seats. Regardless of whether students prefer to watch the webcast instead, they should be guaranteed a physical seat in lecture.
Everyone deserves a shot at computer science, an exponentially growing field. Campus is in a unique position to offer introductory courses to a large percentage of the student body — they simply need to prepare for it and ensure that it remains an inclusive space.