Discontent over IT change

Although a name change for the Information Technology program has not yet been finalized, there has been an outcry among the sophomore IT class about the proposed change. Assistant Dean of Information Technology and Chair of the Tetherless World Constellation Jim Hendler held a meeting on Tuesday with sophomore IT students to discuss the changes that will be publically announced in the near future—pending approval of the New York State Education Department.

The proposed name change, which was already approved by the Board of Trustees at its last meeting, would change the name of the undergraduate major from “Information Technology” to “Information Technology and Web Science.” The idea for the change has been in discussion for approximately 18 months, since web science became a recognized area of study in 2006, according to Hendler. The change would also be part of efforts to attract more students to the program amidst dwindling interest from incoming classes.

Hendler also noted that Rensselaer would be the first university to offer a program in this new area; however, this is one of the worries that sophomore IT students have expressed with the change. “Web science is still a relatively undefined term,” said Joseph Dougherty ’12.

Dougherty felt that the name change also limits the major’s broader applications. He said, “It leads to a web science emphasis, even though there are many different IT concentrations that we can take.”

Matt O’Brien ’12 also expressed his concern that the name would place the focus of the degree on the unknown industry. “If I had wanted a primary focus in web science, I would have chosen the Web Technologies concentration, which already exists as an option in the IT major for those who wish to explore it.”

O’Brien was also afraid that the name would cause the broadness and appeal of his degree to diminish when speaking with employers in areas of IT other than web science. Dougherty noted that the name change will be limiting in the way it advertises students.

Dougherty also pointed out that sophomores were never contacted about the change, but will still be caught in the middle of it. “It was a breakdown of communication,” he said. “It just got dumped on us.” The sophomore IT class is hoping to work with Hendler in regard to the proposed name change so that it does not affect their class. Sophomore IT Representative Andrew “AJ” Quartararo is polling students to investigate how widespread the discontent is, which will be presented to the class advisor.

The proposed change in name would also be accompanied by changes to the IT undergraduate program, such as adding a required web science course, adding a research option as a technical elective, and adding the option for a concentration in informatics. Several changes would also occur within the master’s and doctorate programs.

An official announcement on the program change would be effective immediately, pending approval from New York State Education Department.