Taking the R

UB's most resigned classes in the five largest departments in STEM and liberal arts


Tyler Craven, a senior computer science major, was doing well in CSE 331, Introduction to Algorithm Analysis and Design last fall. But when that success came at the expense of his other classes, he was struggling to keep up and had to resign the course.

Craven isn’t the only student who struggled with the decision to resign last semester.

The Spectrum requested data from the Office of Institutional Analysis on the most resignations from last fall in selected undergraduate sections with 15 or more students within the UB School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and the College of Arts and Sciences. The data does not reflect the resignation of graduate students from co-taught courses.

The Breakdown

1. CSE 250 - Data Structures:

The School of Engineering and Applied Sciences saw the highest number of resignations within the Department of Computer Science and Engineering with CSE 250, having a resignation rate of 22.1 percent last fall. The class teaches the analysis of design, implementation and properties of advanced data structures.

Of the 204 students who enrolled in the class, 58 resigned by the end of the semester. The course was taught by Andrew R. Hughes, a computer science and engineering teaching assistant. Hughes could not be reached for comment.

Rachel Roberts, a senior computer science major, previously took CSE 250 and said she felt like the course is a “weed-out” class with hard material.

2. CSE 474 - Introduction to Machine Learning:

CSE 474, which teaches students how to improve computer programs, saw the second highest resignation rate within the department of Computer Science and Engineering, with a 21.1 percent resignation rate. Four students resigned out of the 15 originally enrolled.

Sargur N. Srihari, a SUNY Distinguished Professor of computer science and engineering, taught the course last fall along with graduate course CSE 574.

Srihari explained that unlike almost all of computer science, the subject of machine learning depends heavily on probability theory and calculus.

“It comes as somewhat of a shock to computer science majors that they need to understand not only mathematical concepts but also have to learn to code in newly developed programming libraries such as Tensorflow released just a year ago by Google,” Srihari said.

“Although the projects can be done in teams of two, undergraduates may lack the same degree of support from peers as the graduate students enjoy.”

Although the course-load is demanding, Srihari feels the rewards like the skillsets students acquire, specifically the high salaries that are offered within the field of computer science.

“Due to the shortage of those skilled in machine learning, salaries are extremely high,” Srihari said. “A Ph.D candidate in machine learning from UB was offered a starting salary of $300,000. This lead The New York Times to write a piece that AI salaries are comparable to NFL salaries.”

Craven, who is taking CSE 474 this spring, said he is really enjoying the class so far. However, he said he was worried that linear algebra was not a prerequisite for this course and will have to teach it to himself as the semester progresses.

3. CSE 341 - Computer Organization:

CSE 341, which looks at the basic hardware and software topics of computer organization, had a total enrollment of 78 students in section B of the course last fall and saw 20 resignations. The resignation rate was 20.4 percent. Kris D. Schindler, teaching and research associate professor of computer science and engineering, taught the section last fall and was not available for comment.

4. CSE 115 - Introduction to Computer Science I:

Introduction to Computer Science I, an entry level class designed to get students familiar with computer science basics, had a total class of 159 and saw 36 resignations in section C. The final resignation rate was 20.4 percent. Jesse L. Hartloff, teaching assistant professor of computer science and engineering, taught the course last fall and was not available for comment.

5. CSE 421 - Introduction to Operating Systems:

CSE 421 covers the principles and techniques in the design of operating systems, particularly emphasizing multiprogramming. Out of a class of 58 in section A of the course, 12 students resigned, resulting in a resignation rate of 17.1 percent.

Karthik Dantu, an assistant professor of computer science and engineering who taught this course last fall, said students might sometimes underestimate how much effort the course may require, although he said tries to paint an honest picture of what is to be expected at the start of the semester.

“Its one of the tougher classes in the department and requires a lot of sustained programming effort,” Dantu said. “Assignments may take two to three weeks to complete, and that may be difficult for students who may sometimes sign up for too many classes.”

6. PSY 295 - Communicating for Psychological Sciences:

Within the psychology department, Communicating Psychological Sciences saw the highest rate of resignations with a total of 16.7 percent in section A. The class teaches the introduction of ways that psychologists communicate in scientific contexts.

Section A of the course saw four out of 20 students resign. Katharina Barth, lecturer in the psychology department, who taught section A of this course last fall, declined to comment.

7. ECO 435 - International Economics:

International Economics was the highest resigned course in the Department of Economics, with a resignation percentage of 15.6.

ECO 435 had a total enrollment of 27 undergraduate students last fall, with five students who resigned. The course is crosstaught with a higher graduate course, and covers the classical law of comparative advantage, modern theory of trade and other topics.

Winston Chang, professor of economics and director of masters program taught the course last fall. Chang was not available for comment.

Vidit Vaghela, a senior economics major, took Chang’s class last fall. Vaghela feels the class was probably one of the hardest courses he has taken at UB due to the vast amount of work and practical material. The professor was hard sometimes, but provided critical feedback which was valuable, Vaghela said.

“Professor Chang is very intelligent, so he expects students to put in the necessary work, especially considering it is a senior level class,” Vaghela said. “It is extremely helpful if you’re going to get a job or spend a lot of time in economics and finance in your future.”

8. SSC 103 - Introduction to Health and Human Services:.

Introduction to Health and Human Services offers the study of health and human service systems in the US. It was the highest resigned course in the Social Sciences Interdisciplinary Program as it saw 4 out of 25 students resign the WEB section.

9. BIO 344 - Neuroethology & BIO 402- Advanced Cell and Developmental Biology I

BIO 344 and BIO 402 were the most resigned courses in the Department of Biological Sciences.

Neuroethology, or the evolutionary and comparative approach to the study of animal behavior and its mechanistic control by the nervous system, had an enrollment class of 21 students and saw three resignations, or 12.5 percent. Todd Hennessey, professor of biological sciences who taught the course last fall, did not respond to requests for comment.

Advanced Cell and Developmental Biology I, a class that covers major themes in cell and developmental biology, had the same number of enrolled students, resigns and final resignation rate of 12.5 percent. Ronald Berezney, professor of biological sciences, who taught the course last fall, did not respond to requests for comment.

10. COM 300 - Written Communication & COM 101- Principles of Communication

Written Communication is an upper-division theoretical course that covers the practice of written communication and emphasizes basic writing skills.

Andrew Sachs, visiting instructor of communication, taught the course last fall. Sachs explained the course relies on the students’ prior experience with writing instruction and the goal of the course is for them to develop expertise as essay writers.

Sachs said he is concerned with reports like the The Pew Foundations’ literacy report which said recent college graduates from major public universities such as UB are rated low in literacy and he fears students do not receive adequate writing experience in college.

Out of the three students that resigned his class of 25, Sachs said some simply do not wish to accept the challenge.

Principles of Communication, a entry-level course covering basic communication models, theory and research methods used in communication, saw a resignation rate of 11.1 percent in section C. Katy A. Underwood, a communication student who taught the section was not available for comment.

Emel Abibula, a sophomore management major, previously took this course in a different section. Abibula said the chapter topics were “very broad” and there was a lot of material to absorb for a basic level course.

“I think people might resign this class because it requires a lot of work and we had to do seven extra hours of out-of-class studies and multiple papers to get a decent grade,” Abibula said. “It is hard to get a good grade and it’s not worth it for students who take it as an elective.”

Anna Savchenko is an assistant news editor and can be reached at anna.savchenko@ubspectrum.com.