Long-spreading rumors that the University may be planning to eliminate the computer science (COS) Bachelor of Science and Engineering (B.S.E.) major have apparently made their way into tours of the engineering school. Administrators are eager to clarify that the rumor has no basis in fact.
In a Feb. 22 email obtained by The Daily Princetonian, Brendan Kehoe ’24, the vice president of the Princeton chapter of Tau Beta Pi, the oldest engineering honor society in the United States, emphasized “the importance of accurate [information]” when it comes to giving tours of the E-Quad to prospective students.
“There are currently no plans to remove COS B.S.E. as a major, even though this has been a rumor over the past year,” Kehoe wrote.
“We should not be spreading this rumor to any tours,” he wrote in the email to engineering tour guides. “I was asked to pass along that ‘spreading false rumors will be grounds for dismissal.’”
COS B.S.E. has grown substantially in recent years and is currently the most popular concentration on campus, with 155 students from the Class of 2024 declaring as of May 2022. The rumors that the University had plans to eliminate or modify the COS B.S.E. program persisted despite the program’s recent growth.
“Just as Princeton has announced significant investment in its engineering school, it would be very surprising for them to eliminate a key engineering concentration such as computer science. Part of the competitiveness of Princeton’s computer science department is the ability for concentrators to approach the subject from either an engineering or a liberal arts framework,” said Christopher Lidard, a Technology Columnist for the ‘Prince’.
“Though I’ve heard this rumor expressed confidently in both computer science and non computer science circles, I am glad this amounts to little more than a widespread rumor,” Lidard continued.
The rumor, though false, seems to have had significant reach.
“One rumor I heard was that they might discontinue the COS B.S.E. major and blend it into the ECE major, and then continue the COS [Bachelor of Arts (A.B.) track,” Muhammad Zaeem ’26 said. “My roommate was talking about it last semester, but I’m not entirely sure.”
“I heard this rumor from a bunch of people,” said Arnav Kumar ’24, a COS B.S.E. major. “It’s really surprising that it’s not true.”
Zaeem’s reference of the electrical and computer engineering major cites a potential contributing factor to the false policy. In 2020, the Department of Electrical Engineering (ELE) was renamed as the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE), a move that the University at the time justified as a name that “better captures the department’s range of strengths and impacts.”
Administrators echoed Kehoe’s clarification on the falsity of this rumor. “The rumor is false. I have no idea where it originated,” Peter Bogucki, the Associate Dean for Undergraduate Affairs in the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, wrote in an email to the ‘Prince.’
Computer science is the only major at Princeton where students can elect to receive either an A.B. degree or a B.S.E. degree. The primary differences come down to department prerequisites and major requirements.
Compared to B.S.E. students, COS A.B. students are not required to take physics and chemistry, but still must take classes in math and in the sciences. B.S.E. students need to complete 36 classes over four years, while A.B. students need to complete 31. However, independent work counts towards the class count for B.S.E. students, while it does not for A.B. Both must complete eight computer science departmental courses.
Unlike all other departments at Princeton, which require a senior thesis, for COS B.S.E. students, “independent work can be taken as a one-semester course or as a two-semester thesis option if preferred,” according to the department website. On the other hand, students who decide to major in COS A.B. will have to complete a senior thesis, whose “independent work consists of four semesters of work in their junior and senior year.”
Despite the difference from other concentrations, the University insists there are no planned changes in offering the program.
“We are puzzled why we periodically hear such rumors and explain that they are not true — only to have them re-emerge on a frustratingly regular basis,” computer science department chair Szymon Rusinkiewicz wrote in a statement to the ‘Prince.’
Rumors of change in the computer science department have circulated not solely as an elimination of the B.S.E. major, but also an adjustment to the curriculum.
“I’ve not heard much about whether they are not going to be offered or not,” Abdur-Raheem Idowu ’25 said. “I’ve only heard maybe that B.S.E. COS is going to be more similar to A.B. COS.”
“We do not understand where the rumors originate and would welcome everyone’s help to get the word out that they have no basis in reality,” Rusinkiewicz wrote.
Lia Opperman is an associate News editor for the ‘Prince.’
Rebecca Cunningham is an assistant News editor for the ‘Prince.’
Please send any corrections to corrections[at]dailyprincetonian.com.