1976-86: The Enrollment Crunch
America's bicentennial year somehow triggered an astonishing upward spiral in the number of students wanting to major in CS. This love affair lasted throughout the United States until the mid-1980's. The number of undergraduate degrees awarded by the CSD at Pitt increased steadily from 1976 until 1985. In fact, during the latter year the CSD produced over 250 graduates (CAS and CGS combined), a larger number than any other department in the Arts & Sciences.
Needless to say, it was extremely difficult to cope with such a surge. The size of the full-time faculty remained essentially unchanged during this time period. More and more part-time faculty had to be hired and the number of teaching assistantships also had to be increased significantly. It became necessary for us to institute a random drawing scheme for deciding on which majors would be permitted to register for which of our advanced undergraduate courses. We simply did not have enough class slots to accommodate all student needs and wishes.
While it was fun to be that popular as a department, it was a draining experience and left faculty with less than sufficient time to attend to their other responsibilities, especially their research. One bright spot during this 10-year period occurred in 1983: the FAS Dean authorized acquisition of a VAX 11/780 for the CSD. The system cost nearly $250,000. In view of the tremendous amount of tuition revenue that the CSD was bringing in to Pitt, it seemed only fair and well-deserved that we obtain our own vax.
Then, in 1984, Pitt carried out a review of its academic programs as part of a major planning process. In the Recommendations for Academic Priorities (Faculty Task Force on Planning, University of Pittsburgh, October 1984), the following appeared:
The Department of Computer Science has experienced a phenomenal increase in majors in recent years, and its SCHs [student credit hours] have increased by a factor of five over the past decade. [Yet] the number of full-time faculty has remained constant ...
It was, therefore, recommended in A Report to Trustees, June 1985: The University Plan, that the CSD "should have a large increase in resources" both to accommodate the high student demand as well as to enable expansion of its research. Indeed, as a result, Pitt committed to FAS recruitment of a new chair as well as six new faculty positions.