Los Alamos Ntional Laboratory and New Mexico State University role in  the collapse of the Computer Science Department at Washington State University  

First posted
Tuesday February 15, 2000 07:55

Updated
Wednesday February 8, 2006 12:34

Dr Ottis Rechard received his PhD in Mathematics from Ohio State.

 Rechard worked at Los Alamos.  As a result of the computing he apparently learned at Los Alamos Rechard was brought to Washington State University in Pullman, Washington in the early 1960s.

Rechard established the Information Science program in the early-60s.

Payne went to work in the Computer Science and Psychology Departments and the computing center in 1966.

In 1966 WSU was one of only two Universities offering a PhD in Information Science west of the Mississippi.  The other was Stanford.

WSU Computer Science attracted very good graduate students THEN.

Rechard had previous hired former New Mexico State math professor Richard Stark in the Information Science Department.

In 1966 Rechard hired two instructors, H. Blair Burner and John Sobolewski, to both teach and work on a Ph.D. in Information Science.

Rechard also hired three new assistant professors.  Mike McCammon, Marc Weiss, and Donald Burnell.

Rechard then hired William Walden.  Walden received a Ph.D. in mathematics at New Mexico State University where his father was a dean.

Walden's thesis advisor, I believe, was Edward Thorp of "Beat the dealer" fame 1.  This is the Walden mentioned in Ulam's book

Quite early, in fact only some months after the electronic computer called MANIAC became available in Los Alamos, I tried with a number of associates (Paul Stein, Mark Wells, James Kister, and William Walden) to code the machine to play chess.

Rechard's stated goal was to build a really-good Computer Science Department.  The name was changed from Information Science to Computer Science.

All was going fairly well at establishing the department until about 1970-71.  My two phd students, Lewis and Sobolewski, completed their thesis work in 1971.  

However, Burner was complaining that Rechard was incompetent as a thesis advisor.  Graduates students complained that Stark did know the material he was trying to teach them.

I went on sabbatical to the University of Illinois in Computer Science in 1972-73.  

Walden was very popular and gave lots of degrees.

While I was away the WSU mathematics hired numerical analyst Richard Hanson of Linpack fame 1  

Assistant professors Burnell, McCammon, and Weiss did not promply complete their PhD degrees.  Also they wen't publishing.

Rechard fired them all as not supporting his quality graduate program initiative.

On return from sabbatical Hanson and Payne observed that Walden was giving lots of degrees but his students weren't publishing their thesis.

Hanson and Payne attended one of Walden's PhD student thesis final oral.  
We suggested that Walden perhaps should stop giving PhD degrees until he was successful at getting student PhD thesis articles published.

This did not go over with Rechard and his buddies.

Rechard shortly thereafter got caught giving the dean of the science school, B. Roger Ray's, son an assistantship in Computer Science when the son was not enrolled in graduate school for reason of low grades.

Rechard left WSU and went to the University of Denver.

Walden left WSU and went to direct the computing center at the University of New Mexico.

Stark left WSU and returned to New Mexico State University.

Hanson left WSU and went to Sandia labs.

George Marsaglia took Rechard's job as Computer Science Department chairman in about 1978. And the department continued down hill.

In 1980 I went to work to Sandia Labs. Cryptographer Gus Simmons  and Hanson were both instrumental in bringing me to Sandia.

Sobolewski took Walden's job at the University of New Mexico.

When I was interviewed at DOE Albuquerque Operations Office for my  SCI access, the only topic the interviewer wanted to talk about is what happened at WSU in Computer Science.

He asked had any proof to support my claims that there were severe academic problems at WSU.  I replied that I did.

I brought the articles below to the interviewer.  He responded that he understood the problem.  I got my SCI access.

Los Alamos and  New Mexico State University had a lot to do with the collapse of WSU's computer science program.  It apparently is no more.  It was absorbed by Electrical Engineering.

Washington State University's former Computer Science Department

OPINION

Calculate this

If you're a computer science major at WSU drop out now. Take dad's dough and throw it at a real school like MlT, Berkeley or Cal-Tech. Then, if you're good, you can get a real job when you matriculate.

WSU and UW have been dropped from the list of universities whose programs in computer science are strong enough to produce software engineers. You may think, young whiz kid, that you're an engineer when you get out of here, but that's just a happy mushroom dream. If you want an engineer's paycheck when you finally escape the hallowed halls of higher ed, you'd do better going across the border to the sweet pastures of the UI.

UI is University of Idaho.  UI is located in Moscow, Idaho. Moscow is about 7 miles to the east of Pullman

Those guys and gals can still glean an engineer-quality training program from their school (where tuition, incidentally, is against state law). They can take their Logger U. diploma and punch it into a Boeing time clock. You can't.

At WSU, where tuition is highly (and ever higher-ly) favored by our kindly uncles in the legislature, your degree doesn't mean squat to a company that employs THOUSANDS of engineers. This is not some tiny little elitist operation- to reiterate the incredibly obvious, Boeing is an enormous multinational corporation with its corporate fingers in every engineering pie. Boeing's been hiring engineers out of this school for decades, and is still doing so — but not from CPT-S.

Computer science is no priority for funding at WSU. Their funding sees no real increases, despite increasing expansion of the hacker student body and the clear fact that this field will continue to grow into the foreseeable future.

Apparently, though, the computers up at French Battalion HQ only do simple sums. In typical money-grubbing manner. The Powers That Be Shortsighted in the WSU administration extend the largesse of their wallet (which is stuffed by you and me) only to departments that are likely to attract huge research grants. The term "research university" is evidently defined as a barely-accredited university cynically researching the art of the grant and fellowship." What kind of a research university fails to provide sufficient curriculum to qualify its engineers for Christ's sake?

Now, no one gets very excited about the sniveling of humanities and liberal arts types: We all know those guys have their heads in the clouds, and anyway, they're used to being grossly underfunded and underpaid. English majors, for example, aren't eyeballing a six-figure income if they stay in their chosen field. Just toss them enough pocket change for a tweed jacket and some elbow patches and they'll lower the tone of their grumbling.

But an engineering candidate is punching a different ticket. Anyone wearing a pocket protector for four years has a right to expect a salary sufficient to salve the social sting. Besides, how will these people ever get married without "competitive starting salaries?"

The ol' Zoo administration isn't too nervous about the effect of its non-existent academic balance on alumni at large. After all, the two largest private donations to this school's treasure chest in recent years have come from non-Cougars: people who graduated with real degrees and were able to make some dough.

So young nerd processor, what are you going to tell that nice Call-A-Coug person in four or five years.. .when you're still getting paid 8,000 clams a year less than your peers?

Jack Lewis

The Evergreen   Friday March 2, 1990
Washington State University, Pullman, Washington


Boeing questions program

Computer science curriculum slighted

by Chris Grygiel Editor

Major corporations are telling WSU's computer science department that its graduates aren't well trained and won't be hired for certain positions.

And without financial help from a reluctant administration, it doesn't look like the plight of the computer science department will improve in the near future, professor Charles Millham said.

"We just can't give these companies what they want without another five additional faculty." Millham said. In September, Boeing Aerospace sent Millham a letter saying that WSU's computer science department had been removed from the company's list of approved bachelor-degree programs for software engineering positions.

Millham said the Tectronics and Chevron companies have also said they aren't pleased with WSU's computer science curriculum.

Boeing complained that WSU's curriculum lacked a large senior-year software design project, Millham said.

Boeing also said there weren't enough faculty and too much turnover within the department. Millham said.

Russ Young, a Boeing public relations officer. said there is an industry team working with WSU faculty to restructure the curriculum but he declined to say how long it would be before WSU's computer science department would be put back on the approved degree list.

"We'd (Boeing) like to see more design and technical oriented classes," Young said.

Boeing continues to hire WSU computer science graduates, but not as engineers. That means WSU grads' salaries are up to $8,000 less than what they would make had they been hired as engineers.

For the department to meet industry standards, Millharn said they will need money from the central administration.

However Millham and Computer Science Professor Alan Genz said their repeated requests for more funding have fallen on deaf administrative ears.

"The central administration continues to keep their head in the sand about this thing... we've been talking to them off and on for the last three years." Genz said.

We just flat out got nowhere Millham said.

Administrators have seen information detailing the computer science department's funding problems yet remain unwilling to allocate more money, Genz said.

In a memo sent to the Faculty Senate in March of 1989. Millham pointed out that the biochemistry. chemistry and physics departments had a combined total 63 undergraduate majors.

While the computer science department alone had 85 undergraduate majors. That information is based on 1986-87 1987-88 figures depending category.

However in terms of money given departments, chemistry got $614 per student credit hour; chemistry got 535/SCH; and physics $322/SCH.

But computer science the department with the most student interest according to previous figures, only got $161/SCH in state support.

"We think that our students are not getting a fair deal," Genz said.

Vice Provost Ron Hopkin said giving the computer science department more money isn't presently an option.

"This isn't a problem that going to be fixed by throwing money at it, Hopkins said.

Hopkins was a Psychology professor.  Hopkins wanted to be an administrator.  Hopkins quit WSU and went to work for NIH in Washington.  Hopkins hated Washington and his job.

I gave the speech to the Psychology Department to help get Hopkins job at WSU back.  

Serious talks about department funding won't happen until the next biennium. Hopkins said. Millham and Genz say administrators opt to give more money to departments with the best chances of making more money for WSU through research grant and not to departments with high student interests.

The Evergreen   Friday March 2, 1990
Washington State University, Pullman, Washington


WSU loses Boeing approval

PULLMAN, Wash. — Boeing Aerospace has said computer science graduates at Washington State University no longer qualify for engineering positions at the company, WSU officials said.

According to a letter sent to a WSU Professor Charles B. Millham, WSU's computer science department is off Boeing's list of approved bachelor-degree programs for software engineering positions.

Millham said this means h $5,000 to $8,000 difference in the salaries offered to WSU students,

The University of Washington computer science program remains on the approved list, Ruses Young of Boeing said.

Robert Sanders, compensation manager for Boeing, said Wednesday that "because of changes in curriculum WSU computer science students aren't qualified to become engineers."

Boeing still hires WSU computer science majors, but not for engineering positions, he said.

The SPOKESMAN-REVIEW Friday Mar. 2, 1990, Spokane, Washington

Other firms have qualms about WSU comp. sci.

By KEN OLSEN
Staff Writer

One of the Northwest's leading electronics manufacturing giants, Tektronix Inc., stopped recruiting Washington State University computer science graduates last year because of concerns about the program's quality.

It is at least the second company to express disenchantment with WSU's computer science program by cutting back on the number of graduates hired.

A year-old Boeing policy, which came to light this. week, dictates that Cougar computer science graduates not be hired into positions that pay engineering-grade salaries because Boeing is concerned about WSU's curriculum, the low number of faculty, high faculty turnover, and lack of other departmental resources. It is costing Boeing-bound graduates as much as $8,000 a year in starting salaries.

Tektronix' software recruiting group last year "chose not to go to WSU because they were alarmed at the lack of depth in the program," said Linley Gumm, chief engineer and campus manager for the Beaverton, Ore., company. "We are concerned, but at the same time we have gotten fairly good graduates in the past."

However, one of the criteria for recruiting at a particular institution is "getting a reasonable number of students who meet your requirements," Gumm said.

The company has not stopped recruiting WSU's electrical engineering graduates, who have computer science minors. Boeing says it shares that sentiment.

It is important to note that Tektronix, the world's largest maker of instruments like oscilloscopes, is not recruiting WSU computer science graduates this spring be

Please see WSU back page

The Daily News Pullman, Washington march 3&4, 1990