Policies and Advising Manual, Computer Science Undergraduate Affairs Committee (CSUGAC)

Last updated September, 2004


Many academic faculty governance bodies consist of rotating memberships. Though this provides for shared responsibility and a continual infusion of new ideas, it also results in the commonly-heard complaint of lack of "institutional memory." The purpose of this document is to provide a record of CSUGAC policies and practices. It is not at all intended to be immutable, and indeed should be regularly reviewed. However, there is a strong need for maintaining a substantial degree of continuity, in order to

The aim of this document is to provide a basis for this continuity.


Our two undergraduate majors:

Our department administers two undergraduate majors: Computer Science (CS), offered through the College of Letters and Science, and Computer Science and Engineering (CSE), offered through the College of Engineering.

Often a student will inquire as to the differences between the CS and CSE majors. The CS major has the advantage of flexibility, for example facilitating the pursuit of extensive coursework in an outside field. The CSE major provides the student with a firmer background in computer systems. In any case, in answering student inquiries, it should be strongly emphasized to the students that graduates of the two majors tend to go into the same types of jobs after graduation; mastery of the subject matter will have far more of an impact on the student's employment prospects than will the choice of major.

Ordinarily CSUGAC has the final authority in matters involving CS students. But in the case of the CSE major, the decision of CSUGAC regarding a student petition is not final. After leaving CSUGAC, the petition is routed to the College of Engineering Petitions Committee, where the final decision is made. Typically this latter committee upholds the decision of CSUGAC, but this is not always the case.

The two majors are officially declared as "impacted" by the campus administration, meaning that the department has insufficient resources to accommodate all students who wish to be CS/CSE majors. Accordingly, students who specify the CS or CSE major when they apply to UC Davis must meet a higher standard in order to be offered admission. Similarly, petitions for on-campus changes of major into CS or CSE are also subject to more stringent criteria than those typical for non-impacted programs.

Change-of-major petitions and associated appeals:

Criteria for petitions requesting a change of major into CS or CSE are listed on the department Web site, www.cs.ucdavis.edu. The two sets of criteria do differ, notably in the fact that the CSE criteria include an upper bound on unit credits, but they both set a lower bound on grade-point average (GPA) in certain preparatory courses designated for the major in question.

Change-of-major petitions for transfer into CS/CSE must first be submitted to the Staff Adviser, and should not be processed by any Faculty Adviser. If a student asks for information regarding change of major, a Faculty Adviser should direct the student to first read the criteria listed on the Web site (the Adviser should emphasize the importance of the student's checking these criteria early and thoroughly), and then to contact the Staff Adviser.

Processing by the Staff Adviser depends on the major involved: In the case of CS, the Staff Adviser will issue an automatic approval if the student meets the specified criteria; otherwise, an automatic appeal will be filed with CSUGAC. In the case of CSE, the petition is automatically forwarded to the College of Engineering; if the petition is denied there, the student can file an appeal with the Staff Adviser via e-mail. (The appeal procedure is described on the Web at http://www.cs.ucdavis.edu/undergrad/csmajor/declare.html) Each Faculty Adviser then submits a vote for approval or denial to the Staff Adviser. The committee's decision, as determined by majority vote, is then transmitted to the student.

The committee reviews a large number of appeals to denied change-of-major petitions due to failure to meet the minimum GPA requirement (2.75 for CS, 3.00 for CSE). This is largely due to the fact that many high school and community-college advisers suggest the following strategy to their advisees who have weaker grades: The students are advised that in their applications to UC Davis they should apply to a major other than CS/CSE, to circumvent the high GPA cutoffs applied to applicants for those majors, and then apply for a transfer into CS/CSE once they get settled at UCD. Needless to say, if a student had been receiving weak grades at a community college, he/she will probably get weak grades at UCD as well. Hence we have a disproportionate number of change-of-major petitions that fail to meet the grades requirement for the CS/CSE preparatory courses.

Generally the committee has been inclined to approve appeals if the student's grades in required coursework show an exceptionally marked increasing trend, with solid A or B grades in recent quarters. It should be noted that a student may submit a change-of-major petition multiple times. In assessing appeals, the committee should keep in mind that this is not the student's "last chance," and thus denial in this instance does not foreclose the possibility of approval in the future if the student raises his/her GPA. In some marginal cases, the committee has voted for conditional approval, subject to the student's attaining certain grades in courses in which he/she is currently enrolled.

The student must complete the designated preparatory material before applying for change-of-major; failure to do so results in an automatic denial by the Staff Adviser.

The committee has been very reluctant to make exceptions to the CSE requirement concerning the upper-bound on units already completed, due to the department's impacted status.

As mentioned earlier, the Faculty Advisers should not be involved in the formal process of change-of-major, which is the function of the Staff Adviser. However, Faculty Advisers can and should give advice to students who are contemplating a change of major, particularly so that the student can do proper planning.

Double majors:

It should be noted that the department does not allow double majors between EE (Electrical Engineering) or CE (Computer Engineering) and CS or CSE. In other words, double majors in CSE/EE, CSE/CE, and CSE/CS are not allowed. There are no exceptions. This policy is due to both (a) the department's impacted status, and (b) a recognition of the fact that a double engineering major of this nature attains very little career benefit for the student, and frequently is detrimental, due to the student's reduced ability to acquire thorough insight in his/her coursework.

On the other hand, other double majors, typically between CS and another field such as Mathematics, Economics and so on, are allowed. Procedures for declaring a double major are similar to those for a change of major.

Repeating courses for credit:

Campus policy allows a student who has attained a grade below C- in an undergraduate course to repeat the course once, up to a total of 16 units of repeats. The new grade replaces the old one for purposes of GPA computation, though the transcript shows both grades.

The committee often receives petitions from CSE students who wish to repeat the same course more than once. (CS students who wish to file such a petition must go through the College of Letters and Science Dean's Office.) It is the committee's policy to deny such petitions if the only benefit derived would be enhancement of GPA.

For example, suppose a student received a grade of D the first time he took ECS 150, and when he repeated the course his grade was a D+. As explained above, the latter is now his official grade in the course, and for the purposes of graduation he is deemed to have completed the course. (This would have been the case even if had not repeated the course, as it is only required to attain a grade of D- or better for graduation purposes, even in a course required for the major.) Thus the only reason for undergoing a second repetition of the course (i.e. taking the course for the third time) would be enhancement of GPA, and the committee's policy is to disallow this; the Staff Adviser will automatically deny the request, and no appeal will be allowed.

If a student has received a grade of F in a repeat of a course required for graduation, he will automatically be allowed to repeat the course on a "subject credit only" basis. This means that he can take the course again in order to fulfill the graduation requirement and satisfy the prerequisite requirements for further courses, but the grade in this repeat will not count in the student's GPA.

If on the other hand, this hypothetical student had been in his last quarter before graduation and he did not meet the requirement that his overall GPA be at least 2.00, the committee may entertain his petition to repeat the course more than once.

Petitions for substitutions for required courses:

Another common type of student petition submitted to the committee involves substitution for a required course. This may arise due to scheduling conflicts, or due to the student's perception that the substitute course is less challenging than the required one. Clearly the committee denies most petitions in the latter category, but the committee has allowed some latitude in cases in which a scheduling problem occurs during the quarter in which the student is scheduled to graduate.

Graduate courses:

Both the CS and CSE majors require the student to take a certain number of Computer Science Electives from a list of approved courses. This list consists of most of the advanced upper-division courses in our department (and some in ECE), but does not include graduate courses.

The latter restriction was originally made only for the CS major. That major is offered through the College of Letters and Science, which places an emphasis on breadth of education. For this reason, graduate-level courses (i.e. "depth") were not allowed for fulfilment of the student's Computer Science Electives requirement.

However, later it became clear that restrictions were necessary for the CSE major as well. Since grading policies in graduate courses tend to be liberal, with many courses giving A grades to all students who complete the work, some students with weak GPAs have perceived this to be a route toward GPA enhancement.

Thus the committee has set standards for the approval of such petitions, setting minimum levels for the student's overall GPA and grades in the courses prerequisite to the given graduate course:

Substitution issues regarding mathematics requirements:

Both majors require lower-division mathematics through calculus, linear algebra and differential equations.

The CS major requires three upper-division elective courses in mathematics. Two of the three are to be in abstract, theoretical math (one of which, MAT 108, is actually required, rather than "elective"), while the third is open. The goal of the two courses in the abstract/theoretical category, as defined by CSUGAC over the years, is to enhance the students' abilities in dealing with abstractions, a central facet of computer science. Accordingly, petitions for substitution of an "applied" math course in lieu of a theoretical one are normally not granted.

The CS major requires STA 32, a probability/statistics course which is calculus-based and also includes computer simulation. It cannot be substituted with non-calculus-based courses for nontechnical majors such as STA 13.

The CSE major requires a theoretical probability course, STA 131A or MAT 131, and STA 131A/MAT 131 is one of the choices for the "math theory" component of the CS major. In both cases, the goal is a rigorous, theoretical treatment, and thus STA 131A/MAT 131 cannot be substituted with a less rigorous, "applied" courses such as STA 120, STA 130A or ECI 114.

Transfer credit:

The CSUGAC Chair, who also holds the title Master Adviser, is regularly sent a stack of documents which are the articulation agreements proposed by each community college in the state of California, concerning course equivalencies. The Chair assesses the proposed course correspondences, making corrections where appropriate. One cannot insist on a "perfect match," but the two courses should be reasonably close to each other in both topical coverage and level of sophistication. Articulation agreements for all schools in California are posted on the Assist Web page, at www.assist.org.

In many cases a student believes that a course taken previously at a community college, or at another four-year college or university, is equivalent to a course in our department even though it is not listed by Assist. All such cases should be referred to the CSUGAC Chair. Frequently the student's claim is warranted, but the situation should be evaluated with care.

The most common difficulty is in assessing proposed equivalence of a course to UCD's ECS 40. Though student perception is that ECS 40 is "the C++ course," the key point is that ECS 40 is intended mainly as an advanced course in programming, albeit one which happens to use C++ as its programming language. In evaluating a course proposed for credit for ECS 40, then, the key point is that the Chair must determine whether the course has a previous programming course as a prerequisite, so as to qualify as "advanced"; coverage of C++ by itself is not sufficient for transfer credit.

Another common case involves courses in Data Structures and Algorithms, with credit proposed for UCD's ECS 110. The typical problem which arises is that the proposed course is essentially just an advanced programming course which uses data structures as its source of programming problems; typically a large amount of C++ material is an integral part of the lectures in the course. This is different from the UCD ECS 110, which has a much heavier theoretical/analytical content. ECS 110 does feature extensive programming assignments, but the course material itself concentrates on the fundamental concepts, rather than on C++ constructs. Furthermore, in many cases the proposed equivalent course has only one previous course in programming as a prerequisite, rather than two courses as in the case of ECS 110. In addition, there is the problem that ECS 110 is upper-division while the proposed equivalent course is typically lower-division. Given that ECS 110 is the gateway for preparation for upper-division coursework, including theoretical courses such as ECS 122A, the Chair should exercise care in assessing equivalencies here.

In recent years, we have had a number of transfers from UC Berkeley. Here is policy for some commonly-occurring situations:

In assessing statistics courses from other schools, the principles listed earlier apply.

192/199 courses:

A student may apply a 3-unit ECS 192 (Internship) or 199 (Independent Study) course toward his/her Computer Electives requirement, in either the CS or CSE major, subject to CSUGAC approval.

To receive credit for either course, the student must submit a detailed, thorough description of the project to the Staff Adviser. Poorly or skimpily written proposals are routinely returned to the student for rewrites.

Policy is that a 192/199 proposal be submitted before the first day of instruction. The deadline to submit final documentation is the second day of the final examination period. Information is online at http://www.cs.ucdavis.edu/undergrad/csmajor/192_199.html

A 192 project should be strongly technical in nature, rather than, say installing sounds cards in PCs, teaching secretaries how to use e-mail, writing up documentation and so on..

A written final project report is required, and again, must be of high quality. It is submitted to the Staff Adviser via e-mail.

Policies and procedures for 192/199 credit are presented on our department Web page.

Advising procedures:

Advising holds are placed on students when they reach certain milestones in terms of number of units completed, in order to ensure good planning of their course schedules, and to dispense general advice. These comprise a major portion of a Faculty Adviser's workload. The procedure is online at http://www.cs.ucdavis.edu/undergrad/advising_holds.html

The student must first run Ron Olsson's OASIS program, which reviews the student's planned coursework in the next four quarters. One of the major functions of this program is prerequisite checking. The student then takes the OASIS output, plus his/her transcript, to any Faculty Adviser for evaluation. The Faculty Adviser should check the following:

After the Faculty Adviser signs the OASIS form, the student submits the form to the Staff Adviser. Though the form is not binding, it at least forces the student to plan carefully.

In addition to reviewing the student's study plan and grades, the Faculty Adviser should bring up two points with the student:


Proposals for new courses, or changes to existing courses, are also processed by CSUGAC. If approved by CSUGAC, they are routed to the department faculty for approval, after which they go to the College of Engineering Education Policy Committee and finally the campus Academic Senate's Committee on Courses.