A Guide To Language Used
In Computer Science Departments



People who are new to Computer Science are often surprised to learn that the faculty speak a strange language. One might expect the erudite utterances CS faculty to convey meaning with both clarity and precision. In fact, the profusion of terminology often obfuscates the underlying meaning, and requires interpretation. This dictionary is intended to help explain the jargon for the uninitiated. It provides a translation of common statements.


When Someone Says
They Actually Mean


You have produced an especially insightful and valid point that seems to have potential benefits for all parties. We will discuss your suggestion at the next meeting.

There isn't a chance in hell that we'll approve your idea.

The promotion committee has spent countless hours carefully considering all your contributions, your research publications, your interaction with students, and your record of service to the department.

After two minutes of discussion, they decided that you won't get tenure.

A subcommittee of four has met and decided that students would benefit most from a diverse background that will be gained from selected courses.

We signed a mutual pact that requires all students to take one course from each of us.

High enrollments in elective courses cannot be used as a measure of content validity or teaching quality.

I don't have high enrollments in my courses.

After careful study and long deliberation, we have finally decided to step aside and allow junior faculty more opportunities for contact with upper levels of the administration.

The Dean just demanded another pigeon for his new committee, and it certainly won't be us.

We should establish a policy that eschews industrial research funding because the long-term commercial influence of such grants will degrade our fundamental research emphasis.

Industry won't touch my work with a ten-foot pole, and I hate seeing other faculty get the money.

We agree that high quality in both our graduate and undergraduate program is of the utmost importance, and should be a priority item for the coming academic year.

We'll talk about quality all year, but we won't change anything.

You are doing me an immense favor by agreeing to serve on the committee, and I will remember it when you come up for tenure.

You're a sucker; don't expect anything in return.

Sure some of our faculty did their Ph.D. with ``big names''. But I ask you, have they actually achieved a career commensurate with their early promise, or are they merely overshadowed by a prodigious advisor?

You never heard of my Ph.D. advisor.

We have decided to avoid discussion of national rankings because we have observed that continual references to such things can have a subtle and detrimental effect on the morale of our junior faculty.

We are spiraling downward, but let's not talk about it.

It should be obvious that we are much better than others realize; some of the research here is much more interesting, challenging, and significant than that of the ``so called'' experts.

I wish I could redefine the field so that someone valued what I did.

Sure, we have faculty who create software that is widely used in industry and has been incorporated into commercial products, but have they really amassed a solid record of publications in the most elite journals?

My research only gets published in obscure theory journals, and I hate seeing other faculty have real impact.

Places like Stanford and MIT aren't as good as they think because I once beat a faculty from those places in a grant competition.

I only won against them once.

After careful consideration, I find that I cannot support a faculty candidate from a place like Stanford because experience suggests that they might not fit in well with our faculty, and collegiality is one of our most important goals.

Someone who is really smart and productive would make me look bad.

We decided that it would be in the student's best interest to require a large set of prerequisites that broaden the their background before they enroll in our more focused courses.

We signed a pact that requires students to take our obscure theory courses before they can get into the systems courses they want.

We know you will understand that in addition to an individual's accomplishments and departmental contributions, there are a variety of considerations used in annual evaluation and justification of compensation, including absolute standing among peers at the same institution, resources available from the university administration, relative performance in specific areas of research, teaching, and service. We decided to give you a low raise this year and use the money for something else.

Everything has changed and a new era has begun -- despite lean times in the past, the administration is now supporting our department by allowing us to hire as many new faculty as we need.

Now that demand is so high we can't find any faculty to hire, the administration has finally agreed to give us positions; they will disappear as soon as supply increases again.

The advent of a new national research emphasis and direction caused the administration to reassess priorities and redirect resources from waning programs into areas that have the greatest potential for long-term payoff.

Faculty member X got a big grant and the only way the administration could provide matching funds was to take money away from everyone else.

Translation: