This week, I had some rare free time between jobs. While making my employment decision, I spent a few days helping out with voter registration on UF’s campus. 
Voter reg can be very draining and frustrating, but it is also incredibly fun. I forgot how rewarding it is to register someone to vote, and know that in November he/she will cast a ballot for the first time. 
No one should be sitting this election cycle out. Whether you are volunteering for President Obama or a local candidate, get involved! My entire college career was changed because I got involved in Obama 08 as a freshman.
Alright, getting off my soapbox now.

This week, I had some rare free time between jobs. While making my employment decision, I spent a few days helping out with voter registration on UF’s campus. 

Voter reg can be very draining and frustrating, but it is also incredibly fun. I forgot how rewarding it is to register someone to vote, and know that in November he/she will cast a ballot for the first time. 

No one should be sitting this election cycle out. Whether you are volunteering for President Obama or a local candidate, get involved! My entire college career was changed because I got involved in Obama 08 as a freshman.

Alright, getting off my soapbox now.

I saw this collection of commencement speeches assembled by The Atlantic today, which caused me to reflect back on my own recent graduation. 

As much as my graduation was a memorable day, the University of Florida does not go all out for commencement speakers. With ten ceremonies packed into a full weekend of graduations each spring, we get a brief, unemotional discourse from UF’s President and a more lengthy speech from a fellow student. (Trust me, it’s hard to feel inspired by an upbeat forestry major with a Southern twang and no particularly moving insights to share on what is, after all, her own graduation day too).

Feeling a little moody as I reflected on my university’s subpar commencement speeches, I decided to watch Jane Lynch’s address to the Smith College Class of 2012. Although I experienced Lynch’s speech a month after my graduation, via YouTube, it was still a positive, inspirational encounter. 

One of the most satisfying moments for me was towards the end, when she throws in a reminder about an issue affecting us all:

I’m counting on you to ferociously guard the women’s health care rights our sisters won for us years ago. I know you women of Smith will greet that fight with a big “YES AND,” and any one who tries take them away from you with a huge “NO WAY.”

Check out the new page on Obama’s website with information about college affordability. 
The interest rate on student loans may double from 3.4% to 6.8% if Congress doesn’t get it together. The Senate is expected to pass a version of a bill maintaining the 3.4% interest rate, but the House has already approved the increase to 6.8 percent. 
Yesterday, I met with Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) and a group of UF College Democrats to discuss this issue. Article here.

Check out the new page on Obama’s website with information about college affordability. 

The interest rate on student loans may double from 3.4% to 6.8% if Congress doesn’t get it together. The Senate is expected to pass a version of a bill maintaining the 3.4% interest rate, but the House has already approved the increase to 6.8 percent. 

Yesterday, I met with Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) and a group of UF College Democrats to discuss this issue. Article here.

Interesting updates on UF CISE (Computer & Information Science and Engineering Dept)

First, this statement was released yesterday by the UF College of Engineering:

A Forbes article by contributing writer Steven Salzberg falsely claims that the University of Florida is eliminating the Computer Science Department. There have been similar claims made by others on other media platforms.

The Dean of the College of Engineering has put on the table for discussion a budget plan to reorganize the Computer & Information Science and Engineering Department.

Under that proposal, all undergraduate and graduate degree curriculum would remain the same and the college would maintain its brainpower and research capacity. The plan calls for no lay-offs of tenure-track faculty. Faculty lay-offs are expected, however, if across-the-board cuts are made in the College of Engineering.

The proposed budget plan would grow the number of graduates from the CISE department because faculty members would be expected to assume a greater teaching responsibility. About $1.4 million in savings would come primarily from the elimination of graduate teaching assistants.

We are aware faculty and students have expressed serious concern with this plan. The Dean and Provost have been meeting with faculty and student groups for the past two weeks. From the comments and suggestions the Dean has received, we are confident that a solution that maintains the quality of the educational programs in the College can be achieved while making the required budget reductions.

Lastly, shared governance takes some time. We ask for everyone’s patience as we work through this process.

I think UF is overreacting here. The Forbes article attacked the proposal by Dean Abernathy to dismantle CISE as we know by reshuffling the professors, eliminating lots of TA positions, and cutting funding for research. This may not literally end the computer science and engineering majors at UF, but it would certainly harm the prestige and legitimacy of the program (and therefore of its degrees).

Second, the official UF twitter account (@UFlorida) backtracked this morning regarding a statement they tweeted yesterday. I don’t know who runs this twitter, but it has been answering questions and interacting openly with fellow tweeters. 

(If you have no idea what any of this is, background here.)

University of Florida moves to cut CISE (Computer, Information Science and Engineering Department)

UF’s Dean of the College of Engineering, Cammy Abernathy, has proposed to move the computer engineering programs and about half of the faculty from CISE into other departments within the college. Teaching assistants, research funding and other forms of support would no longer exist for CISE majors.

Steven Salzberg, a blogger with Forbes, explains it this way:

Wow, no one saw this coming.  The University of Florida announced this past week that it was dropping its computer science department, which will allow it to save about $1.7 million.  The school is eliminating all funding for teaching assistants in computer science, cutting the graduate and research programs entirely, and moving the tattered remnants into other departments.

Let’s get this straight: in the midst of a technology revolution, with a shortage of engineers and computer scientists, UF decides to cut computer science completely?

Because of a 5% budget reduction by the Florida Legislature, UF is making $38.2 million worth of cuts across the university. The College of Engineering was the first to submit its budget.

CISE students have created a website to protest the extreme cuts to their program. Referring to the “decimation” of the computer science engineering department, CISE faculty member Meera Sitharam said, “If this goes through, this is a direct attack on tenure and academic freedom.”

There are a lot of players involved in budget decisions at a public university, but is important to note where the deep funding cuts originate from: The Florida Legislature. Salzberg at Forbes points our where to lay the blame: Governor Rick Scott.

Heads up, Gov. Scott: no one is going to believe that you’re supporting technical education when your flagship university is eliminating its Computer Science Department. Since cutting support for universities seems to be a major agenda item for you and the legislature, why stop at 30%?  With just a bit more cutting, you could get rid of those annoying universities entirely.  Let the rest of the country worry about higher education! 

[Sources: Gainesville Sun, Forbes]