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.)
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!