May 6 Dean Fact

A Culture of Fear

“They can and will do anything to your professional life.”  “No matter how irrational their decisions, watch out what you say: they don’t like it if you question their decisions, and they have ways of using the tiniest pretext to professionally harass you.”  “If your department speaks out collectively, then they will retaliate and harass your department.”  Statements such as this have become increasingly common among College of Engineering faculty as the tenure of the current Dean progresses. In the current limbo when the departments in the College prepare their 2.7% across the board cut (announced as the 3rd and hopefully final of Dean Abernathy’s proposals for the 2012 budget cut), this atmosphere of fear of retribution and retaliation is palpable. What does this say about academic freedom within the College of Engineering?

The following emails were “sunshined” as part of a public records request.

“Evil and Nefarious Undertakings”

The first email below  is from Dean Abernathy to  Associate Dean (and former Chair of ECE) Mark Law, in response to a message from Mark Law saying that he did not get a Dean position at Auburn. It was sent on the evening of the same day that the Dean announced the Abernathy plan for dismantling the CISE department and stripping it of its research activity.

NOTE: UF is one of 24 US universities with a fully functioning nuclear reactor.  The UF training reactor was associated with the Nuclear Engineering department that was recently dismantled by the College of Engineering administration, without even paying lip service to Senate Bylaw 22 on restructuring. Here are excerpts of a letter to the provost from a highly successful Nuclear engineering faculty member who departed as the department suffered the college administration’s “nuclear option” akin to the  Apr. 11 Abernathy plan for CISE.  The nuclear engineering program still exists as a disembodied entity split among unrelated departments. One of these departments is Materials Science and Engineering (the Dean’s department),  where the program boosts their otherwise low undergraduate student credit hours.

Profiling Faculty as “Inside or Outside the Tent”

The next email below is from Associate Dean Angela Lindner, sent soon after the Abernathy Plan (to dismantle the CISE dept and its research activity) was publicly announced on Apr. 11, causing an uproar and plenty of activity in social media. Several PR personnel and some faculty inform administrators of activity in social media sites. This message by Angela Lindner suggests more than just information.

Note: The comment by President Lyndon B. Johnson on  FBI director J. Edgar Hoover, NYtimes, 31 Oct 1971: “It’s probably better to have him inside the tent pissing out, than outside the tent pissing in.” Read also about LBJ’s famed “Johnson treatment” ,  his penchant for one-on-one persuasion, and his “credibility gap” during the Vietnam war.

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5 Responses to “May 6 Dean Fact”

  1. What a ugly mess! It is sad to see an academic institution functioning like a corporate with ulterior agenda that shuts down units at will. The fact that US has done so well in technology/research over the last century owes it to free thinking academicians and the support system that nurtured it. To allow a few people to destroy it, is setting a very dangerous precedent that can only lead US downhill.

  2. OutsideTheTent Reply May 7, 2012 at 4:20 pm

    “need to keep track of who is inside or outside the tent” …um, why exactly? So under the original Abernathy Plan, CISE faculty walking in lockstep with the dean could be rewarded with favorable assignments within other departments (if any favorable assignments exist), while the others are punished? Now that our university’s PRESIDENT has rightly set that plan aside, I hope all of those same faculty who had the courage to speak out and were noted as being against the plan are given their due.

  3. The UF higher administration should act before it is conveyed to them through the mass media that retribution on a large scale based on such profiling (“inside or outside the tent”) should not be tolerated in an academic institution. Don’t embarrass UF any further. The image has already suffered drastically and this is now affecting even UF stakeholders who are not directly involved in this matter. They deserve better.

    Reward the people who spoke out early.

  4. OMG! This is very disturbing!! Dean Abernathy and everyone in her “tent”, stop embarrassing the University of Florida further and please step down now!

  5. Pranav Dandekar Reply May 29, 2012 at 4:58 pm

    1. Is there any effort to hold Dean Abernathy and others accountable for the entirely avoidable crisis that they created a few weeks ago? Has there been any analysis of how to avoid such events in the future? Is anyone in the administration doing anything about the evidence of backstage dealings and political machinations in the above post?

    2. Is there any understanding of the loss of prestige of the program and the school because of this? For example, how many admitted Masters students for fall 2012 (who would have potentially paid tuition) have declined admission offers after these events?

    I was personally considering giving some money to UF, which now I am not doing unless they build a College of Computing. I wonder how much total alumni money was lost as a result of this loss of confidence. Put another way, how much more money would UF raise if they fired Dean Abernathy and others responsible for it?

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