-[ Updated June 8, 2012 ]-
Stay tuned for news updates from local and national media outlets about the future of CISE and the University of Florida.
“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 Read more…
The SaveUFCISE community urges all stakeholders to demand accountability for the events of the past 4 weeks that have caused severe damage to UF’s reputation among prospective students, parents, academics, alumni and industry partners, who might have considered joining or supporting the Gator Nation . The stakeholders are no longer so sure that the Gator Nation respects basic research and scholarship integrated with teaching that is vital to a campus ecosystem; prospective faculty recruits are no longer so sure that the Gator Nation respects research faculty status or academic freedom, let alone tenure.
We call for a thorough, academic investigation to shine light on the people and events that caused or condoned the Apr. 11 Abernathy plan.
How could this plan be proposed within an esteemed and illustrious public institution of learning?
Who knew about the Abernathy plan? Since when? What were they thinking? Were they thinking?
What was their analysis of the near and mid term costs and consequences of implementing the Abernathy plan?
What was their analysis of the near and mid term costs and consequences of even proposing the Abernathy plan?
Who misunderstood what? Thanks to the SaveUFCISE website, stakeholders correctly understood both the details of the Abernathy plan and its consequences, despite the College administration’s continued misrepresentations of CISE’s performance, references to “a few bad apples” among CISE faculty, persistent attempts to undermine accurate information presented by the SaveUFCISE community, and false reassurances and glib PR spin about the consequences of the plan.
How did those responsible react as the damage unfolded?
Have they accepted responsibility? Have they admitted mistakes?
What steps will be taken to repair the damage caused by proposing the Abernathy plan?
What checks will be put in place so that such damaging proposals are not put forth in the future?
What is to prevent the College Administration from continuing to single out CISE for special harassment and starvation, as it has for the past 3 years (this could already begin with the details of the budget cut plan to be implemented in July when faculty and students are engrossed in research)?
What checks will be put in place to prevent (perhaps escalated) retribution for speaking out?
CLAS is facing 4% cut from their general operating budget, which includes supplies, travel funding, and grad student salaries. Join the forum and support our friends!
Dean Abernathy released an announcement May 1, reversing her previous position on the proposed budget cuts. The new plan under consideration was to equally distribute the $1.4M budget cuts across all departments in the college.
We felt then that this could have been a victory for SAVE UF CISE. However, we had been through several unexpected turns in the last few weeks, so, borrowing from Dean Abernathy’s letter, we announced that, “cautious optimism was under consideration.“
Our caution was wise. The plan laid out out by Dean Abernathy on May 10 at a College of Engineering Department chairs meeting claimed to be an “across the board” 2.9% cut. In the case of CISE, the 2.9% was taken from CISE base budget at the beginning of 2011-2012. This amounted to $190,000. However, CISE has also been told that at least 2 positions that were included in the above base budget, but were due to become vacant in 2012-2013 due to retirements etc. will not be replaced. This amounts to an over 8% recurring cut for CISE.
No other department has been slated to lose positions to the best of our knowledge. In fact, only one other department will lose even one position.
The new plan is decisively not an “across the board” cut. While less draconian than the “CISE dismembering plan” of Apr. 11, or the “Hostile takeover by ECE plan of Apr. 25,” it is decidedly worse than any true across the board cut. The new proposal aligns well with the Dean’s CISE starvation strategy prior to the April 11 attack.
We have come back to Square One.
You might ask:
What original analysis of the “state of the college” and of “growth areas” led Dean Abernathy
to propose each of the plans that have been proposed this spring?
to move positions out of CISE into other departments (this is clearly a recurring cut to CISE)?
to not let CISE in on any of the 12 strategic plan hires so far?
You might also ask:
What does the Dean propose to do when our interim chair steps down on July 1?
Will CISE areas get any of the remaining strategic plan positions, or endowed chair positions currently advertised?
What of the Harris Corporation endowed chair that is specifically earmarked for CISE and has been languishing for 3 years?
Our cautious optimism appears to be under consideration forever.
On April 25 UF President Machen declared that Engineering Dean Abernathy had agreed to set aside the previously announced radical proposal to destroy research in CISE, split it apart, and attack academic freedom, the Abernathy Plan (see page 3).
Many observers saw this as a tactical ploy to diffuse and
separate the highly visible SAVE CISE campaign from the campus-wide SPEND THE RESERVES campaign in reaction to Machen’s choice to translate the budget into an immediate crisis in which permanent changes had to be made.
Machen’s edict announced that the departments of ECE and CISE should make a plan for a joint organization. This joint organization looked similar to earlier unjustified attempts (by budget or academic considerations) of destroying
CISE autonomy and identity that were unanimously rejected by all faculty and that Dean Abernathy had declared to be off the table (April 28 2011).
The only justification appears to be that “Computer” and “Engineering” appear in the names of both departments. Apparently the difference between software and hardware is not acknowledged at UF. The glib spin focuses relentlessly on acronyms.
Given only 48 hours by the Dean, on Thursday April 26, the CISE faculty embarked into a good faith effort together with the ECE faculty, and in consultation with both chairs, to address the budget issue, a purported $1.35 million shortfall, in conjunction with restructuring. It was noted that restructuring is the least favored approach by all stake holders — students, alumni, large parts of industry, faculty — and that other alternative plans meet the same budget goals. Nevertheless, a substantive CISE memorandum of understanding (MoU) for forming a school with ECE was delivered by Friday morning, April 27.
Meanwhile, the ECE faculty negotiators were apparently unaware that their memorandum had already been written by their ECE chair John Harris, who was earlier outed as one of the ghostwriters for the Abernathy Plan. John Harris’ ECE MoU amounted to the proposal unanimously rejected April 28 2011 by all CISE faculty. All around, John Harris’ MoU was judged non- constructive, and preventing the way forward along the lines outlined in Machen’s concession. In response, Dean Abernathy declared on Friday that she would write the MoU by herself over the weekend.
Dean Abernathy’s MoU, on Monday April 30, surprised many by being almost identical to John Harris’ MoU. On closer inspection this similarity was exposed. Evidently, neither the Dean nor ECE chair John Harris were aware that authorship is tracked in Microsoft Word documents. The authorship and modification stamps of the Dean Abernathy’s proposal revealed that what the Dean’s MoU was the document written by John Harris. Only 14 minutes of effort went into a minor modification – also written by John Harris!
Recent news: The CISE chair rejected this MOU and wrote to the Dean that “the faculty correctly views the proposed MOU as a hostile takeover of CISE by ECE, and in particular by John [Harris] … I don’t wan[t] my name associated with the person who agreed to sell out CISE. Unless I can be convinced that meaningful negotiations can continue, I request
that you honor my decision to resign my position as acting chair May 7th, 2012. Sorry that I can’t make your day a happier one. I had great hopes a week ago”
He adds: “ps. another way out is to let CISE be it’s independent department, give them a percentage of cuts they have to take and distribute the rest to other departments
just as you were going to do when discussing the EECS model.”
This morning (May 1), Dr. Ritter was unable to attend a meeting of College of Engineering department chairs with the Dean, and (as customary) requested CISE Associate Chair Steve Thebaut to do so in his place. The Dean asked Dr. Thebaut to leave the meeting, saying: “This is a meeting for Principals.” This effectively left CISE without a seat at the college table, during a crucial budget planning meeting of the chairs.
So where does that leave the CISE stakeholders? The CISE good faith effort has been met by stonewalling. An old merger plan declared off the table by the Dean last year has been dusted up and put back on the table. How much can we trust that the Abernathy Plan set aside yesterday will not be set in stone tomorrow when good folks go back to the university’s business of teaching and research and stakeholders look away for a moment ?
Together we must move forward, forcefully, assuming that Dean Abernathy and Co. have not learned from being chastised by the public and by Machen’s concession. We have no choice, we must keep the heat on!
NATIONAL PRESS COVERAGE:
The Washington Post: Athletics 1, academics 0: A guest post (May 10)
ComputerWorld: Fla. university writing new computer science plan, cites ‘overwhelming’ backlash (April 27)
MORE NATIONAL PRESS ARTICLES AVAILABLE HERE
Thanks to outcry from SaveUFCISE supporters, on Apr. 25, President Bernie Machen wrote a letter to the UF community removing Dean Abernathy’s budget cut plan from consideration. In that letter, President Machen suggests an alternative proposal for a unit that comprises both ECE (Electrical and Computer Engineering) and CISE (Computer and Information Science and Engineering) “that also would address issues raised during recent discussions, namely, clarify and enhance degree offerings while preserving the research mission in both computer science and computer engineering, achieve efficiency in teaching and bring faculty workloads in line with other departments of the college.”
The letter’s concluding statement: “I ask the faculty, students, and the administration of all colleges to work in partnership to identify the savings and keep the colleges on track in their quest for continued excellence in education and research.”
In keeping with this statement, CISE faculty agreed to put a few alternative budget cut plans forward, one of which would be for a joint CISE-ECE unit following the Berkeley-model.
Meanwhile, the CISE chair Gerhard Ritter communicated to the CISE faculty an extremely difficult Friday 5pm deadline for coming up with a MOU (memorandum of understanding) for the joint CISE-ECE unit.
In the face of this pressure, the CISE chairman and a committee of CISE faculty have worked amicably, in good faith, for several hours for the past 2 days, in consultation with chairman John Harris of ECE as well a parallel commitee of ECE faculty, to hammer out the details of a memorandum of understanding that would be agreeable to both faculties. ECE chairman John Harris, in the meantime, circulated a document written several months ago, for the governance of a joint CISE-ECE school.
Today, (Friday, Apr. 27), the CISE committee, after consultation with the CISE faculty released a document of their memorandum of understanding, incorporating all the requests in the president’s message, stipulations of the CISE chairman Gerhard Ritter, stipulations of ECE Chairman John Harris that he provided during his meeting with the CISE committee 2 days ago, many requirements of the ECE faculty committee, and the requirements of the CISE faculty. Read the highlights of changes to the current structure.
Other alternative proposals are being prepared, including those that enjoy a high level of support from our external stakeholders, in time for the University-wide May 7 deadline for sending in all proposals to the central administration.
LOCAL PRESS COVERAGE:
The Gainesville Sun: Plan merging UF engineering departments hits snag (May 2)
The Gainesville Sun: New UF CISE proposal not all that new (April 28)
Hernando Today: Residing in an alternate STEM universe (April 27)
Orlando Sentinel: UF drops idea of breaking up computer science department (April 26)
MORE LOCAL PRESS ARTICLES AVAILABLE HERE