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In Search of Administrative Transparency, Rationale and Accountability (and a recommended budget plan for UF Engineering)

Questioning  UF Administration’s Allocation of  Funds

During the May 29, 2012 “Open Faculty Forum about Budget Cut” called by the central administration, President Machen and Provost Glover were asked, among others,  several questions from this list,    based on an independent report on UF’s  reserves,  including those held by the University “proper” and  those held by the University’s various “discrete component units” including Shands;  including approximately half a billion dollars  categorized as “restricted expendable;” and over 100 million dollars held by the University “proper,” and characterized as “unrestricted net assets.”   Candid answers were not forthcoming.

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Dr. Paul Gader

Current CISE Status

-[ Updated June 7, 2012 ]-

The current Acting Chair, Gerhard Ritter, is due to step down on June 30. On Wednesday June 6, 2012,  Provost Joe Glover and Dean Cammy Abernathy announced that Dr. Paul Gader will be CISE’s new Interim Chair. A process for selecting a permanent chairman for CISE was also discussed. See previous posts on the topic below.

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Latest Dean Fact

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.

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SaveUF-featured

Budget Cut a Check!

Any budget cut plan at the University of Florida is necessitated by President Bernie Machen’s interpretation of this $38 million one-time cut as a permanent reduction in state support. However, on April 17, the Board of Governors clarified their expectations of the state’s universities by remarking,

While this budget represents less direct funding for the universities, we appreciate the stated commitment of legislative leadership that the $300 million reduction will be restored to the baseline next year. Our Universities will continue to tap their reserves year-round in order to save course offerings, retain faculty and account for enrollment growth, among other critical demands.”

The University of Florida’s annual report as well as an independent audit reveal the financial health of the university. Conservatively, the University of Florida is sitting on a mountain of cash classified in many different yet equally accessible ways. It doesn’t matter whether we discuss the $1.015 billion total, the $111 million in “unrestricted net assets,” or the $540 million classified as “restricted expendable.” President Machen and Provost Joe Glover have decided to make permanent cuts to the university’s structure when cutting a check would suffice.

Several faculty, students, and staff have joined a university-wide coalition outraged at the disconnect between state lawmakers and university administrators. The SaveUF! Spend the Reserves campaign is actively protesting this unnecessary austerity.

On May 14, President Machen admited that spending the reserves may be a viable delay strategy but is an ill-advised longterm strategy. We disagree. We disagree because the Board of Governors as well as state lawmakers have repeatedly affirmed that the budget shortfall will be returned to baseline next year.

On May 23, the SaveUF! Spend the Reserves coalition led a teach-in where its members gave short speeches to the public, educating them about the budget cuts and the administration’s strategy. WUFT-FM interviewed members of the coalition as well as an official university spokesperson, Janine Sikes. The Gainesville Sun ran a webpoll and discovered that 69.7% of those polled are in favor of spending reserves to meet the budget shortfall, while only 21.4% favor making permanent cuts (8.9% argue that the university should raise funds through benefactors and other means).

On June 7-8, UF’s Board of Trustees meets to vote on President Machen’s university budget cut proposal.

Performance: CISE, UF, Public Higher Ed

-[ Updated May 31, 2012 ]-

Towards a public discourse about Higher Education Performance  …  starting within UF colleges, on to the national level.

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Administrative Accountability

-[ Updated June 8, 2012 ]-

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,  concerned citizens, academics, alumni and industry partners, who might have considered joining or supporting the Gator Nation.  Start by calling for scrutiny of the sketchy  “final” 2012 budget cut proposal.

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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 Continue reading

Paying for Past and Preventing Future Damage

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?

What is meant by the assertion that the fallout  in the past 4 weeks, which will tarnish UF’s image for years to come, was based on misunderstanding?

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?

Today’s Dean Fact 4/29

Who decides What and How: Dean Abernathy’s Backroom

The “Happy, Happy, Joy, Joy!”  seeds of CISE destruction:

Mark Law proposes Continue reading

CISE Starvation – Not “across the board” after all

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.

Here is the report from The Gainesville Sun.

Link to Dean Abernathy’s letter.

Link to Dr. Ritter’s letter to Students.

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.

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