“Abernathy Plan” off the Table

In an email to the UF community today, President Bernie Machen stated that in response to pressure from students, faculty and external supporters of CISE, the “Abernathy Plan” is decisively off the table. This was one of the primary demands of the SaveCISE community to the administration.

Thanks to the support we have gotten so far, we now have an improved atmosphere conducive to moving forward.

The administration (President, Provost, Dean and chairs of ECE and CISE) have laid out the broad parameters of an alternative proposal. Among other plans, the Faculties of both departments are seriously discussing the details, and hence feasibility, of a Berkeley-style model for ECE and CISE.

One of the stipulations of the CISE Faculty is that any alterations to the current CISE TA policy would be a deal breaker. Another stipulation is that CISE faculty, students and programs remain together as a unit.

We would like to reiterate that the only thing that is certain at this point is that Dean Abernathy’s plan is no longer in consideration. We rely on your continued awareness and support during this delicate time.

SaveCISE remains in solidarity with the broader SaveUF movement in response to university-wide budget-cuts.

4 Responses to ““Abernathy Plan” off the Table”

  1. I would urge you to paste Dr. Machen’s email here. That would give a clear picture to all visitors of the tone used in the concession and need to be very cautious moving forward.

  2. Machen’s email:

    Dear University of Florida Student:

    Every college and administrative unit across campus has been engaged over
    the past few weeks in identifying $38.2 million in spending reductions
    necessary to meet our FY 2012-13 budget. After five years of cuts, we
    have lost almost 25 percent of University of Florida┬ state support.
    Finding the necessary cost savings has been increasingly difficult each
    year. This year is the most challenging yet as we work to do more with
    less and make the cuts in such a way as to preserve the quality of
    education at the University of Florida.

    The key to educational quality is our faculty. In the past, we have on
    occasion relied on across-the-board spending reductions distributed among
    all the colleges and their departments, as well as administrative units.
    If we tried this approach again this year, the result would be significant
    faculty layoffs in several colleges.

    With a goal of maintaining educational quality, Dean Cammy Abernathy and
    Provost Joe Glover developed a plan for the College of Engineering that
    would have preserved our excellent teaching faculty.

    As many of you know, the proposal has been met with overwhelming negative
    response, much of which I believe has been based on misunderstanding.
    Nonetheless, it is clear that the University of Florida must figure out a
    way to make it through these financially difficult times in a productive
    manner. I am optimistic we can do that.

    This week, the chairmen of the departments of Computer and Information
    Science and Engineering and Electrical and Computer Engineering have come
    forward together with a framework of a new proposal that would help meet
    the college┬ budget target. It 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.

    “We are currently working on a plan for a joint organization of these two
    departments into a larger unit. I feel strongly that this is the best
    opportunity for the two departments moving forward,” said Gerhard Ritter,
    interim chair of CISE.

    John Harris, chairman of the department of ECE, said he is encouraged by
    the long-term possibilities.

    “I believe that successful implementation of this plan would be
    beneficial not only to the future of computer science but also to
    electrical and computer engineering,” Harris said.

    Engineering Dean Abernathy has agreed to set aside the previously
    announced proposal as the department chairmen of CISE and ECE continue to
    flesh out details of a new proposal in consultation with students,
    faculty, staff, alumni and industry partners. The college has no plans to
    close any departments.

    “I applaud the leadership and vision of Dr. Ritter and Dr. Harris and am
    dedicated to reaching a resolution as expeditiously as possible to ensure
    the best opportunities are before us for our college,” Abernathy said.

    Dean Abernathy has worked tirelessly on this very difficult budget
    challenge, and I commend her for her dedicated efforts to find the best
    possible solution.

    Some have suggested that the university use its “unrestricted assets” or
    “reserves” to cover the reductions. That is not a viable option for the
    University of Florida.

    We spent nearly $30 million of reserves last year to avoid having to make
    difficult budget decisions. We were optimistic in an economic recovery
    that would stave off reductions this year. Unfortunately, we are facing
    even larger cuts now because we failed to make needed budget adjustments
    then.

    At the same time, a severe backlog of facilities maintenance caused by the
    elimination of state support has the university on the precipice of
    crisis. We must maintain sufficient reserves to manage unexpected expenses
    associated with air conditioning system failures, roof leaks or other
    major outages that could put buildings out of commission and cost millions
    of dollars.

    Additional budget reduction proposals are expected to be brought forth in
    other colleges in coming weeks. I know finding the necessary savings after
    years of budget cutting will be difficult.

    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.

  3. While the situation now does seem definitely better than dismantling, but its a big big shame that the administrators who brought so much pain, anger, unrest and international disrepute to UF are still allowed to reign! The truth is that Abernathy is still the dean. What is the guarantee that a vindictive politician like Abernathy who created so much discontent will not do it again?

  4. Patrick Morrison Reply April 26, 2012 at 9:45 am

    Agree with S Kamath… for Machen to call dropping research and laying off 60 teaching assistants ‘a misunderstanding’ speaks volumes about what his priorities are and are not.

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