Today’s Dean Fact 4/27

Who could be Ghost-Writing Dean Abernathy’s Misrepresentations of CISE?

This email was sunshined as part of a public records request. It is from the current Chairman John Harris of ECE (Electrical and Computer Engineering), to Dean Abernathy. ECE is the department with which CISE is supposed to make a decision about forming a school today (4/27). The faculties are currently being  forced to rush this decision through in 2 days. John Harris is slated to be the first director of this school consisting of over 70 tenure track faculty members.

The email was written 2 days after the announcement of the Abernathy plan to destroy CISE. It responds to a petition concerning CISE’s plight posted by one of CISE’s faculty members on a national computer science listserve. John Harris provides the Dean with talking points on how to justify her plan to the media and students.  At best, the email reveals  John Harris’  ignorance of even the basic nature of  computer software engineering and research in computer science; at worst, the email reveals intentional misrepresentations of CISE that the Dean repeats.

John Harris amazingly says: “You [the dean] did not destroy PhD research in CS,  the CISE had already eliminated the PhD program in CISE by their own choosing, by focusing on the applied research in Computer Engineering”    Clearly CISE has not eliminated its PhD program: CISE  has about 130 PhD students (getting a CE software degree) doing research in core computer science. : Databases, Computer Systems, Intelligent systems, Graphics and Human Computer Interaction, Computational Biology, Numerical Computing, Computational Mathematics, Algorithms and Complexity. CISE is the only department at UF that offers a CE doctoral degree, and the content of the degree is core computer science. Under the Abernathy plan, this CE software program would have been removed from the CISE department.

John Harris seems to think It’s all about Acronyms:  “The PhD degree in CISE is computer engineering which is what we in ECE also do, it is in our name.”  In fact, the CE degree at UF is a software degree (at masters and PhD levels), administered solely by CISE. The overwhelming majority of (CE) PhD students in CISE are working on core computer science and software research areas that are not normally housed in ECE departments.

John Harris misleadingly states: “It is not so crazy to put Computer Engineering in the ECE department, this is where computer engineering is, at most top ranked institutions such as Georgia Tech” — Harris is referring to CISE’s software track (CEN) and the graduate software degrees (CE, whose content is computer science, administered solely by CISE) – these are NOT in the ECE department at Georgia Tech. They are in their College of Computing (see a student’s response).  The Dean seizes on this argument in her special announcement of 4/14″“The proposal to house computer engineering in ECE is not an uncommon practice. This is already the case in other highly ranked  Electrical & Computer Engineering departments, such as Georgia Tech.”

John Harris says without justification: “There are tremendous overlaps in research and teaching, which we cannot afford.” The Dean has repeatedly used this argument, for example in the  special announcement of 4/14:   “The proposed restructure allows for elimination of duplication”   This is unjustified.

Here is a history of previous attempts at  merging/forming school of ECE and CISE  at UF. Here is an analysis of the structures for these departments at 61 AAU universities.


15 Responses to “Today’s Dean Fact 4/27”

  1. There needs to be more national publicity of this issue. This is a big revelation, just goes to show that how all the game was played behind the scenes while the whole world was wasting time to beat the reckless proposal. The Dean has been misguided and this is complete misuse of her office and power. Under these circumstances all discussions with ECE should be put off, and CISE should remain independent. CISE brings in 17% of revenue at 10% of cost and hence there is no reason to sacrifice and there is absolutely no base for ECE to play big brother to CISE here.

  2. I have a Ph.D. from CISE and it would NOT have been possible to carry out my work in ECE. What is I did was “Computer Science”. This is *completely* different from the Computer Engineering that is taught and researched in ECE. Even a novice in the field would not move CS/software to ECE citing overlap with work done in ECE, just because the degree(s) may currently be called Computer Engineering. One way to eliminate confusion may be for all degrees from CISE to be called “Computer Science” degrees!

  3. Please re-organize the website. Put this on top. This is important.

    • Seconded. Also, the old site design was better : simple and to the point (with the most recent news on top).

      • Thirded. The new site looks beautiful and interactive, but it’s harder to use. Not a good tradeoff!

  4. guys shame on you.
    you stole their name ” Dr. Harris: it is in our name”

  5. A CISE Ph.D. student Reply April 27, 2012 at 2:38 pm

    If Dr. Harris is so concerned about the overlap between the CE programs of two departments, he should try closing the CE program in ECE as it is the bad one anyway. I also believe all the CE programs in CISE should be renamed as Computer Science, to eliminate any confusion and to follow the common trend.

  6. Can CISE have a peaceful co-existence in a merged department with the Machiavellian Dr. Harris (and who else from ECE)? I think not.

  7. Let me clarify the fact that the PhD program in Computer Engineering was proposed in 1983 by then the CIS (Computer and Information Science) department in the College of Engineering. It graduated its first PhD in 1987, and so far has produced 291 PhD through this program. The PhD degree program was developed to cover all areas of research in computer science and engineering. It was titled as PhD in Computer Engineering in the degree proposal upon suggestion by the college administration that the name would be more consistent with other engineering departments. The MS in Computer Engineering was originated the same way before the PhD program, and has graduated thousands of students. The MS in Computer Engineering degree was shared with ECE only a couple of years ago out of courtesy and spriit of cooperation between the two department: CISE and ECE.

  8. The most shocking thing here is not that the chair of the ECE would be participating in a grossly political campaign to remake the College of Engineering to his own benefit, but that it would be done so badly:

    * Many of these are easily disproven falsehoods.
    * Why on earth commit this backstabbing stuff to e-mail?

    I’ve worked with a few conniving bastards in the past who would’ve known to do this over beers, or even just over the phone, leaving behind no trace at all. Heck, a quick hand-written note would’ve been easier to disclaim (and nearly impossible to find).

    Harris is clearly not any good at this. I would hope that ECE could muster better if that’s the way they wanted to go.

    • How can we make this piece appear on gainesvillesun? I guess no-one will back up J. Harris

    • Kevin

      Every touch leaves a trace. If he talked this over a beer or gave a hand written note, rather than sending it by email those can also become public information. There is a chance that some of those did.

  9. As an ex-graduate student from ECE department who specialized in Computer Engineering, I would say it is Computer Engineering in ECE that needs to be dismantled and/or merged with CISE. Electrical Engineering faculty in ECE is very good but same cannot be said about Computer Engineering. Many CE profs in ECE are just not interested in teaching or do not have good excellent articulation/communication skills, they just read the slides in the class and in name of research in every other CE course in ECE they ask students to look for and implement research projects at start of semester when the student does not has much idea about the course. This abdicates the faculty from having to help or troubleshoot anything if any problem arises. In CISE it is opposite where there is proper teaching and guidance. I cannot say about whole CISE but some of courses that I took from CISE were really great. ECE first needs to get its act on CE right before taking over CISE.

    • Absolute nonsense, you coward posting as anonymous. I know what must’ve happened. Didn’t fare too well in your Master’s, did you?

      I’d have to agree that there isn’t that much of an overlap, but the CE research in ECE is in a niche area and definitely is a coming together of both hardware and software. All this administrative BS apart, I believe that there needs to be fewer barriers between the two depts. and a greater emphasis on interdisciplinary studies. It would benefit the students ultimately.

  10. This is a very troubling development. I wonder how a mutually agreeable proposal can be finalized if the ECE chair has and is disseminating such misconceptions.

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