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!