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Comment by Michael Thorpe, Foundation Professor

Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at Arizona State University

To say that one of the most important technological areas (computer science) at the flagship university in Florida is to become a “teaching unit” certainly sends a message. Unless you think that Florida can survive by selling oranges, this is probably not the right message to be sending around the world.

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Support from a Senior Manager at Microsoft

Eric Hanson, a senior manager at  Microsoft says:

Changing CISE to a teaching department will greatly reduce the ability to attract quality graduate and undergraduate students. The best
students want to be taught by strong faculty in classes with other top students. The best people who want careers in computing will stay away from UF. This will hurt the Florida economy and diminish the stature of UF. Microsoft appreciates the ability to recruit UF students who have been trained by strong research-oriented faculty, at both the graduate and undergraduate levels.

A Letter from the Board Chair of Computing Research Association

Dr. Eric Grimson, the Board Chair of Computing Research Association and Bernard Gordon Chair of Medical Engineering at MIT, has sent a letter to UF’s President Dr. Machen concerning the Dean’s plan to restructure UF’s CISE department.

In the letter, Dr. Eric points out the possible impact of  the proposal to the whole University:

… If you dismantle the research and graduate teaching components of the CISE department, you will almost certainly lose your strongest faculty members, and you will definitely lose your stature in this critical field. And that’s important for multiple reasons. Not only will you lose the ability to compete for a significant amount of research funding in computer science proper, but you will also be at a huge disadvantage in competing for funding across a range of other areas that require the computing expertise.

The full version of the letter is on Computing Research Association’s front page. You can also access it here.

Letters from the Dean of College of Computing at Georgia Tech and the Division Director of NSF

Dr. Zvi Galil, current Dean of the College of Computing at Georgia Tech, and Dr. Peter Freeman, the founding Dean of the College of Computing at Georgia Tech and former Assistant Director of NSF for Computer & Information Science & Engineering, both recently sent emails to Dr. Machen in support of the CISE department at UF. Both discuss why UF should be committed to a strong computer science department and the repercussions of removing computer science research from UF. The full emails from both can be read here.

The following is an excerpt Dr. Galil’s email concerning the quality of the UF CISE program, and the future role universities should take in promoting computer science:

… I can personally attest to the fact that CISE at the University of Florida, as it stands today, is a strong, vibrant, productive, and highly respected academic enterprise with many excellent—some world-class—researchers, and is therefore extremely well positioned to capitalize on the extraordinary growth in computer science and computing that we are experiencing today. This is the time for forward-looking research universities to invest scarce resources in computer science/computing—even at the expense of other engineering disciplines, if necessary—in order to ensure a vibrant, cohesive, and prominent computer science/computing presence and identity. This most certainly is not the time to scale back on computer science research and education.

Dr. Freeman notes the potential damages caused by the break up of the CISE department in the context of current trends to promote computer science:

… On the basis of the information I have seen, while the cost reduction imperative you face is truly serious, dispersing a group of faculty that are very successful at getting NSF grants and Career Awards – a mark of their reputation with national peers – and thereby breaking up a productive and very important group seems to be ill-advised.

Such a move goes against the trends of consolidating computer-related disciplines into a larger unit, better integrating research and education, and strengthening computer science as a discipline because of its fundamental and growing importance to almost all fields of enquiry at a university. In addition, the collateral and immediate damage to current students and existing research efforts is bound to be substantial.

A Letter from Professor Carl De Boor

Professor Carl De Boor,  Member of National Academy of Sciences and National Academy of Engineering, National Medal of Science Winner of 2003, recently sent a short letter to President Dr. Machen.

The letter says:

Dear Dr. Machen,

I have just learned that your school of engineering is in the process of dismantling a research department with national standing, developed and nurtured over many years, that brings in over 1M* [* the actual figure is closer to $5M]  per year in research money and whose subject and results are absolutely vital to modern engineering, disrupting the careers of good people and interrupting, perhaps critically, the training of future professionals.

What were you thinking?

With much concern,
respectfully yours,

Carl de Boor
prof.emer. Department of Computer Sciences
University of Wisconson-Madison
member: Nat.Acad.Eng., Nat.Acad.Sci., et al