Letters from Academia

The following letters have been received from key players in the realm of Computer Science. We are very grateful for their willingness to offer their insight into this situation and to take action to support the CISE department.

(So far) We have received letters from the following faculty:

  • Siegfried M. Rump, Head of the Institute for Reliable Computing, Hamburg University of Technology
  • Eugenio Culurciello, Associate Professor of Biomedical Engineering, Purdue University
  • Chaitanya Baru, Distinguished Scientist, San Diego Supercomputer Center
  • Jonathan Aldrich, Associate Professor, School of Computer Science, Carnegie Mellon University

Also, many people from the academia signed the petition, and left their comments.

Dear Mr. President,

The news about destruction of the Computer and Information Science and Engieering department at the University of Florida is spreading all over the world. I would like to let you know that many researchers all over the world, including me, appreciate the work by Tim Davies very much. We appreciate his work on sparse matrices, and in particular his huge test case library of sparse problems is used in almost any research article on sparse matrices on this planet. We strongly support that his work should continue as is.

With best regards,

Siegfried M. Rump
Head of the Institute for Reliable Computing
Hamburg University of Technology.
go to top

Dear [Decision Maker]:

I am a colleague at Purdue University in Biomedical engineering. I have heard of your decision to close the Computer and Information Science and Engineering Department at University of Florida.
I am truly saddened by this news, as it would be one of worst mistakes Florida will make in a lifetime. I say this because Computer Scientists have invented the Internet, the Computer, part of Cell-Phones, portions of TVs (which are now mostly run by software, and their hardware is designed mostly by software). All medical instruments and controlling software. Computer science is the the foundation of the 21st century, it is its brain. It generates all the myriad of algorithms that now run the world.
To give you an idea of the impact of your mistake, imagine your house loses power at 5am for 10h. You cannot take a shower. You are lucky you are in Florida, because in the winter in northern US, you would be freezing. Imagine you try to go to work. Your garage door does not open. If you make it to work, you cannot get in. Locks are not opening. If you get to your desk you cannot use your computer. You cannot call anyone. If you are sick hospitals cannot admit you. They cannot find your records and charge you!
You could as well have fallen off the earth.


From what I can see, the Computer and Information Science and Engineering Department at University of Florida, Gainesville has, by all indications, been one of the most productive departments both in terms of its research output, and the pivotal role it is playing in the blossoming software technology ecosystem at Gainesville.

In light of this, I am writing to you to express my opinion that your proposed budget cuts which single out the CISE Department for degradation are reckless, unjustified, and are bound to have a detrimental effect on UF, the city of Gainesville and the state of Florida as a whole.

The most problematic issue here, is how this decision was handled by Dean Cammy Abernathy. It showed no sign of a democratic process. The dean’s proposal is to divide the faculty into 4 groups. One group, handpicked by the dean, will join the Biomedical department. The second will join Electrical and Computer Eng, and the third will join Industrial engineering. Faculty who do not fit these profiles, such as Computer Science theory, Machine Learning, Computer Vision, Graphics, etc are forced to teach and not allowed to perform research. No funding for Teaching Assistants will be given also. All of these decision have been made without consulting with the faculty and reaching a decision together.
If democracy does not occur in a place that host the most knowledgeable and educated people, then what is the point at all of trying it in larger context?

As faculty, I know that sometimes it is hard to change departments and structure groups of academics. But that does not mean that it has to happen with no democratic process and without consulting each one of them and trying to serve their needs. This is the role of academic administration. Not decision making, but facilitating solutions. Faculty are the best judge of how a university should be handled and organized, as they are the core of the university itself. A university with no faculty would only have needy students and unemployed administration.
Here we are not talking about merging two departments or changing a department name, we are talking about undermining the most prolific and functional department in most US Universities. A plan or reducing administrator salary, and compensate faculty proportionally to their research output would probably be a wiser choice. But that has to be discussed with the faculty at UF.

Also in a plan to downsize academic research in Computer Science, one of the pillars of today’s technology, keep in mind that this decision will undermine US leadership status in Research and Development. It will facilitate moving R&D to India and China, depressing Florida even more. In the absence of active research, there is no hope for maintaining the depth, richness and quality of instruction, and viceversa, since insight into existing knowledge is one of the core results of research. Your vision for a “teaching-only” department will simply result in the demise of what are currently excellent Computer Engineering, and Computer Science programs, and a failure of UF to produce adequately educated professionals in a rapidly growing industry.

With this letter, I would like to join the thousands of others (http://chn.ge/HCNuOQ), both within the Computer Engineering community, and outside it, who are expressing their incredulity and dismay at the fact that the foremost research university in the state of Florida is even considering such a move (https://saveufcise.wordpress.com).

I hope sense prevails and the restrictions we face during these hard times are dealt with in a manner that does lead to irreversible damage, unnecessarily.

Thanks and Regards,

Eugenio Culurciello
Associate Professor of Biomedical Engineering
Purdue University
Weldon School of Biomedical Engineering
go to top

At a time when informatics and analytics are increasingly at the center of science and commerce, it is amazing to attempt to dismantle the CISE department–while others are talking about data science and big data!I was on the phone just yesterday with Udacity–the spinoff from Stanford for Internet-scale teaching. To become a teaching-only department at this time is a losing proposition, I think. Teaching is the next bastion that will be heavily transformed by these new web-scale initiatives. Indeed, what is needed are places that can provide high quality interactions between students (undergrad and grad) and faculty in a research environment. Where will computer science at UF be when all that is happening? We might have the worst situation at UF: a bunch of academics gone rogue as unimaginative bean counters.Need to counter that!–chaitan
go to top

Dear President Machen, Provost Glover, VP of Research Norton, and the Trustees of the University of Florida,

As a faculty member in Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon University, I have read Dean Abernathy’s Budget Cut Plan that includes a “restructuring” of CISE.  This plan is no mere restructuring; it will destroy the UF CISE department–along with much of the good that department does–for all intents and purposes.  In the longer term, it will result in a great loss of prestige and money for the university.

The plan is, quite frankly, nuts.  CISE is clearly one of the strongest and most successful departments in the College of Engineering.  The best faculty will leave–I certainly would if I were there–and the educational and research programs will be a shell of their former selves.  Given that the department is one of the most successful in raising revenue in the college, this will be a net money-losing decision, and cannot be justified for budgetary reasons.  Indeed, I cannot understand any reason for this except a vendetta against CISE, or complete cluelessness.

You needn’t take my word for it: the world of computer science–one of the few bright lights in today’s dismal economy–is united in its condemnation of this proposal.  I know you have already received letters form the head of the Computing Research Association and the former head of the NSF CISE directorate to this effect.

Given this capricious and misguided plan, Dean Abernathy is clearly unfit to lead the College of Engineering.  You should roll back this “restructuring” plan and appoint a new dean who can make decisions that are in the university’s best interest.


Jonathan Aldrich
Associate Professor
School of Computer Science
Carnegie Mellon University
go to top

Here are a few comments left by people from the academia who have signed our petition:

I find it impossible to understand why a department known internationally for the quality of its research should be forced to cease its research activity. I very much doubt if the activity could be continued at the same level if the research faculty are moved to other departments so it seems to me that it is a big loss to the University.

—-Iain Duff,
member of SIAM Board of Trustees

Major restructuring should not be imposed without buy in from affected faculty. Intimidation tactics have no place in a thoughtful community.

—-Ellen Zegura,
Chair of School of Computer Science, College of Computing at Georgia Tech

oppose the reduction of CISE at UofF

—- Ellis Horowitz,
Director of Information Technology and Distance Education in USC

It seems extremely counterproductive to enact such a change without faculty support. That not only destroys morale and productivity, but has long term implications on ranking, student and faculty recruitment, placement, and other such factors important to a university.

—- Karsten Schwan,
Director of Center for Experimental Research in Computer Systems (CERCS) at Georgia Tech

I direct the Institute for Computational & Mathematical Engineering at Stanford. Computational mathematics, represented at your university by CISE, is *vital* for modern engineering: students gain critical knowledge, researchers meet to create interdisciplinary teams that are so important for innovation, and faculty advance the boundaries of computational math. Many universities in the US are looking into *creating* their own CISE. Do not destroy what is such a crucial part of engineering

—-Margot Gerritsen,
Director of the Institute for Computational and Mathematical Engineering at Stanford University

I am a former faculty of this department (1979-1990) and I feel it is an essential department that stands out uniquely in terms of its educational and research offerings. Merger with other departments will adversely affect the faculty and the students.

—-Shamkant Navathe,
Professor in the College of Computing at Georgia Institute of Technology

The UF CISE department is one of the top CS departments in the nation.The need for CS graduates at all levels continues to increase worldwide and it is expected to continue for years to come. As far as I know, there has not been an academic review that would justify the dean’s action. Therefore, the action taken by the dean is not based on academics nor on the short and long term needs of the state and the nation. I feel this action needs to be reversed as soon as possible reduce the damage already made to the reputation of the CISE department and the U of Florida.”

—-Srinivas Aluru,
Ross Martin Mehl and Marylyne Munas Mehl Professor of Computer Engineering at IOWA State University

This actions do not make any sense. In the 21st centurey with computers and computing so central that Computing or Computer Science should actually be a separate college as in Carnegie Mellon University or Geogia Institute of Technology. The actions taken are exactly in the opposite direction.

—-Zvi Galil,
Dean of the College of Computing at Georgia Tech

I am an officer of the Society of Industrial and Applied Mathematics. Closing a CS department ,at a time when the need for both CSE research and STEM education is at a peak, is at best a short-sighted response to a budget problem and more likely a consequence of uninformed and inept management.

—-Carl Tim Kelley,
Chair of the Board of Trustees of the SIAM

go to top


No comments yet... Be the first to leave a reply!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: