Student Letters

The dismantlement of CISE Department has ripple effects on top  PhD
recruits. Quoted below is from a high-profile domestic female applicant:”I must unfortunately take back my acceptance for the CISE PhD program and
fellowship this Fall. I was honored to have received the fellowship and
am really sorry if this causes any issues for the admissions process.
The reason I am declining is because I am afraid of not being able to
stay in the program were the budget to take effect.”

The following letters were written by students at the University of Florida.

Letter from Udayan Kumar

Dear Dean,

As a fifth year Ph.D. candidate in the department of Computer and Information Science and Engineering (CISE), I vehemently oppose the proposed merger ( or rather murder of CISE ) of CISE and ECE departments. Here are some of the reason I present to support my opposition to your proposed budget cut plan:

1. For as low as 2% budget cut it does not make any sense to merge and destroy a department. This is not a difficult time. Please look back at 2009, 2010, 2011.

2. As a student of computer science,  I seriously cannot see how moving Databases from Computer Science to Industrial System engineering is logical or reasonable.  The idea is an astonishing to me as suggesting that computer programming language courses like PLP and Python should be moved to the linguistic department.  Please pardon me, but I strongly believe your advisers have given you poor suggestions.

3. Further, it surprises me that there is no representation of CISE faculty or students in the Deans Office. Without a fair representation, CISE is becoming prey to discrimination. While it is obvious that ECE is strongly represented in your office by its former chair, Dr. Mark Law. Again, this is quite disturbing to me.

4. As per my knowledge, CISE is a profitable dept. (since no budget info has been released by College of Engineering). In my limited wisdom, destroying it is equivalent to killing the goose that lays golden eggs.

5. Another astonishing fact is that the accountants at the Deans office are paid more than the faculty at CISE department? Perhaps you could correct this figure, but Mr. Rambo Keith was paid an upward of $117,000 in 2011, while the University of Florida’s Finance and accounting department only pays about $70,000 on average to accountants.  This certainly seems like an extravaganza to me. Do you propose to cut back on these lofty salaries, as well?

6. In this time of difficulty (as per you), what steps are you taking or plan to take in reducing the expenses from your own office? Why aren’t any of the lines in the dean’s office being terminated or cut back (dean’s office is eating up $5 million).

7. It is commonly acknowledged that when a ship sinks, its captain is the last one to leave. The captain is responsible for everyone’s safety and security. How does the budget cut affect you? Are you planning to actively participate in these difficult times and take a salary cut? As a dean and ambassador of education, this noble action may enable several graduate students earn their PhD degrees.

8. It is quiet disturbing that in tough times like these when graduate students may not have any money for food and shelter (TAs are cut), you plan to allocate funds needed to cover SPP and Promotion Raises.

9. You cited Georgia Tech as an example for your proposed restructuring plan. Unfortunately, I don’t see any similarities in the way the two institutions approach this issue. According to the undergraduate curriculum of Georgia Tech’ ECE dept (, no computer science course is offered towards the degree requirement unless you treat Electromagnetics as a computer science course. I
recommend, you refer to the website of the College of computing at Georgia Tech to explore computer science courses offered by the department.

In closing, I want to emphasize that your restructuring plan has seriously worried my parents regarding my future. My family invested significant amount of money and effort to provide me with all the resources to earn a PhD degree from a research one institute. However, your proposed TA cuts and unnecessary destruction of CISE will interfere with my education and impair my ability to obtain a meaningful degree. I feel sorry for this plan and don’t think I will
be as convinced or proud about recommending this institution to my friends and family as I was before.

I sincerely hope that this email provides significant reasons to convince you to understand my (and CISE) perspective and re-consider your proposed plan. I also hope this will persuade you to conceive other alternatives for budget cuts.

Udayan Kumar

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Dean’s Proposal

“This leaves a remaining $1.358M to be cut from the departments … Under this
proposed plan, all of the Computer Engineering Degree programs, BS, MS and PhD,
would be moved from the Computer & Information Science and Engineering Dept.
to the Electrical and Computer Engineering Dept. along with most of the advising
staff. This move would allow us to support these degree programs using the existing
faculty support staff in other depts. Roughly half of the faculty would be offered the
opportunity to move to ECE, BME or ISE. These faculty would continue to support
the graduate and research mission in the Computer Engineering degree track. The
choice of which faculty and which departments will be made based on fit with the
research program and with the receiving departments. Staff positions in CISE which
are currently supporting research and graduate programs would be eliminated. The
activities currently covered by TAs would be reassigned to faculty and the TA budget
for CISE would be eliminated. The faculty remaining in CISE would then focus their
efforts on teaching and advising students in the existing Computer Science BS and
MS degree programs, offered through both COE and CLAS. Their assignments would
change to reflect this new educational mission with sole focus on delivering quality
education for students in these degree programs. Any faculty member who wishes
to stay in CISE may do so, but with a revised assignment focused on teaching and
advising. Tremendous demand for graduates with these degrees exists, and this
new mission would allow us to devote more faculty time to grow both the size and
excellence of the Computer Science degree program …”

This proposal was given to CISE on April 11. After just 9 days, it will be finalized on
April 19. There was no open discussion at the department, college and university
levels before. It was kept secret from the CISE faculty and students until 9 days
before finalization. Three staff members were given conditional notices of
termination on April 11. Several CISE faculty members were selected to meet with
the dean (likely about new appointments in other departments).

Is This A Destruction of Computer Science Programs at UF?

In the Dean’s proposal, about half of the CISE faculty will be moved to other
departments, and the remaining half will stay as teaching faculty “to grow both the
size and excellence of the Computer Science degree program” with no TAs and no

Where will the lucky ones who are picked move to? For example, where should
the database faculty go? The Dean told us in a meeting with students on April 12
that they will go to the Department of Industrial and System Engineering! Under
the banner of ISE, how will they recruit CS graduate students, apply for grants,
and publish papers in the area of database? Why would someone go to study
database in ISE at UF, instead of in CS at other universities? Will these database
professors stay with ISE or leave UF when they get a chance? The same questions
go for faculty in computer graphics, computer vision, virtual reality, algorithms and
data structures, software engineering, distributed computing, operating systems,

Internet technologies and cyber security, machine learning, programming languages,
multimedia systems, etc. The home department of these professors should be CISE
(CS), not ISE, BME or ECE.

For those unlucky ones who are not picked, they cannot continue their research
when all supporting staff starts to leave after the proposal is finalized on April 19.
What will happen to their on-going projects with NSF, DARPA, and other funding
agencies? Will these professors stay with CISE or leave UF when they get a chance?

Then, what about us, the CS students? There are only 32 faculty members. But there
are (approximately) 610 bachelor students, 400 Masters, and 130 PhDs as collateral
damage. Who are going to teach us databases, graphics, operating systems, cyber
security, …, when the faculty are either gone or demoralized. All of these, just for
$1.358M budget shortfall in the whole engineering college that has 9 departments/

Is This about Budget Cut?

External research funds taken in by CISE each year exceed $1.358M by far. Does a
budget shortfall of $1.358M for such a large college necessitate the elimination of
research in CISE? How much will it take to rebuild such a program (unless UF says
byebye to Computer Science forever)? The economy is coming back. Is it wise to self-
inflict such a wound to a large department with 1000 students, just for $1.358M?

With such a prospect going forward with UF engineering, will students come to UF
to study Computer Science in a crippled department? How much tuition will be lost?
You do the math: The 400 MS students in CISE are paying out-of-state tuition, up to
$10,000 per semester for 9 credit hours. It is naive to think that only the reputation
of CISE is damaged. Will people have second thoughts about coming to other
engineering programs in UF, given this turmoil in the college?

The Dean had wanted to merge CISE with ECE. We knew there was a bitter fight with
the CISE faulty that resisted it, but the idea of merging seemed have subsided about
a year ago. Now it comes back in a different form — destruction. Half of the faculty
will be folded into BME, ISE and ECE; half will be left in unknown. Merging or not is
an argument of which way is better; destruction is no longer an argument in that
domain. If a forced marriage falls apart because one doesn’t love the other, should
you kill her?

Is This about Removing Duplication?

The underlying question is why the Dean picks CISE to bear all burden while other
departments are spared. The Dean’s argument is that there exists duplication
between CISE and ECE. So here’s the solution: move database faculty to ISE!?
Doesn’t that create duplication between CISE and ISE? After all, even as a teaching
department, CISE needs someone to teach database. Then should they be moved
to ECE? There isn’t duplication between CISE and ECE in database at present. If you
move some database faculty to ECE, that will create duplication. The same token
applies to computer graphics, computer vision, virtual reality, algorithms and data
structures, software engineering, etc.


3 Responses to “Student Letters”

  1. As a former graduate of CISE, I feel this is outrageously stupefied decision. Would definitely think twice before recommending UF to anyone for a graduate level degree.

  2. I was very disappointed to read about Dean Abernathy’s talk with the “industry”, meaning the Harris Corp. and the Lockheed Martin. Although the significance of these companies is undeniable, both of them are more geared towards the ECE students anyway. On the other hand, more of us in the CISE prefer to work major software companies such as Google, Amazon, Microsoft or Ebay. I would be interested to hear more about what all these companies are thinking. Because clearly, our Ph.D. graduates, who have joined IBM Research, Intel, Philips research, GE research, Google, Microsoft research, Siemens research and Bing recently, are totally opposing the dismantling of the CISE Department. In addition, if you have ever been to the career fair, the recruiters also happen to be our own alumni. I wonder where they will hire from when their own department is destroyed. (1) The students who want to study in CISE will NOT apply to ECE instead. They will apply to other schools with CISE departments. This will decrease the enrollment at UF. (2) The non-existence of a world-class CISE department will result in a major quality decrease among the undergraduate CISE students. When combined, these two problems will bring UF into a vicious cycle of inferior quality, decreasing enrollment and decreasing employment.

  3. I think Lokheed and Harris (and even some other companies represented on the IAB) have a conflict of interest here in protecting the interest of their “home” departments. They may even rather see this proposal through. Sorry, it is bad politics.

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