Tag Archives: cammy abernathy

Today’s Dean Fact 4/24

College of Engineering  advertises dozens of new openings in March 2012, while proposing to destroy CISE

The Dean sent the proposal to destroy  a  perfectly sound  CISE  department to the provost on March 16, 2012. As per documents recently obtained by a Public Records Request (a “Sunshine”) it has been revealed that in the work week following March 16th,  17  job advertisements were posted; many of them for multiple positions.

Here is the link to the complete document, all the data can now also be found on UF’s official website.

These employee searches are being conducted Continue reading


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.

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.

Silicon Valley Alumni Association Meeting

SOME PROSPECTIVE ATTENDEES WERE TOLD  THIS  CEREMONY HAS BEEN POSTPONED On Tuesday, April 24th, Dean Cammy Abernathy was to host The University of Florida College of Engineering Innovation Award Ceremony and UF Alumni Reception at Palo Alto. For more information, please read this message. We suggested all alumni (most of you are CISE), read the information on this page, attend and show your concerns clearly: (1) computer scientists and computer software engineers are not just computer programmers; (2) support computer science research and scholarship integrated with teaching, do not accept a polytechnic institution in its place. In the interest of collaboration, we have created a dedicated Save UF CISE Alumni Google Group.

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

What Is This All About? (Updated, May 31)

First plan: Dismembering CISE

On Aptil 11th, 2012, Dean Abernathy announced a restructuring proposal would have destroyed the Computer & Information Science and Engineering (CISE) department at the University of Florida

Thanks to our supporters nationwide and globally who reached out to our decision makers, the Abernathy plan is off the table on Apr. 25.

Second Plan: Hostile Takeover by ECE

However, CISE is still in a perilous situation.  President Machen  favored one alternative proposal that involves some form of conjoining of ECE (Electrical and Computer Engineering) and CISE.

In this climate of anxiety and uncertainity, CISE faculty  worked  hard with ECE faculty to explore the details and hence the feasibility of such a proposal.  They had been forced to arrive at a decision in just 2 days. Their guiding principles include a preservation of CISE’s unity (of faculty, students and programs), core identity, culture and freedom to grow in its chosen direction.

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.

Because of an attempt by ECE and the Dean to take over the process and force it  into a repeat of  a regressive attempt that was made a year  ago,  the process stalled and  this second Abernathy plan was also set aside.

Third Plan: “Across the Board”

limbo ensued after another pronouncement from Dean Abernathy on Apr. 30.

Fourth Plan:  Go back to Singling out CISE for slow Starvation ….

The plan laid out out by Dean Abernathy on May 10 at a College of Engineering Department chairs meeting claimed to be an “across the board” 2.9% cut.  In the case of CISE, the 2.9% was taken from CISE base budget at the beginning of 2011-2012.  This amounted to $190,000. However, CISE has also been told that at least 2 positions that were included in the above base budget,  but were due to become vacant in 2012-2013 due to retirements etc. will not be replaced. This amounts to an over 8% recurring cut for CISE.  No other department has been slated to lose positions to the best of the knowledge. This is not across the board.  This fourth plan is in line with the Dean’s starvation of CISE all along,  prior to  the Apr. 11 attack.  So we have come full circle.

…. And  not knowing who will be the next Chair on July 1

The current Acting Chair is due to step down on June 30. The Dean told him  to “talk to the Provost” about appointing a new Chair. Provost Joe Glover was asked about this during the Engineering faculty council meeting on May 17th and again by email on May 25th.  Provost Glover replied that he would be talking to the Dean about various issues on May 29th (after the Open Faculty Budget Forum called by the central administration, the day after Memorial Day weekend, during a tropical storm). He wrote back, saying he would only meet with the department if the Dean was present, and asked if  “it was still interested.”  The meeting has been scheduled for June 6 when several faculty will be away on travel. Watch this space for updates.

Alternative Plans

In parallel, CISE faculty are considering other alternative, longer term proposals that have received much stronger encouragement and support from alumni and external stakeholders.

All proposals exist only to address the College of Engineering’s budget cut. President Machen continues to treat the cut as a recurring cut, despite explicit statements from legislators and the Board of Governors to treat the cut as a one time cut and spend UF’s massive reserves.

The CISE department at UF has consistently demonstrated its excellence. In 2010, CISE graduated 25 PhD students,  (3 times more than that number at 2000). We are bringing 5.5 million per year on research funding,  (almost 4 times the amount in 2000). We have 2 ACM Fellows,4 IEEE Fellows and 2 AAAS Fellows; many faculty have won other awards and are on prestigious editorial boards and program committeees. Almost all have active NSF or NIH funded research programs. 12 young faculty won NSF Career Awards, which is 22% of College total, (also 5 times more than 2000).  Over the last 5 years, we have won 11 best paper awards. we teach thousands of nonmajors, and approximately 600 undergraduate majors, 400 masters and 131 PhD’s with 32 tenure track faculty and at this moment, only 3 nontenure track faculty!  CISE is generating 17% of the college’s primary source of income (weighted student credit hours) while only costing only 10% of the college. The Dean herself admitted during her Apr. 12 interview with students that the CISE department has the highest revenue/cost ratio in the college.   CISE faculty are actively collaborating with researchers in almost every UF College, along with many national and international universities, as befits the flagship research institution of the state.

It is impossible to overemphasize the importance of a strong Computer Science and Engineering program in today’s economy. The predicted growth rate for Computer Science positions over the next ten years is 30%, almost 3 times the predicted growth rate for all engineering occupations. Software engineering jobs have consistently achieved high national rankings (#1 in 2011 and 2012).

Gainesville’s technology job sector has exploded in the last three years, with the founding of companies such as Grooveshark, Infinite Energy, and Shadow Learning. MindTree recently selected Gainesville as the site for its US expansion largely due to the presence of the CISE program. The opening of the UF Innovation Hub on January 11th promises to draw even more high-tech companies to Gainesville.

Now is the time for our supporters to   pledge  for  robust support and autonomy  for Computer Science and Engineering at UF.  By doing so, the  University as a whole  will gain significant collaboration opportunities, the City of Gainesville will vastly improve its edge in the competition to become the Silicon Valley of the South-East, and the State of Florida can make a shining example of its flagship Computer Science research institution.

Now is also the time to call for accountability for the damage caused by the proposal of the Abernathy Plan  and for checks to be instituted so that they are not repeated in the future.

Please, join us in these calls.

The following documents provide additional information.

Response to Dean Abernathy’s Special Announcement

Coalition Lead Coordinator, Nuri Yeralan

Dear Gator Engineering Community,


On March 8, 2012, the Dean of Engineering, Dr. Cammy Abernathy, was formally requested by faculty to release her budget cut proposal and to provide sufficient college budget data by which faculty could suggest viable alternatives. The Dean refused both requests during her town hall meeting on March 12, 2012.

On Wednesday, April 11, 2012, the Dean announced and immediately began to implement a budget cut proposal. The Computer & Information Science and Engineering (CISE) department is to be cut by 20%. This amounts to less than Continue reading