Thanks to outcry from SaveUFCISE supporters, on Apr. 25, President Bernie Machen wrote a letter to the UF community removing Dean Abernathy’s budget cut plan from consideration. In that letter, President Machen suggests an alternative proposal for a unit that comprises both ECE (Electrical and Computer Engineering) and CISE (Computer and Information Science and Engineering) “that also would address issues raised during recent discussions, namely, clarify and enhance degree offerings while preserving the research mission in both computer science and computer engineering, achieve efficiency in teaching and bring faculty workloads in line with other departments of the college.”
The letter’s concluding statement: “I ask the faculty, students, and the administration of all colleges to work in partnership to identify the savings and keep the colleges on track in their quest for continued excellence in education and research.”
In keeping with this statement, CISE faculty agreed to put a few alternative budget cut plans forward, one of which would be for a joint CISE-ECE unit following the Berkeley-model.
Meanwhile, the CISE chair Gerhard Ritter communicated to the CISE faculty an extremely difficult Friday 5pm deadline for coming up with a MOU (memorandum of understanding) for the joint CISE-ECE unit.
In the face of this pressure, the CISE chairman and a committee of CISE faculty have worked amicably, in good faith, for several hours for the past 2 days, in consultation with chairman John Harris of ECE as well a parallel commitee of ECE faculty, to hammer out the details of a memorandum of understanding that would be agreeable to both faculties. ECE chairman John Harris, in the meantime, circulated a document written several months ago, for the governance of a joint CISE-ECE school.
Today, (Friday, Apr. 27), the CISE committee, after consultation with the CISE faculty released a document of their memorandum of understanding, incorporating all the requests in the president’s message, stipulations of the CISE chairman Gerhard Ritter, stipulations of ECE Chairman John Harris that he provided during his meeting with the CISE committee 2 days ago, many requirements of the ECE faculty committee, and the requirements of the CISE faculty. Read the highlights of changes to the current structure.
Other alternative proposals are being prepared, including those that enjoy a high level of support from our external stakeholders, in time for the University-wide May 7 deadline for sending in all proposals to the central administration.
LOCAL PRESS COVERAGE:
The Gainesville Sun: Plan merging UF engineering departments hits snag (May 2)
The Gainesville Sun: New UF CISE proposal not all that new (April 28)
Hernando Today: Residing in an alternate STEM universe (April 27)
Orlando Sentinel: UF drops idea of breaking up computer science department (April 26)
MORE LOCAL PRESS ARTICLES AVAILABLE HERE
In an email sent April 25, 2012, the President of the University of Florida, Bernie Machen, stated that Dean Cammy Abernathy’s restructuring plan is now off the table.
In spite of this promising announcement, the future of CISE is uncertain.
Several proposals are being generated supporting CISE autonomy, but an official position has not yet been reached. On April 25, we were cautiously optimistic.
President Machen has however strongly favored one alternative proposal that involves some form of conjoining of ECE (Electrical and Computer Engineering) and CISE. This proposal is supposed to address the College of Engineering’s budget cut.
In this climate of anxiety and uncertainity, CISE faculty have been working hard with ECE faculty to explore the details and hence the feasibility of such a proposal. They have 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. The CISE department at UF has consistently demonstrated its excellence.
All alternative proposals exist ostensibly solely because President Machen interprets these budget cuts as recurring. A successful proposal should include two key features. First, the proposal must emphasize the long term importance of Computer Science and Engineering. Second, the proposal must address permanent budgetary constraints.
We trust in the wisdom of the State Legislature and the Board of Governors that the budget cuts are one-time cuts, and that the University of Florida should, “continue to tap their reserves year-round in order to save course offerings, retain faculty, and account for enrollment growth.” UF has at least $111 million in unrestricted reserves.
Now is the time for our supporters to call 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.
Please, join us in this call.