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Holy crap. The dean of engineering at the University of Florida has unilaterally decided to gut the CISE department. That just happens to be the department that employs my former PhD student, +Alper Ungor.

Let me quote from the actual proposal <>:

"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 proposed plan will be open for discussion and input until Wednesday, April 18." (The plan was announced on April 11.)
Noam Nisan's profile photoDavid Eppstein's profile photoeric Graves's profile photoJeff Erickson's profile photo
Is it something in the Florida water? I remember hearing about similar issues at the University of Miami a few years ago.
Yes, I remember that. Again, it was higher admin politics involved. This is Florida we're talking about though :).
Definitely politics involved... seems to be triggered by a bunch of Electrical Engineering folks (Associate Dean is from the ECE depertment) who think they can do Computer Science, and can manipulate the dean and higher ups who are clueless about the difference between Computer Science and Computer Engineering (within ECE).
Budget cut is actually not big enough reason to butcher an entire Computer Science program. This so called restructuring is saving them only about $1.5 Million... Well, with some help from outside and sensible people, hopefully we will stop this.
How devious -- I hadn't really considered this way of firing tenured profs. Administrators are really crafty. I'd heard of outright closing a department on shaky grounds, but with this move they get to keep their friends around and only fire their enemies. Brilliant!

Of course the main problem here is state legislatures taking budget cuts out on education, which puts university administrators in a position where they have to make unconscionable cuts of some kind. Like cutting pay for the administrators or capital projects. Or hey there's this program over here with an uppity professor.
It seems that the organization of CS in UoF is a bit strange. Can someone explain the difference between the "Computer & Information Science and Engineering Dept." and the "Electrical and Computer Engineering Dept."? Is there a difference in UoF between "computer engineering" programs and "computer science" programs? Is there a "computer information" program?
Yeah, this smelled like "dean from ECE with an agenda". But I'm somewhat less amazed by "we only need one department with 'computer' in it" than by "let's emphasize teaching by firing all the TAs".
"The plan becomes final in one week" is a nice touch, too.

Benoit: It's even more devious than that. A literal reading of the proposal suggests that no faculty are being fired — that would inevitably lead to lawsuits, backed by the AAUP, which would no doubt cost the university more than the 1.5 million they're saving. It's just that some faculty are having their employment contracts unilaterally modified to exclude research, which I assume means their active grants, their PhD students, and their equipment being stripped away. But they still have tenure, so the chances of legal recourse are much slimmer.
Coming on the heels of the new Taulbee report on the increase in enrollment in CS, it's kind of stunning how they can convince themselves this makes sense.
Yes, I'm aware that when you can't officially fire someone (tenured or otherwise protected), you just make their life uncomfortable. At best they'll quit, at worst you have the personal satisfaction of taking away their favourite stapler.

The grants issue is one I was wondering about -- is "compatibility with ECE" code for "have grants"? Pitching back partially-spent grants is also likely to lead to recriminations of the financial kind.

The cost analysis fails to take account of any loss of income from any source on the basis of this move, which indicates it's not actually serious.
Jeff: Dean is actually from Materials, but the Associate Dean is the previous Chair of ECE and has history of conflict with the CS chair, Sartaj Sahni. A year ago, they denied renewing his chair contract, even though CS faculty unanimously voted for it. The dean refused to start a new chair search, mentioning the budget cuts, trying to impose a CS, ECE merger, appointed an interim chair (for indefinite term). The irony is because of his initial contract Sahni's salary apparently does not change when he steps down from the chair. I am not sure how much their friend appointed as the interim chair is paid. But now the interim chair feels he is used and decided to resign effective in July.

Noam: The Structure of CISE and ECE at UF is not much different than anywhere else actually. Unfortunate confusion is the names...
Illinois for instance has also the ECE department, and some faculty there could easily fit in a CS department, but they do not try to demolish the CS department.
UF's CISE department has the main active research areas:
Vision and Intelligence Systems,
Graphics and Modeling,
Computer Systems and Networks,
Applied Algorithms and High Performance Computing.

UF's ECE department has the main research areas:
Signals and Systems,
Computer Engineering,
Electromagnetic and Energy Systems

While ours is a typical Computer Science department, the name is Computer and Information Science and Engineering (CISE). The Ph.d. degree name is unfortunately named Computer Engineering.
They are trying to capitalize on this confusion and claim that there is a complete overlap and ECE's Computer Engineering section (which does not have pretty much any of the core Computer Science faculty or research or teaching) can do the job,
+Jeff Erickson So, the lesson here is that it is no use getting research grants, ACM fellowships, and all that... Politics is what wins out in the end. Right?
We had a similar fight here once years ago (not so much about getting rid of CS, more about merging it into engineering, finally settled ten years ago with the elevation of CS to schoolhood) where what won out in the end was pointing out how blatantly cooked the other side's numbers were.
Thank you, +Alper Ungor . It indeed seems like a standard CS vs EE split. While I wouldn't object in principle to merging CS and EE (in my university they are), it is really hard to understand the idea of essentially firing half the CS staff, even after taking into account bad university politics, as well as budget cuts.
+Noam Nisan Only 2 professor jobs would be eliminated, the biggest eliminations are TAs and the administration staff. We actually have 3 departments for computer sciences or computer engineering, one in the liberal arts and sciences (computer science) as well as 2 in engineering (CISE and ECE).

+Alper Ungor Speaking from the electrical side (PhD student, not professor but this has captured everyones interest), many of our professors are pissed off as well. Mind you, this also reflects poorly on our department. While many are open to the idea of a merger, they are not open to how this merger is arranged.

Furthermore I don't believe the common attitude from my department is the one that can interpreted from the comment "think they can do Computer Science." While there is some cross over in the basics (for instance we both do math), like any branch of engineering, there is a split after about the second or third years class curriculum which makes our true areas as different, at least, as the fields within ECE itself. That is to say, I doubt someone who did Information Theory would believe they could do High Frequency Antenna Design no more than they would believe they could do Human Factors Engineering (which was in CISE, but granted if merged will probably be moved to ISE). While I will grant that mindset does exist, I would say they are an exception instead of the rule.

Truth of the matter is most of our professors could not teach core CISE classes, databases and OS for instance would be nightmares. And I don't believe that the CISE professors could handle communications (the ee one, not the ce one) or solid state. We are just too different, and the saying about old dog new tricks applies. Anyone with that mindset will quickly snap out of it when they are told to teach one of your core classes.

We all agree this could have been handled better, I wish there was a probe first to determine a better way to have done this merger (read save money). While not completely familiar with the unnecessary complexities of how the colleges must be established, I assume there would have been some way to axe the advising staff (having the ECE staff, or a mixture of the best from the two cover both), and drop your TA budget and instead share ours. I was talking to a recently graduated CISE about this, and we decided on calling the merger an Abernathy-Complete problem for now.

Two last things: One, we did this to Nuclear Engineering as well (visit their website, they were merged into the department of material sciences and engineering). Everyone seems to forget that, there was a precedence for this set. And two, you forgot communications (networks, security and hardware) as a main field of study in ECE :).
+eric Graves Unless something has changed since I was student there, there's no CS department in CLAS. You can get a CS degree through CLAS (that's what I did since I double-majored in math) but the degree is still administered by the CISE department in the college of engineering. Also, only 2 professor jobs are being eliminated but it isn't crazy to think most of the professors who do research in core computer science (algorithms, graphics, databases) are expected to quit if they become teaching-only faculty.
+eric Graves: the proposal says "roughly half the faculty would be offered the opportunity to move to <other departments> .... The faculty remaining in CISE would then focus their efforts on teaching ....", and then goes on emphasizing that those remaining would not be on a research track. I would view moving a research-oriented faculty member to a non-research position as essentially firing him without saying so explicitly (with some insurance against finding no other job, which I do take to be genuine rather than being just a lawyer-advised mockery.)

About the three-CS-department thing in UoF... Can you say a few words about in what sense is CISE different or similar to the CS department in the liberal arts and sciences?
+Matthew Belcher I stand corrected. But, while not wanting to defend this proposal, faculty would have the choice to go to a different department and continue research. But you only go teaching only if you want to, or you do not believe the department they merge into will grant tenure. But I doubt the ECE department would deny tenure to the merged professors.

+Noam Nisan As mentioned above, idiotic comment should have double checked on that to make sure. Never would have occurred to me that you could be a CLAS student and get a degree from the CoE.

As far as the demotion, philosophically I am in agreement. My roommate last year was CISE (working at amazon now), and she related to me the hell faced by TAs. Honestly moving into a teaching oriented position would not be akin to making a professor a lecturer, it would be making them a graduate student.

My point was more we aren't saving money from those professors that stay on as teaching only. You can not assume professors would quit, especially if that is what Abernathy wanted by this. If they are to stay, there is surely some maximizing point that can be made where all professors would continue research in some capacity.
+eric Graves re your claim that "faculty would have the choice": no, they wouldn't. Read it again: "Roughly half of the faculty would be offered the opportunity to move." That means that the other half would not be offered any choice.
+David Eppstein Yeah I saw that as well. That information was still in buffer, needed to be re-written.
+eric Graves At UIUC, a single computer science department (in the college of engineering) offers two undergraduate "computer science" degrees, one through the College of Engineering, one through the college of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Students in both programs take almost exactly the same core CS classes. Our ECE department also offers a "computer engineering" degree, which also requires many of the same classes as the CS programs. Any given CS class has a mixture of students from all three programs; we can't tell which student is in which program. Classes that can be taught by either CS or ECE faulty (networking, for example) are taught by both CS and ECE faculty, either in alternating semesters or co-teaching a common class.

We do not consider this to be "redundancy"; we call it choice.
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