A Florida fiasco? Or a Forbes fiasco?

Interesting times at the University of Florida, which as Forbes reports has decided to eliminate the computer science department.

The University of Florida announced this past week that it was dropping its computer science department, which will allow it to save about $1.7 million$1.4 million.  The school is eliminating all funding for teaching assistants in computer science, cutting the graduate and research programs entirely, and moving the tattered remnants into other departments.

Let’s get this straight: in the midst of a technology revolution, with a shortage of engineers and computer scientists, UF decides to cut computer science completely?

Students at UF have already organized protests, and have created a website dedicated to saving the CS department.  Several distinguished computer scientists have written to the president of UF to express their concerns, in very blunt terms.  Prof. Zvi Galil, Dean of Computing at Georgia Tech, is “amazed, shocked, and angered.”  Prof. S.N. Maheshwari, former Dean of Engineering at IIT Delhi, calls this move “outrageously wrong.”  Computer scientist Carl de Boor, a member of the National Academy of Sciences and winner of the 2003 National Medal of Science, asked the UF president “What were you thinking?”

(Note to the students, if you need more quotes for your site: I think this move is shockingly short-sighted.  The University of Florida is moving backwards while the rest of the world moves ahead.)

Meanwhile, the athletic budget for the current year is $99 million, $97.7 million, an increase of more than $2 million from last year.  The increase alone would offset the savings supposedly gained by cutting computer science.

In a separate story, Forbes notes that the university suggests the magazine has it all wrong.

A Forbes article by contributing writer Steven Salzberg falsely claims that the University of Florida is eliminating the Computer Science Department.

The Dean of the College of Engineering has put on the table for discussion a budget plan to reorganize the Computer & Information Science and Engineering Department.

Under that proposal, all undergraduate and graduate degree curriculum would remain the same and the college would maintain its brainpower and research capacity. The plan calls for no lay-offs of tenure-track faculty. Faculty lay-offs are expected, however, if across-the-board cuts are made in the College of Engineering.

The proposed budget plan would grow the number of graduates from the CISE department because faculty members would be expected to assume a greater teaching responsibility. About $1.4 million in savings would come primarily from the elimination of graduate teaching assistants.

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