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I'm currently pursuing a B.S. in Computer Engineering at the University of Florida, and we're having a bit of a problem right now... The state recently passed a budget plan that cuts funding for higher education in Florida. The dean of UF's College of Engineering decided that the best way for us to absorb the blow is by executing the following 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.
  • Roughly half of the faculty would be offered the opportunity to move to Electrical/Computer Eng., Biomedical Eng., or Industrial/Systems Eng.
  • 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.
  • Any faculty member who wishes to stay in CISE may do so, but with a revised assignment focused on teaching and advising.

In short: our department (at least as we know it) is being decimated. Computer & Information Sciences & Engineering (one of 9 departments in the College of Engineering) is taking more than 50% of the cuts. If you're interested in reading the full proposal, you can access it here.

A vast, VAST majority of the students and faculty in the department are vehemently opposed to this plan, however the dean is already taking measures to implement it. This is the only proposal on the table right now, and she has not entertained our requests for alternatives. She sees it as an obvious (albeit drastic) solution to our budget problem, citing that many other universities have combined Computer and Electrical Engineering departments. I'll bet those universities didn't have to eliminate an established department to get there, though.

The budget goes into effect July 1, 2012 (this is non-negotiable), and the dean's proposal is currently set to be finalized some time next week. We don't have much time!

My question to everyone here is this: Are we overreacting to this plan, or are we justified? And could you explain why or why not?

It's obvious that CISE students will resist any cuts to our department, but I'm curious to see what other people in the field have to say. Any feedback is greatly appreciated. I will select the answer that saves our department.

Just kidding, I'll pick the one that best explains why this is a good or bad decision for the dean to make. Please note that anything you say can and will be used to further our cause (and we might track you down if you provide a compelling argument against us).

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If you really want a solution, convince your political leaders that stealing money from teachers, firefighters and police officers to balance the budget is stupid, and to find the money from somewhere else. While we're at it, there's plenty of administrative staff that those schools don't need. –  Robert Harvey Apr 13 '12 at 6:43
    
Research the estimated state taxes paid by CISE grads and especially any companies that they've started. Compare with that for other departments. Take that to the legislature. –  hotpaw2 Apr 13 '12 at 7:15
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closed as off topic by Robert Harvey, gnat, thorsten müller, ChrisF Apr 13 '12 at 7:39

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1 Answer

It's like that everywhere and I think you are overreacting.

I have personally witnessed and lived through such fusions and know of several others. It is not uncommon to merge Electrical Engineering and Computer Science departments - and it goes both ways. At my alma mater EE was integrated into the CS department, because EE became too small. Even though, the EE department was older and more established, it was a way to save it for everything but its own name.

Do not forget that moving Computer Scientists to Electrical Engineering departments (or vice versa) will not mean they forget about their subjects. They will still focus on CS/EE and most often the staff will keep on what they did before, especially, as usually, it is only the department, not the degree programms that are cut. As long as you can still persue the degree, you can expect little actual change. I have seen such actions taking place in a way that left pretty much everything unattended except for the name of the department (and of course for professors the political landscape changes due to decisions taking place in a larger gremium). But students still did the same things in the same places with the same staff (of course, with staff cuts some lectures have to go as well).

There is also one major advantage of this: Do not underestimate the effects achieved by really working together in cross-subject projects in such departments. Especially CS is a subject that profits enormously from interacting with other subjects (hence we see things like bioinformatics, etc.). To give you drastic example of this: My alma mater not only merged EE into CS, but soon after an additional psychology degree was added and guess what - the psychology department became part of the CS department. This is in fact not as absurd as it may seem at first sight, but provided a huge boost in research covering things like human-computer-interaction, interface designs, etc.

So in summary, it provides awesome opportunities for both sides if they are willing to accept it. And while staff cuts are never a nice thing, they are not unusual and there's little point on having the remaining staff cry about injustice. Life gets on and when one door closes another opens somewhere else.

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