University Of Florida Takes Two Steps Backward, Cuts CS

Forbes has the news that the University of Florida is basically eliminating their computer science department. As a UF graduate who took several CS classes and have friends who graduated with CS degrees and are very successful, this is, in one word: shameful.

As Forbes reports:

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?

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

The Times also wrote this up in a story aptly titled: Losing The Future: Gutting Science Training. A commenter in the story brings the student perspective:

Why to cut the research of Computer science? Is college administration underplaying role of computers in our age? Computers and research go hand in hand, and this is not a hidden fact. I am a graduate student at computer Science, UFL and if anyone; we the students know better what is the importance of research is. Please understand that computer science is an always changing field when every other day “researchers” are discovering new facts and paradigms. US education is known for putting importance of practical education over theoretical one. By comparing computer science with other teaching only departments is a pure failure of intelligence. Let’s just hope that no other university will follow such an irresponsible decision, putting quality of education and future of students at risk.

I’d also like to amplify one of the letters sent by a professor as it sums up my emotions on this succinctly:

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

Indeed there is no excuse here. This action will only result in harming the reputation of a great university and also hurt the lives of many technology-literate young adults. We can only hope UF recognizes and corrects this mistake quickly. There are no winners if this succeeds, cutting a department that is a current and future driver of our economy is absurd.

Update: UF has responded over on Forbes. While they try to fix their PR crisis, unfortunately, as my friend Ryan Porter (who went to UF) points out:

“$1.4 million in savings would come primarily from the elimination of graduate teaching assistants.” Those TAs are the people who taught me most of what I learned while I was in UF CISE, both in classes and working on research projects. If they cut the software TAs and the software research, then software will become an afterthought for the hardware engineering school instead of a leading department.

Post image credit: CNN iReport