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Thursday, December 09, 2021

Engineering students’ sit-in results in discussion

<p>Fifth-year Ph.D. student Joshua Horton, 27, and others protest budget cuts proposed to the computer and information sciences and engineering department Tuesday. They staged a sit-in outside of College of Engineering Dean Cammy Abernathy's office from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m.</p>

Fifth-year Ph.D. student Joshua Horton, 27, and others protest budget cuts proposed to the computer and information sciences and engineering department Tuesday. They staged a sit-in outside of College of Engineering Dean Cammy Abernathy's office from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m.

Some of the about 100 students at Tuesday’s Save CISE sit-in analyzed algorithms as they lined the walls of Weil Hall. Others programmed. One played Farmville.

But five met with College of Engineering Dean Cammy Abernathy and university Provost Joe Glover to discuss Abernathy’s proposal created in response to the college’s budget for the 2012-13 fiscal year.

Gov. Rick Scott signed a budget today that would decrease the college’s budget by 5.86 percent, or about $4 million. Abernathy’s proposal involves restructuring the Department of Computer and Information Science and Engineering rather than spreading cuts across all 10 engineering departments. Since last week, students, faculty and community members have conducted protests to urge her to reconsider.

Tuesday, the dean extended the input period to May 7, according to a post on the college’s website. Abernathy also released some financial data.

“The people who we’ve wanted to attract attention from have finally decided to acknowledge that there is a student community, and we have concerns as well,” said 26-year-old Ph.D. student Shivashankar Halan. “They showed that they were interested and listening to us.”

The sit-in was technically a “study-in” for students involved. They came prepared with laptops, textbooks and power strips.

Halan said the proposal was not changed during the meeting.

Glover explained to the students that their demand of a June 15 deadline is not feasible because the fiscal year begins July 1. To get them approved, Glover must have all proposals by May 7, Halan said.

Glover told the students he had seen Abernathy’s plan and supports it, said Nuri Yeralan, a 28-year-old Ph.D. student. Although the students argued that the Legislature states these budget cuts are one-time, Glover said UF President Bernie Machen has interpreted that they are recurring.

The students also suggested involving a third party to evaluate the proposals, Yeralan said.

UF spokeswoman Janine Sikes said the meeting resulted in productive dialogue between the students and administration.

“The students were going to be there outside the dean’s office, so it made perfect sense to sit down with a few of them and hear what their concerns are,” she said.

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The only demand proposed by the students at Thursday’s Faculty Senate meeting that administrators met was the deadline extension. The other five, which include improved transparency and a majority of faculty vote, still stand.

“We think we are in a better position than when we entered into the meeting, but we definitely have not made significant progress,” Halan said. “We feel better.”

Contact Julia Glum at jglum@alligator.org.

Fifth-year Ph.D. student Joshua Horton, 27, and others protest budget cuts proposed to the computer and information sciences and engineering department Tuesday. They staged a sit-in outside of College of Engineering Dean Cammy Abernathy's office from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m.

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