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Monday, June 24, 2024
NEWS  |  CAMPUS

Students, faculty protest engineering department cuts

<p>Students hold signs that read “Save CISE” on Stadium Road across from Weil Hall during a protest against budget cuts on Monday afternoon.</p>

Students hold signs that read “Save CISE” on Stadium Road across from Weil Hall during a protest against budget cuts on Monday afternoon.

At around noon Monday, about 200 students circled the Computer Sciences and Engineering building. With stretched-out arms and hands held tight, they shouted, “Save CISE.”

The protest attracted students and faculty from the computer and information science and engineering department (CISE) who are angry about the proposal College of Engineering administrators have made to address a looming 5.86 percent budget cut — roughly $4 million.

“This is the end of CISE as we know it,” said Nuri Yeralan, computer and information science and engineering Ph.D. student and leader of the movement against the proposal.

The CISE department is one of 10 departments in the College of Engineering.

College of Engineering Dean Cammy Abernathy has said that across-the-board cuts would hurt some departments irreparably. Many faculty members feel the CISE department is being unfairly targeted.

The proposal, announced by Abernathy last week, calls for major changes in the CISE department, including the elimination of two faculty members, 10 staff positions and all teaching assistants and support staff. The plan also involves moving computer engineering programs over to the electrical and computer engineering department.

Meera Sitharam, an associate professor in the CISE department, said the proposed changes will impact the department’s research, hurting the careers of faculty members and causing many to leave.

With no teaching assistants and no support staff, she said, the teaching obligation for faculty would be impossible to handle.

“How are we supposed to run a computer science department without a systems support staff?” she said.

After walking around the CSE building several times, the crowd of students chanted and marched down Stadium Road to Weil Hall, where they demanded to speak to Abernathy.

Associate Dean Jennifer Curtis came out to address the group’s demands, including the group’s desire to take part in the final decision-making by way of a vote.

Curtis said that the protesters might have a misconception of what shared governance means.

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“Shared governance does not mean collective decision-making,” she told the crowd. “So a decision does have to be made, and a decision will be made by the dean.”

Curtis also said the group’s request to move the final day to accept input on Abernathy’s proposal from Wednesday to June 15 cannot work because of the UF administration’s requirements for reporting budgets.

In a statement released Monday afternoon, Abernathy said she plans to meet with college faculty leadership and student leadership organizations like the Benton Engineering Council to discuss the proposal.

“I cannot emphasize enough that I, as the dean of college of engineering, feel exactly the same way as everyone out there regarding the budget cut that has been placed upon us by the state,” she said.

The group will hold a sit-in today outside Abernathy’s office in Weil Hall from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m.

Contact Joey Flechas at jflechas@alligator.org

Students hold signs that read “Save CISE” on Stadium Road across from Weil Hall during a protest against budget cuts on Monday afternoon.

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